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The Puck Stops Here

Boring Hockey?

The media is starting to speak up about the fact that the Stanley Cup playoffs have largely been boring hockey.  For example Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun and Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province have written about this. 

It is a topic where people are quick to attack the messenger.  The messenger is calling hockey boring and I love hockey so I must defend it - that is the mindset of many fans.  The problem is that misses reality.  The messenger loves hockey.  The messenger is pointing out a problem in the state of the game today.

The problem as I see it is there are no great teams anymore.  The salary cap has seen to that.  Whenever a team starts to be good their players start to require raises and they cannot afford to keep them together.  The team is broken up before they would have peaked and become elite teams. 

This leaves us a league with no great teams.  It has no elite teams.  It is a group of teams that are largely interchangeable in their talent levels.  If a team is good enough to make the playoffs, they are good enough that they can win the Stanley Cup.  No team is better than them by any significant margin.  With the right luck anyone can win.  Nobody who wins is particularly memorable because they are no better than anyone else.  This is particularly noticeable in the Stanley Cup finals.  In NHL history there have been teams that are better than others and these teams tend to make the finals and have memorable runs.  When two such teams meet up we have a memorable Stanley Cup final series.  When no such teams can exist, due to the NHL CBA, we never get such a series.  We get a Stanley Cup final that is no better than a first round series in terms of talent available.  That is our situation right now in the NHL.

This problem manifests itself into the hockey that we watch.  Teams do not feel that they can win due to their talent.  Instead they play a technical defensive scheme that discourages creativity and taking the risk to make an outstanding play.  Each player is a cog in the machine and is not given a chance to reach their potential.  This has left us with a measurable lack of elite defencemen in the NHL in our current generation.  This leaves us with games where teams pull their star players out of offensive roles to play defence and block shots.  It has the noticeable result of top players like Paul Stastny missing games due to shot blocking injuries (he has broken a foot and a finger) and that is a clear waste.  It also has the result of pulling Stastny away from the game he plays well to become a cog in the machine and not allowing him to develop as a star.  This leaves us with fewer stars.

This should outrage the hockey fan.  It has created a more boring product than there should be.  Instead it seems the hockey fan needs to defend hockey and attack the messenger.  The idea that the current NHL product has been damaged in the NHL’s search to maximize profits is not one that can be seriously considered.  Hockey is fine they say.  If you don’t like hockey stop writing about it.  What they don’t see is the messenger loves hockey and is ashamed at the fact that this isn’t the hockey it should be,

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Comments

Itrusteddrrahmani's avatar

I mean, have the finals been really that boring to people? I know I’m biased because i’m a fan of the sport, but it seems the games have been really exciting, and the only reason games aren’t high scoring is because of the goalies.  Granted, it’s not as exciting as Red Wings - Pens or Pens -Flyers, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised given the Devils are playing.

Posted by Itrusteddrrahmani from Nyc by way of A2 on 06/05/12 at 04:32 PM ET

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Seriously??

This year’s playoffs have had some of the best hockey I have seen in years. Look at the Philly / Pens series… That was one of the best series I have ever seen.

Last night’s game 3 between LA and NJD was outstanding hockey. Both games prior ended in exciting OTs.

Could it be that you are not interested in the teams?

NHL and media are trying too hard to change things. They are ruining the game with overanlysing. If anything is getting boring, it’s the media.

Start paying attention to the little details and not the overall “technical” aspect of the game. There are some outstanding plays being made by some insanely amazing hockey players in these playoffs.

Posted by Chris from Ottawa on 06/05/12 at 04:42 PM ET

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Maybe the people who are defending it…um…don’t find it boring!

Boredom isn’t an objective fact, it’s a completely subjective opinion.

No team is better than them by any significant margin.

Shouldn’t the hockey then, by default, be exciting?  Unless you think one team being dominant and relentlessly destroying the other team is exciting, wouldn’t EVERYONE prefer to have two relatively evenly matched teams playing one another?

I don’t think boredom has anything to do with whether the teams are elite or not.  You’re just using the criticism as a way to further your own agenda.

The two greatest baseball teams in the world could be playing one another, buf it I’m watching it on TV I’m going to find it boring because baseball isn’t interesting to me.  It doesn’t mean the teams and players aren’t good, it just means it isn’t appealing to me.

I would agree with people that Game 1 was boring, but I don’t think it was because of a lack of elite teams, I think it was because we were watching two teams that rarely play one another and we were watching them feel eachother out and being tentative because they were unfamiliar with one another.  Both of the other games, in my opinion, have been pretty entertaining.

Posted by Garth on 06/05/12 at 04:46 PM ET

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I am a die hard hockey fan. I think the Finals have been exciting. But the Finals and Conference finals seemed to lack the star power that TV is looking for. Why might that be? Because the referees are not enforcing the rules which make hockey exciting and stars stand out more. What happened to enforcing obstruction? I have seen so much obstruction towards the end of the season and it only got worse in the playoffs. If the refs called the obstruction like they started out the season doing, the stars would shine. For some reason, the officials are not calling penalties for those kind of infractions, and as a result, the game is suffering.

Posted by David from Pittsburgh on 06/05/12 at 04:55 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I think we can talk about how to make hockey a better sport without trying to diminish the arguments of those who actually don’t find it boring.

As Garth says, “hockey is boring” is not an objective statement, so you are not delivering it from an unimpugnable source.  The messenger is the source. The more messengers you get saying it, the stronger the message is, but that doesn’t make those who disagree with you objectively wrong.

For what it’s worth, I agree with a lot of the points here. I’ve found ways to entertain myself watching these playoffs. I think about half of the total minutes played in the final so far have been entertaining, maybe less. The conference finals were worse than that. A few storylines from the 2nd round were good, but overall the hockey in these playoffs has not been as exciting as I would like to see.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/05/12 at 05:03 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I found round one to be some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen on TV, period. Round two was quite good, while round three seemed a bit stale. These Finals have had their moments of excitement and rather long dry spells. Overall, I’d say the 2012 playoffs have been entertaining.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 06/05/12 at 05:20 PM ET

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Sorry but I have to disagree with practically all of this.

It has no elite teams.  It is a group of teams that are largely interchangeable in their talent levels.

Trying saying that to the Penguins with at least 3 superstars on their team and winning seasons and competing for the Cup every year. Try saying that to the Red Wings who have some of the deepest superstar talent in the NHL and who are always competitive for the Cup.

Try also saying that to this year’s LA Kings. They have many stars (Kopitar, Carter, Doughty, Brown) and stars on the rise (Quick, King).

Instead they play a technical defensive scheme that discourages creativity and taking the risk to make an outstanding play.

Again, see the Kings as well as the Pens/Flyers as pointed out by others. Hell even the Devils weren’t trap oriented this year. These teams playing attacking forechecking offense and do not sit back. Do some teams (I am looking at you Washington)? Yes but we do not have a league full of trapping teams.

I think you have several elite teams, the Kings are emerging and have their players locked up for a long time. The Canucks destroyed everyone in the regular season, the Pens, Flyers, Red Wings, Rangers and Bruins are traditional powerhouses.  The Predators, Panthers, Coyotes all had amazing seasons and hopefully should have their core in place.

The main issue is how hockey is marketed. We all love this sport but there needs to be a regime change consider how the game has been mishandled over the last 10 or so years (rule changes notwithstanding). The series is boring if its NJ and not the Rangers? The series is boring if 2 games end 2-1 in overtime? No one calls a pitcher’s duel in MLB boring. It is the perception it is boring and that is due to marketing and the failure thereof. The NHL has consistently shot itself in the foot, tied itself to lousy brands/musical bands, etc. They don’t try to create enough stars, satisfied if the Pens/Washington/Flyers/Rangers are on every game of the week but do not give broadcast space to other teams/players to get the nation interested in more than just those handful. Is there any wonder if those teams are out, interest goes down?

I could continue my rant but you get the point, I strongly disagree with this article. This perception has nothing to do with the 2 teams currently playing but has everything to do with how lousy the NHL is in getting out the message that this is an awesome sport worthy of your time.

Posted by Blackcapricorn from Los Angeles, CA on 06/05/12 at 06:58 PM ET

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We’ve had boring Finals before. It’s not new, and it’s not because of parity. There’s nothing more boring to me than an outcome I can predict and having one or two teams ripping the shreds out of everyone else gets real predictable real fast. I found the Pens-Philly series boring after a while because not one of those games was competitive. Not one kept me guessing.

Sorry you’re not emotionally invested like you want to be. I’m sorry you can’t look at the game and see the creativity, skill, and talent involved. But this sort of kneejerk response to low scoring games is misplaced and misguided.

Posted by Clare on 06/05/12 at 07:06 PM ET

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This is an awful awful post.  The Kings have steamrolled the entire field of playoff teams, within one game of tying the modern day playoff least losses record.

Posted by Smitty from Vancouver on 06/05/12 at 07:19 PM ET

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No Elite teams recently? Boston vs Vancouver?
What about 4 years ago, when Detroit and Pittsburg dominated the playoff scene for two consecutive years? How do you qualify elite?

For christs sake, tactical systems have been around in hockey for a long time. You are equating exciting hockey with sloppy hockey. You want to go back to the days when goalies let in wrist shots from outside the circles, when players could dangle through 5 players and score a goal - not from superior skill but rather terrible play of fatigued, out-of-shape, uncoached players.

Teams pull their players from offensive roles to block shots?? I don’t believe any head coach says “Alright boys on next shift I want you to forgo any rush up the ice, just worry about blocking any shots that come our way. Leave your sticks at the bench.” The only example I can think of is Dale Hunter.

You forget that these are professional athletes, not video game avatars. You forget that these are the most competitive players on the planet, playing at the highest level. They don’t want to lose. They don’t care how boring you may think the game is. They’re trying to win a game.

You are an NHLer, in a do-or-die situation (every shift in the playoffs). The puck comes up to the opposing defensemen. He has a shooting lane and he’s about to blast it. Give me one good reason you wouldn’t block that shot. What if you don’t, even though you could have, and the puck winds up in the back of the net (see Marian Gaborik, game 2 NYRvsNJD). Maybe it isn’t totally your fault, I mean you shouldn’t have to block every shot to win, but now you’re a goal down when you could have prevented it. So you block the shot.

Posted by player from nyc on 06/05/12 at 08:05 PM ET

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oh and you honestly think that DEFENSIVE SCHEMES have lead to a lack of quality DEFENSEMEN in the league?

How could a team be successful defensively without quality defensemen to run the system? If there weren’t quality defensemen wouldn’t offense by way up?

Posted by player from nyc on 06/05/12 at 08:10 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I think he means defensemen not being allowed to develope an offensive side to their game, making them elite, all-round dfensemen, such as Lidstrom, Leetch, Orr, McInnis and so on, because it doesn’t fit into their teams tight defensive scheme.

Posted by Hootinani on 06/06/12 at 01:03 PM ET

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No complaints here.  I like competetive hockey. I’m happy that a less-talented team can win by outworking more skilled teams. I enjoy the strategic aspect to the game and the clashing of differing styles. The onus falls to the skilled teams to break down the defensive teams.

The game is becoming more refined. Each goal / good scoring chance becomes all the more important. Each mistake becomes more costly. It’s a game of inches and doing all the small things right (backchecking & blocking shots etc) 

Besides, does parity not lead to more teams thinking they can win open ice games, whereas the existence a few “dominant”, elite teams would lead to all inferior opponents playing them defensively?

Posted by rob on 06/07/12 at 12:21 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com