by PuckStopsHere on 11/03/09 at 02:38 PM ET
One of my biggest concerns with the NHL of today is that is hard (impossible?) to build a team that is as good as used to win Stanley Cups. This is a direct consequence of the salary cap and rapid expansion. A team cannot afford to hold onto all of the talent it produces if it drafts well and there are more other teams to gobble it up when it comes available on the open market. Teams cannot get as strong as they did in the past. For the most part, we do not see any more elite teams.
Puck Daddy began their retrospective of the decade today by listing the nine best teams of the decade. This is a ranking of all of the nine teams that won Stanley Cups in the years 2000-2009. This is an unscientific listing, where the criteria to rank teams is unclear. That said, the results of their rankings more or less agree with my opinions (and likely those of most impartial observers). The top three teams are the 2002 Detroit Red Wings, 2001 Colorado Avalanche and the 2000 New Jersey Devils. The top teams are pre-lockout.
Teams just do not get as good anymore. That is a really hard thing for me to accept. In the Stanley Cup finals I no longer get to see elite teams play against one another. They do not exist. That lowers the quality of the finals. You may get an exciting series played between two mediocre teams, but the fact they are not on the level of historical Stanley Cup winners from less than a decade ago takes away from the experience.
I am upset that teams cannot get as strong as they were. I am upset that the teams playing in the most important series in hockey (the Stanley Cup finals) are weaker. This series should be a showcase of the best teams and the best players in hockey and the best teams are no longer as good and they contain less of the best players. This leaves me with some negative feelings from a Stanley Cup finals without any historically elite teams.
I do not see any reason that this trend is likely to reverse soon. It may be that some team or teams establish themselves as elite teams this season - but I wouldn’t count on it. Most likely those teams would be the strongest teams from last season. For example a Pittsburgh Penguins team with Alex Goligoski playing like an all star defenceman, Marc-Andre Fleury making a Vezina Trophy type run and assuming Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin et al maintain their expected levels of play could be an elite team, but most likely it will not happen.
It will not happen as a direct (and intended) consequence of the choices the NHL has made. As a fan of hockey this offends me. The best teams of the decade happened before the lockout. Likely they will be better teams than the best of the upcoming decade (assuming we don’t see some big changes in how the game is run). Without changes, we may never see another team as good as we did eight or ten years ago. Does that not offend you?
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