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The Puck Stops Here

Boston Bruins Make The Stanley Cup Finals

With a 1-0 win in game seven, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup.  They will be playing against the Vancouver Canucks.  I have written many times about the lack of elite teams in the NHL recently.  While I am pleased that it looks like Vancouver could be an elite team (the first one since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks and the second since the lockout).

I define an elite team as being a team that is dominant on a historical level.  They are a team that would not be out of place when compared to the best teams of all time.  Historically we see that these teams all have at least three (possibly more) players who will eventually make the Hockey Hall of Fame.  These are either players who have already had good enough careers that they should get to the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their career or they appear to be on track to have such a career based on a reasonable projection of their career.  These players must be close enough to their career primes that they are all star calibre players.  The team must also have an elite goalie.  An elite goalie is defined as a goalie who is among the best few in the NHL.  There are usually about five such goalies in the league at any given time.  This goalie may or may not be included among the Hall of Fame players.  This group of players is not in and of itself enough to guarantee that a team will be an elite team but it is a necessary component.  An elite team must have a sufficient number of top players.  These conditions guarantee that the team has enough good players that they might be an elite team.  The top players must also play well together.  This makes the conditions above necessary but not sufficient to have an elite team.  Their use comes in that we can dismiss teams that do not have enough elite players in our quest to find elite teams.

How does Boston measure up?

They clearly have an elite goalie.  Tim Thomas is the likely Vezina Trophy winner this year.  This is an award he won in 2009.  A two-time Vezina Trophy winner is a likely Hall of Famer.  The fact that he was in his 30s before he became an NHL starting goalie probably means that he is not quite a Hall of Famer even with a Vezina Trophy win this year, but he is close.  It is quite reasonable to project him as being on a Hall of Fame track.

There are two players on the Bruins who I believe are worthy of Hall of Fame inductions based on their career to this point.  They are Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi.  Chara is clearly an all star level player today.  He is a Norris Trophy nominee this season and could win his second Norris Trophy.  Recchi is a good player today, but at age 43 he is the oldest player in the league today.  He has scored 40-something points each of the last two years and that is not enough to be considered an all star calibre player these days.

Does Boston have any other players who we can reasonably argue are on Hall of Fame tracks?  Had his career not been in jeopardy because of concussions, Marc Savard might be a candidate.  Since he isn’t playing and he might never play again, this is irrelevant.  At one time, I might have considered Tomas Kaberle a player on a Hall of Fame track, but he clearly isn’t anymore.  He has had little value to the Bruins since they acquired him and it will significantly reduce the size of his next NHL contract.  Even if he goes on to be a success with his next NHL team, it is unlikely that he will be a serious Hall of Fame candidate.  The most likely player to be Hall of Fame tracked on the Bruins is Patrice Bergeron.  He doesn’t look good enough.  He has never had a point per game season.  He has never been a Selke Trophy candidate, though it is plausible that he will be someday.  This is not enough.  The majority of Selke Trophy winners (including multiple winners) are not Hall of Famers.  It doesn’t look like Bergeron is good enough to ever get there.  Boston has some other young players like Tyler Seguin or perhaps Tuukka Rask who could make a significant step forward and perhaps become Hall of Fame tracked players, but since neither are currently all star calibre players it is too big a projection to seriously consider today.

The Boston Bruins are clearly a good team, but they are not an elite team.  In the post-lockout NHL, they are not too bad for a Stanley Cup finalist.  They are certainly quite a bit better than last year’s Philadelphia Flyers.  I think this year’s Stanley Cup will be higher quality hockey than last year.  One potential elite team is in the series and the other team is not too bad by recent standards.

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Comments

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have fun getting swept by vancouver

Posted by drw on 05/28/11 at 03:19 AM ET

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I’m a little confused by one major logical flaw in this article. The author wants to consider some teams “elite.” He defines “elite” as “being a team that is dominant on a historical level.  They are a team that would not be out of place when compared to the best teams of all time.” The author begins his article by pointing out the problem of having a lack of “elite” teams. But if there were “elite” teams by his definition every year then that would in fact be par for the course, thus making them ordinary teams. Why argue the post lockout nhl does not have enough elite teams when in fact there really can only be one or two elite teams per decade, if the word is to have any meaning.

Fix the grammar mistake in line 3 (and delete this from my post).

The notion that the Canucks are elite is kind of funny considering they couldn’t handle a loaded Blackhawks team last year. Don’t elite teams slay dragons?

Posted by California Bruin on 05/28/11 at 05:31 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

California Bruin

I think you have inadvertantly hit on a key pont.  There are only a few elite teams per decade.  In the past these teams were able to be kept together for a run of several years which allowed for multiple elite teams to exist at the same time in many circumstances.  In the post-lockout NHL, these teams are usually broken up immediately.  It will be interesting to see if the Canucks can keep their team together this summer.

This is one of the main reasons I hate the salary cap.  It breaks up good teams - in many cases before they can become elite - if they can become elite then it still breaks them up years in advance of when they otherwisec would have been.  All this means the fan sees far fewer great teams and that is a big loss.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/28/11 at 02:21 PM ET

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I think “elite” needs exceptions, like the 05-06 and 07-08 Red Wings and 09-10 Blackhawks. One elite team a year sounds right to me…one team will simply be the best and it may not be particularly close. I don’t think Vancouver is in that boat, having had so much trouble with Chicago.

Posted by Ralph on 06/01/11 at 12:34 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I think “elite” needs exceptions, like the 05-06 (Hurricanes? - or which team are we talking about) and 07-08 Red Wings and 09-10 Blackhawks. One elite team a year sounds right to me…one team will simply be the best and it may not be particularly close

Historically we never needed these exceptions.  The fact that you think we do now is a sign that the best teams in the NHL have been watered down by the salary cap. 

I don’t think Vancouver is in that boat, having had so much trouble with Chicago.

A team gets up to a 3-0 lead then struggles as a result of BOTH goalies being injured but nevertheless wins the series against the defending Stanley Cup champions.  Not exactly a bad showing.  Not to mention the problem of small sample sizes.  We are crazy to throw out a an entire season’s results over part of a playoff series.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/01/11 at 12:48 AM ET

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I agree, we don’t need to throw out the Vancouver Canucks because of this years playoffs against the Hawks. I think they should be taken off the list because of the history of past failures against the Blackhawks. The logic is that an elite team steps up and beats other very good teams, thus they rise to the challenge and become elite. An elite team slays dragons. Sure they eeked it out against a big-buff-less Blackhakws, but they could only do it once the Hawks had been ravaged by the cap.

As strange as it sounds, I think the Bruins are underrated for this series. I mean they seem like a better version of Nashville, stingy defense and more post-season scoring than the Canucks. If the Canucks really are elite they would steam-roll the Bruins. It will more likely take them 6 games. I’d reconsider my argument if the series is over in 5 or 6. Until then the Nucks haven’t proved much.

Posted by California Bruin on 06/01/11 at 03:53 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I agree, we don’t need to throw out the Vancouver Canucks because of this years playoffs against the Hawks. I think they should be taken off the list because of the history of past failures against the Blackhawks.

I am only arguing this year’s Canucks are an elite team.  Not last year’s or any other years and it is in those years when the Canucks would have lost in the playoffs.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/01/11 at 03:56 AM 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.

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