by PuckStopsHere on 06/09/13 at 12:43 AM ET
It took two overtimes but Chicago has beaten the Los Angeles Kings 4-3. With that win they win their semi-final series 4-1 and move on to face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
Now is the time that I tell you we have another year with no elite teams in the Stanley Cup finals. I have had a longstanding test to show a necessary but not sufficient condition for a team being elite. If we use this test at nearly any point in the first 80+ years of NHL history there is at least one and often more than one team that qualifies as elite. Since the advent of the lockout there has been exactly one team that qualified. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks are the last elite team in NHL history. This is important to hockey fans because it shows a clear trend. It shows that it is no longer possible to build as elite a team as it was throughout most of history. It is a loss to the fan to no longer be able to watch such teams, especially in the Stanley Cup finals where they have historically been showcased. The point is to be able to compare teams of different eras without having to look at the standings because it isn't meaningful that a team finishes in first place if they do it because they are beating weak teams and not because they are a strong team.
It has gotten so bad that some fans criticize my definition of being an elite team as being an impossible definition that cannot be met anymore and tell me I should modify my definition so that teams can reach it. Effectively this is a lowering of the bar to make people happy and not realize that they are no longer seeing the same quality Stanley Cup finals that once existed.
An elite team must have at least three future Hall of Famers who are at All Star level and not holding on at the end of a once great career. They must also have a top goalie who is among the best few NHL goalies. This goalie may be included in the Hall of Famers, but it is not necessary. I am looking at the players on the team and stating that they must be elite. It is necessary that elite players play together as a top team for a team to be elite, but that cannot happen without the elite players.
How does Chicago measure up? They fail. In fact I addressed this point after their season ending streak of 24 games without a regulation loss ended. The problem is Chicago lacks elite goaltending. Corey Crawford is not one of the top few goalies in the NHL. He is probably better classified as an average starter who is overrated due to the fact he plays on a good team. My first instinct is to compare him to Marc-Andre Fleury when he got overrated when he won a Stanley Cup and even got a spot on the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team. The comparison is a bit unfair to Crawford because he is putting up better numbers in the playoffs than Fleury ever did. I suppose that is likely an assurance that he won't lose his starting goalie job in the playoffs in the next few years.
As far as having future Hall of Famers on their roster, Chicago does pretty well. They don't have any players who are deserve Hall of Fame spots if their careers ended today. However Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith likely will get there. Marian Hossa has a good shot too if he increases his career point totals sufficiently. It is worth mentioning Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook as having outside shots, but being unlikely to get there unless their best seasons of their respective careers are yet to come.
As far as this season's playoffs go, it is alarming that two of Chicago's supposed star players in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have not lived up to expectation in the playoff run to date. That statement may no longer be true with Kane given his hat trick today (that makes half of his playoff goal total in one game). Jonathan Toews has an alarming one goal scored in the playoffs so far this year. When a player posts numbers like that we expect to hear he was playing with a significant injury.
Chicago is probably the best team in the NHL this season. They have a chance to show it in the Stanley Cup finals. The problem is they are not an elite team. This is the sixth straight season the NHL has not had any elite teams. That loss is a direct result of the salary cap. In fact Chicago may have been an elite team if they had not had to tear their team apart after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. There is a good chance they could be an elite team today had they been allowed to be kept together and build in the way they naturally would have. It is a shame we never got to see that.
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