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The Puck Stops Here

On Pittsburgh’s Playoff Results

The Pittsburgh Penguins were considered the team most likely to win the Stanley Cup this year according to the Las Vegas odds.  They lost in the semi-finals to the Boston Bruins.  This isn't an unpredicted result in my mind.  If you asked me before the playoffs, I would have agreed that Pittsburgh was the team most likely to win the Stanley Cup.  I certainly would not have told you that they were anywhere near 50% likely to win the Stanley Cup.  I would probably have estimated that they had a 20-30% chance to win the Stanley Cup this year.  Hence Pittsburgh probably was not going to win the Stanley Cup this year.  The same thing can be said for any other NHL team.  Somebody is going to win the Stanley Cup, but it probably isn't going to be you.  In that way it is kind of like the lottery.  The best you can do is build a good team that has a serious chance, but there will be several other teams with approximately the same shot that you have.  Ideally you can build a team that remains a contender for a period of several years and you may win in one or more of them.

Pittsburgh has essentially done this.  They won the 2009 Stanley Cup and remain a top contender today.  In fact they probably took a bigger run this year than they did in the last few years by adding Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray at trade deadline time and that is more than they did in previous years.  If we assume there are five or six teams with solid shots at the Stanley Cup in any given year, then any team should win once every five or six times they are a serious contender on average.  Pittsburgh has done this.  Essentially they have lived up to expectations, but many fans have over-inflated their expectations and believe that they have failed.

So what happens now?  The Pittsburgh Penguins have to dismantle themselves somewhat due to the shrinking salary cap.  Many assume Jarome Iginla is gone and I have read suggestions that some of Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury should follow suit.  This is the wrong approach to team building but a necessity of the salary cap - especially when it is scheduled to shrink.  You don't improve your team by subtracting pieces.  That is how it gets worse.  You might be able to find some pieces to jettison that won't hurt you much, but that is your best case.

We have a Pittsburgh team that is pretty good.  They are not an elite team today but they possess a lot of good pieces and if they continue to build their team they could get there.  They are not going to get there is they have to dismantle themselves.  This is why we no longer have elite teams.  If a team gets good enough that a path might be seen that they could reach the elite level soon, the salary cap ensures that they are broken up. 

This is especially true next year as the salary cap drops.  I think that means next year's best team will be even further from elite than we have seen in the recent past.  The best comparison we have is when the salary cap was kept artificially low after the 2004/05 lockout.  Carolina beat Edmonton in the Stanley Cup finals and both teams promptly missed the playoffs the next year.  It was the weakest Stanley Cup match up in recent history and we may see worse next year.

Pittsburgh has lived up to expectations in the last few years winning one Stanley Cup.  In no single year have they been greater than about 30% likely to win the cup that year.  Thus they probably were going to lose in any one given year and there is no need to believe they failed when that was the most likely outcome.  The problem is their team will be somewhat broken up for next season.  They will be further back from being an elite team as a result.  That is a result of the salary cap system in the NHL.  It keeps us from seeing elite teams.  They are broken up before they reach that stage.

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awould's avatar

I totally disagree. To say they didn’t fall short because ‘it’s a long shot to win the Cup ever and heck they’re a real good team’ is a ridiculously low bar. Pittsburgh made it to the Conference Finals. Any hockey fan knows that is a pretty deep run and to win the Cup requires a lot of luck and timing and great goaltending. Pittsburgh’s demise was brutal this year - swept with only 2 goals in 4 games, shut out twice. Crosby and Malkin blanked. Embarrassed. Completely. By any measure, that is falling short of expectations for the series. And taking this failure of a series into account with their last three playoff showings, this season is another failure. That’s what everyone’s talking about.

Also, on a larger note… and I really do mean this as constructive criticism…. How about reviewing a team outside the amorphous construct of “elite”? I’ve been a regular here at Kuklas for years and not once seen you label a team “elite”. But pretty much every time you do review a team’s season or the playoff field, you remark repeatedly how no team is “elite” and then veer into the same tangent on how no team will ever be “elite” again due to the salary cap. And you’re not wrong. But it’s way way past time to just accept that fact and incorporate it into your world view. No team will ever be elite again by the standards you define. You’re wasting pixels by lamenting this fact over and over, and it detracts from whatever other analysis you have going on because it’s a useless distraction that nobody cares about.

Posted by awould on 06/10/13 at 11:26 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It is interesting.  You seem to be working through the 5 stages of grief in the lack of elite teams.  It took a few years but you have passed through denial and are well into the stage of anger.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/10/13 at 11:41 PM ET

awould's avatar

I figured you’d handle the criticism with your typical maturity. Can’t even respond to the point I made, just lash out wildly. And it made no sense. I’m not angry that you’re obsessed with this elite thing. It was simply an observation, and I know not the first time it’s been brought up. My initial response was to the content of your post. You could have chosen to address that but instead you couldn’t get past your hurt widdle feelings. Good luck dude, enjoy writing posts that nobody reads and remember to take your meds.

Posted by awould on 06/11/13 at 12:05 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

And he claims _THAT_ is not anger.  LOL

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/11/13 at 12:13 AM ET

awould's avatar

That was a dismissive shrug, actually. You’re the only blogger I know that trolls his own posts. It’s sad. Adios.

Posted by awould on 06/11/13 at 12:26 AM ET


I understand your point, however we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Pittsburgh would not have an NHL franchise if it weren’t for the salary cap.

Posted by Joe on 06/11/13 at 12:41 AM ET

Chet's avatar

TPSH, if you can’t take even the most polite, well meant criticism of the points you make on KK, why even post here? a lot of your stuff is just 4th grade gibberish, but even when you DO make a good post that (god forbid) spawns discussion, you still can’t resist acting like…well, a 4th grader. seriously, what gives?

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 06/11/13 at 12:51 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


That is false.  Pittsburgh has had a good hockey market at least since Mario Lemieux was playing there.  They had some hard days in the 70s and early 80s and probably were lucky to survive then.  What you saw in the mid 2000’s was extorting a new arena from local officials.  A salary cap was not necessary.  The team didn’t really need saving.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/11/13 at 01:07 AM ET

topshelf14's avatar

what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 06/11/13 at 01:14 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If you are lacking creativity that much that you have to quote a line from a movie, can I suggest you pick a GOOD movie in the future?  Or even better use your brain and try to come up with something that you actually thought up.

I could sink to your intellectual level and maybe quote Caddyshack except you probably are not old enough to know that movie.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/11/13 at 01:38 AM ET

awould's avatar

Lighten up Francis

Posted by awould on 06/11/13 at 01:55 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Your request is not unlike your lower intestine, stinky and loaded with danger.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/11/13 at 02:24 AM ET

awould's avatar

Your meds. Take them.

Posted by awould on 06/11/13 at 02:30 AM ET

TeamDub's avatar

How about a Fresca?

Posted by TeamDub from The gratch. on 06/11/13 at 06:47 AM ET

Wings_in_NYC's avatar

What? No mention of Corsi numbers?? Yawn. I only clicked on this post because of the amount of comments. Yep, typical TPSH.

Posted by Wings_in_NYC on 06/11/13 at 07:21 AM ET

TKShreve's avatar

Personally, the pens had a terrific season and played like an “elite” team all year through their injuries and such. But one thing remains consistent over the past few seasons since their fortunate cup win….... they no longer know how to consistently compete in the playoffs. God awful meltdown last year and mailed it in vs. the Bruins this year. I’d look at coaching and team leaders in this case. Vokoun was adequate imo. Everybody else…... not so much.

And also, a little disappointed in the lack of corsi numbers. Which is why I gave it the full read.

Posted by TKShreve from East Uptown on 06/11/13 at 09:15 AM ET


The funny thing to about about Pitt this year is they likely would have done just as well as they did w/o all Shero’s deals. In a cap environment and now that is going to an artificial drop for at least a year I wonder if all the picks and prospects traded away will hurt just that much more.

There might not be Elite dynasty teams any more but I think its still likely to be viable to aim for consistently good and consistently in the post season and bumping up to near Elite form time to time depending on how you want to argue that status.

In terms of Elite hockey in general the NHL would be better off folding the Panthers and Phoenix and reverse drafting everyone with more contracts and roster spots. Development could than likely churn out more short term Elite teams - they would not last but I suspect the quality of on ICE product would improve overall and of course moving some money loosing team to Ontario would help as well)

Posted by paul k on 06/11/13 at 09:45 AM ET

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About The Puck Stops Here

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