Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Prediction: Stanley Cup Finals

I am ready to post my prediction for the Stanley Cup finals.  You can look back at my earlier predictions for the first, second and third rounds.  In the semi-finals, i was correct in the East Conference but I picked Chicago in the West Conference.  The 1-1 record in this round brings my overall record to 10-4.  Each of the four series picked incorrectly went to seven games.  Here is my final prediction:

Los Angeles Kings defeat New York Rangers.  Unfortunately neither the Kings nor the Rangers are elite teams.  The NHL hasn't had one of those since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.  This is a direct consequence of the salary cap.  The liberalized free agency and increased player movement that came along with it has done what it was intended to do.  Big market teams have accumulated more talent at expense of the smaller markets.  We have Los Angeles playing New York in the finals.  These are the two biggest cities in the NHL.  If the NHL stays on this path we can look forward to a lot more finals just like this one.  Big market teams that have no claim to being elite playing in the finals.  This year the Rangers are a mid-level team that got through against mid-level opposition in the weaker East Conference.  The Kings are about as good as we seem to get in the current CBA (though hardly dominant) and are much better tested by having to beat better teams to get here.  Los Angeles is the better team and thus they should win.  The hope for the Rangers is that the Kings are beaten up by their tougher path to the finals, but I don't see much evidence of that right now.

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Comments

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Unfortunately neither the Kings nor the Rangers are elite teams.

It’s only unfortunate if you’re hung up on labels.  Lots of people actually like to watch hockey, and this should be a pretty fun series.

Posted by Garth on 06/03/14 at 12:22 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Unfortunately neither the Kings nor the Rangers are elite teams.  The NHL hasn’t had one of those since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.  This is a direct consequence of the salary cap.  The liberalized free agency and increased player movement that came along with it has done what it was intended to do.  Big market teams have accumulated more talent at expense of the smaller markets.  We have Los Angeles playing New York in the finals.  These are the two biggest cities in the NHL.  If the NHL stays on this path we can look forward to a lot more finals just like this one.  Big market teams that have no claim to being elite playing in the finals.

Though I agree with you that the salary cap has created a league of mediocrity, this (quoted excerpt) is so contradictory. The big teams cannot accumulate from the small teams because they are all on the same budget for salary. It is up to the teams to spend the allocation as they see fit. It has caused teams to not retain talent because of the salary structure which has in turn led to the spread of talent around the league. Theoretically, making the league better, but as evidenced by the quality of the games and the absence of elite teams, it is has brought the quality of hockey down rather than lifted it up. This has led to the exclusion of big teams hoarding all the talent. The fact that these two team play in major markets is more attributable coincidence than design. You can’t be forced parity while creating conditions to favor a select few.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/03/14 at 12:37 PM ET

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any team that makes the conference final is considered an ‘elite team’ to me.

Posted by mbeck300 on 06/03/14 at 12:41 PM ET

Mistercristo's avatar

Stopped reading at “The NHL hasn’t had one of those since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.”  It would make sense - on many levels - if you haven’t watched hockey since ‘07, unless you’ve invented yet another personal metric that attempts to negate the ‘07-‘08 Red Wings’ “Eliteness”.

I’d love to see the title of your next post read “The 2008 Red Wings Were NOT an Elite Team.”

Posted by Mistercristo from Cameron Frye's garage, circa 1987 on 06/03/14 at 12:53 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The big teams cannot accumulate from the small teams because they are all on the same budget for salary.

Team are not all on budget for the same salary.  Some teams are routinely at the salary cap.  Other teams are routinely near the salary floor.

Even if all teams really did have the same budget (and they clearly don’t) if you free up a significant group of players to go wherever they want, the best of that bunch will go to the markets they perceive as being the best.  These tend to be the more glamorous big cities.  A star player in a big city can make a lot more money outside of hockey from their image and advertising than in a small city (the most obvious case of this is Gretzky in LA vs. Gretzky in Edmonton).  The good players will be more likely to flock to the big markets and depart from the smaller ones.

A salary cap may prevent one single team from acquiring all of the good players, but they have no need to do this.  They just need to acquire several good players from the smaller markets to increase their chances of winning and keep the smaller markets down.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/03/14 at 12:56 PM ET

JBytes's avatar

Stopped reading at “The NHL hasn’t had one of those since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.”

Ditto!  The author obviously has a warped definition of “elite”.

Posted by JBytes on 06/03/14 at 01:43 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Team are not all on budget for the same salary.  Some teams are routinely at the salary cap.  Other teams are routinely near the salary floor.

That is an organizational decision how they allocate the player payroll budget, but all the teams do have the same budget to allocate for player payroll.

...if you free up a significant group of players to go wherever they want, the best of that bunch will go to the markets they perceive as being the best.  These tend to be the more glamorous big cities.  A star player in a big city can make a lot more money outside of hockey from their image and advertising than in a small city. The good players will be more likely to flock to the big markets and depart from the smaller ones.

This was true before the salary cap. So, overall, you suggest there has been no real change due the cap. I think players are always looking to strike a balance between earnings, location and winning. If it were truly a big market/small market decision then Minnie wouldn’t have landed Suter and Parise, and the islanders would be a destination franchise too. There is a dilution of talent across the league and that is because it cannot be retained at the clubs that can afford it due the cap. Upon free agency players generally are going to the team paying the more desirable salary and term. Otherwise the big market teams quality would be more clear-cut and you would have your elite teams.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/03/14 at 02:20 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Los Angeles Kings defeat New York Rangers.

Is LA the bigger market?

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/03/14 at 02:27 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The salary cap is not the major feature of the current CBA to help the big markets.  It is the increased player movement brought about by reducing unrestricted free agency age.  It used t be that you were tied up with the club that drafted you until age 31.  Now you can be free at as low an age of 25 - with your best years yet to come. 

Better younger players are now available for the bigger markets.  It used to be that the New York Rangers had the highest payroll in the NHL but couldn’t make the playoffs with their high priced broken down old players.  Now they are in the finals.  Being a destination franchise for freed players has become a much bigger advantage now.  The freed players are better and younger.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/03/14 at 02:28 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

True the lower age increases player movement, but it still comes down to ability/willingness to pay. I acknowledge you make a valid point that the increase in movement could facilitate the ease of collecting talent.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 06/03/14 at 02:44 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The NHL hasn’t had one of those since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.

The 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings were better than the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks in every important measurable factor.

The Red Wings got a .08 higher save percentage out of their goaltending in the playoffs in their “non-elite” year than the Ducks got in the one you’re calling an all-time great team.

The 2007-08 Red Wings in their playoff run put six more shots on goal per game than the Ducks team of the year before and allowed three fewer shots on goal.

Comparing the regular season numbers between the two teams shows roughly the same advantages for the Wings as far as team play goes.  The Wings allowed 24 fewer goals over an 82-game span in 2007-08 than the 2006-07 Ducks did.

That Ducks team wasn’t even the most-dominant team in the NHL that season. They were the team that survived the Western Conference playoffs.

A list of criteria that calls the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks one of the all-time great teams while better teams do not qualify is not a good list of criteria.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 03:07 PM ET

Mistercristo's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 04:07 PM ET

Great minds (unless I’m on your ignore list for some reason)...

Posted by Mistercristo from Cameron Frye's garage, circa 1987 on 06/03/14 at 03:34 PM ET

awould's avatar

is not a good list of criteria.

This applies to the entire premise of “elite” as defined and redefined and extrapolated on every single time this same thing gets posted.

The notion of “elite” must be relative to the era, otherwise what’s the point. You end up being the old man who argues every player born after Gordie Howe played is a chump because nobody could stack up to the games you watched in days of yore. Or, in this case, every team after 2004….

By the most recent definition, there is no way 07-08 Detroit doesn’t qualify as “elite”, but that would require this guy giving Detroit some love, which cannot happen.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 03:41 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Great minds (unless I’m on your ignore list for some reason)...

Posted by Mistercristo from Cameron Frye’s garage, circa 1987 on 06/03/14 at 04:34 PM ET

You’re not, I wanted to build off what you had started.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 03:43 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

We have been through this dozens of times.  Detroit’s problem was goaltending.  Chris Osgood is no elite goalie in 2008.  He had a good playoff but that looks more like a fluke given the years surrounding that season.

JJ can cite a list of stats without context.  The difference between Detroit and Anaheim’s cup winners wasn’t too big.  Detroit lost one more game in the playoffs.  Anaheim had five fewer regular season wins despite a much more difficult amount of travel.  A West coast team is known to lose about six pints in a season relative to an eastern team with the Central Division teams in that era (like Detroit) being the biggest beneficiaries since they played the more tired western teams most often.  The travel difference is more than enough to remove the small statistical advantages JJ cites.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/03/14 at 04:01 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

We have been through this dozens of times.  Detroit’s problem was goaltending.  Chris Osgood is no elite goalie in 2008.  He had a good playoff but that looks more like a fluke given the years surrounding that season.

His playoff performance that year was better than the Ducks got in goal the year you called them elite. Since we’ve already established that this is a consideration within its own time frame, giving the elite status to a goaltender who won a cup with a .922 save percentage (which was only 4th among goalies that postseason who played in 10 or more games) is using evidence which falls outside of that which you’re supposed to be looking.

Giguere may have been a historically better goaltender over his career, but he wasn’t a better goaltender than Dominik Hasek was in the year that Giguere won the cup and he wasn’t a better goaltender than Chris Osgood the next year.

They were an elite team by your definition which did not receive elite goaltending and you’re putting them above a team that was better than they were in every single important metric including goaltending because you don’t like their netminder enough.

It’s bad criteria, plain and simple.  the 2008 Wings were better than your elite 2007 Ducks.  They played better hockey. As far as you constantly tie the

The travel difference is more than enough to remove the small statistical advantages JJ cites.

The 2007-08 Red Wings had a per-game shot differential of +9. The 2006-07 Ducks differential was +4.  Behindthenet doesn’t have fenwick close data from that Ducks year, but no team since that data has been recorded has touched the nearly 60% record that this Detroit team put up.  I’d wager a lot to say that the 2006-07 Ducks team didn’t have possession numbers that dominant. 

Waving away the differential between the two teams just by saying Anaheim traveled more does not adequately fix the differences in the real evidence that the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NHL in 2006-07 was better than the best team in the NHL in 2007-08.

This is now a case where both your criteria for elite is bad and the way you satisfy those criteria is bad.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 04:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

As far as you constantly tie the

As far as you constantly tie the complaint about lack of elite teams to something the hockey fan loses out on watching, the 2007-08 Red Wings were a better team to watch than the elite 2006-07 Ducks.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 04:28 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

As far as you constantly tie the complaint about lack of elite teams to something the hockey fan loses out on watching, the 2007-08 Red Wings were a better team to watch than the elite 2006-07 Ducks.

I would expect that kind of comment from a diehard Detroit Red Wings fan.  It isn’t a position you have reasoned yourself into.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/03/14 at 04:52 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I would expect that kind of comment from a diehard Detroit Red Wings fan.

ad hominem fallacy here isn’t enough to compel you beyond the fact of the matter that the team I’m talking about is better than the team you called elite.

My reasoning is entirely laid out above.  Every single important metric that we actually have data on supports my position that the 2007-08 Red Wings were a superior team to the 2006-07 Ducks.  So far the only reasoning you have added to counter that is a vague reference to the differences in travel schedule, which is apparently supposed to cost the Ducks +5 or more in shot differential per game, despite that not being supported.

If you’ve got compelling evidence beyond simply claiming I’m biased, then you’re welcome to present it; otherwise all you have done is proven that your thinking is fallacious.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 04:59 PM ET

awould's avatar

I am interested in seeing a list of teams that TPSH bequeaths the hallowed status of “elite.”

In the Expansion Era 1967-1992, there were 26 Cups won. 14 ended in a 4-0 or 4-1 series. 10 ended w/ a 4-2 win. Only 2 went to 7 games. That’s 46% going to at least 6 games. So much for great battles between great teams.

Between 1992 and 2004, there were 13 Cups won. 6 ended 4-0 or 4-1. 2 ended 4-2. 4 went to 7 games. Again, that’s 46% going to at least 6 games.

In the salary cap era, since the 04-05 lockout, there has been 8 Cups won. 1 ended 4-1. 4 ended 4-2 and 3 went to 7 games. That’s 87% going to at least 6 games.

It seems this bygone era when elite teams roamed the league, laying waste to the lessers, really just meant a lot of pretty unexciting Cup Finals.

I understand that the quality of play may have diminished, mostly due to talent being spread around to more teams, but also because teams can no longer stack themselves with all-stars. But if your argument of “elite” means that we’re missing out on seeing the same 1 or 2 teams win the Cup year after year by curb stomping some weaker opponent, I’m ok with that, especially if I get to watch a series like what LA/Chicago just put on.

If I wanted to see the two teams that are Vegas odds-on for reaching the Finals in October actually reach the Finals every season, I’d watch the NBA. But then I’d have to kill myself.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 05:13 PM ET

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TPSH getting owned by Wings fans….....and I am with them.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/03/14 at 05:16 PM ET

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If I wanted to see the two teams that are Vegas odds-on for reaching the Finals in October actually reach the Finals every season, I’d watch the NBA. But then I’d have to kill myself.

<iframe width=“420” height=“315” src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/Qvp37o1jZUo?rel=0” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/03/14 at 05:18 PM ET

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Embed fail.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvp37o1jZUo

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/03/14 at 05:19 PM ET

bigdee89's avatar

Hey guys, what’s happening?  Am I in the right place?  I’m here to write my own blog.  I hear they let anyone do that nowadays.

Posted by bigdee89 from The Great White North Eh? on 06/03/14 at 05:30 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Again, please keep comments on topic.  Been pretty good so far and remember, discuss the topic at hand.

If you disagree or agree fine, don’t let this go somewhere else.

Thanks.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 06/03/14 at 05:35 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

With all the parity in the NHL a team can move up quickly after having a bad season. The Kings and Rangers are two solid teams, but as mentioned “Not Elite”. I suppose this gives Red Wing fans hope going into next season. It depends on trades and/or free agency this summer. I’m sure Kenny and the staff are doing their homework.

Posted by bigfrog on 06/03/14 at 06:19 PM ET

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I want to know what the obsession is with being “elite.”

As I have commented before, names on the Cup = immortal.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/03/14 at 06:21 PM ET

awould's avatar

I want to know what the obsession is with being “elite.”

Nobody knows. The modern expansion coupled w/ the recent salary cap has led to more parity and less “elite” teams, but to me, it just means it is more competitive, which leads to closer playoff series and, to me, that’s more exciting than watching a team of all-stars run rampant through the playoffs en route to their 4th Cup in 7 years.

It also means the GMs tough job isn’t to sign star players, but to build a team w/ depth because that is what it takes. I prefer it this way.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 06:28 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 07:28 PM ET

Agree with the entire comment here. I’m not so worried about the “elite” thing necessarily, just enjoy the discussion and how silly it is calling one team elite while saying a better team doesn’t qualify.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/03/14 at 07:01 PM ET

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Welp, no elite teams this year. May as well not even watch hockey.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/03/14 at 07:25 PM ET

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Filtering out empty net goals, the 2008 Red Wings defense allowed 1926 shots against. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks allowed 2245 shots against.

Including both his 2007 totals and a few of his previous seasons (to increase the size of our sample), J.S. Giguere had been a .914 goalie over his last ~4,800 shots. Assuming .914 was Giguere’s true talent in 2007, if Anaheim had gotten Giguere-level goaltending for all 82 games in 2007 they would have been expected to allow just 193 non-empty-net goals in 2007.

Being more generous, if we assume that Giguere’s true talent was actually .918 (his actual figure for 2006-07), Anaheim’s expected non-empty-net goals allowed for 82 games of Giguere-level goaltending would be 184.

Detroit, remember, only allowed 1926 shots in 2008, so in order for them to have an expected goals allowed of 184 they would only need to receive .904 goaltending. For 193 expected goals allowed, they would only have needed to receive .899 goaltending.

Considering Osgood had been about a .908 goaltender over his last ~4000 shots at that point (including 2008 itself, when he finished at .914), I think it’s likely that Osgood’s true talent in 2008 was at least better than these low benchmarks.

So yes, Anaheim had the better goaltender. If your definition of “elite” requires a team to have an above-average goaltender and some arbitrary number of Hall of Fame track players, then that obviously disqualifies Detroit.

But if your definition of “elite” depends on, y’know, how good the actual team is?

- Detroit was the better defensive team, both in practice (175 non-empty-net goals allowed vs. 195) and in theory (based on our estimates of the respective teams’ expected goal prevention), DESPITE the fact that they employed significantly weaker goaltending. Shot prevention more than made up the gap.

- Detroit was the better possession team by far (+9 shot differential per game vs. +4).

- Detroit was the better outscoring team by far, both overall (+73 vs +56) and at even strength (1.41 vs. 1.15 scoring ratio).

The argument for Anaheim is that they had a better goalie (although they were much worse at preventing shots and they allowed significantly more actual goals) and that, because they play on the West coast, their team may not have been as rested. That seems like a tough sell to me. The numbers seem pretty heavily with Detroit here, so if you want to argue your point that the 2007 Ducks were better than the 2008 Red Wings you’re going to need to provide some extraordinary evidence, beyond simply “they had better goaltending” and “they had a tougher schedule.”

Unless your point is that having an above-average starting goalie is more important than actual ability to win games in determining whether or not a team is elite. In which case, I think your definition of “elite” is a very poor one.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/03/14 at 07:52 PM ET

awould's avatar

The travel argument is ridiculous. It wouldn’t be if you were comparing Anaheim to the Rangers or Devils. But comparing them to Detroit? Any difference is minimal. First, Anaheim could drive to 4 of their Away games. Detroit hopped on a plane for every Away game. Other Away games included pretty short flights to SJ and Phoenix.

This is more favorable than Detroit’s nearest Away games of Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Beyond that, yes, Detroit has an easier trip to their East Coast swings, but a much worse trip to their West Coast swings. And really, whether it is Detroit’s west coast trips or Anaheim’s east coast trips, both really involve the same amount of travel once you hit the first Away game. So you’re left with the Departing and Return trips, so that’s a couple extra hours on the plane.

More problematic, at least to off-set whatever claimed disadvantage to Anaheim’s travel distance, is that Detroit played out of their time zone frequently.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 08:38 PM ET

calquake's avatar

I NOW consider you all “elite” posters of this blog.

Posted by calquake on 06/03/14 at 09:12 PM ET

awould's avatar

I NOW consider you all “elite” posters of this blog.

Posted by calquake on 06/03/14 at 10:12 PM ET

That’s very nice of you, but I can’t accept that for myself. While I’m a proficient poster on this blog, I don’t feel that I could be considered a Hall of Fame poster at this point in my career. Furthermore, my PPD (posts-per-day) has really fallen off since Detroit was knocked out of the playoffs, which has really brung down my average. Lastly, I use words like brung, which highlights my limited vocabulary. I feel I do have upside though and maybe i’ll get there, but it’s too early to say right now.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 09:59 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I sometimes wonder if certain bloggers actually watch the games. The NHL is an elite league. ALL the teams of the NHL are relatively elite compared to the other hockey leagues. Even the terrible Sabres squad this year would match favorably to just about any other team in the world. That’s the point of parity. Whinging that the two teams in the cup finals completely misses the forest from the trees. The league changed after the cap. One might as well compare the current rosters to the 1910’s or 1950’s for all that matters. And if we were to go by those open standards and ignore the important changes in the game over time, the only truly elite teams in order of what they’ve accomplished would clearly be

1) Montreal
2) Toronto
3) Detroit

And since the most recent cup from the most elite teams were 6, 47 and 21 years ago, perhaps that matrix doesn’t work well either.


If I could make a friendly suggestion, perhaps fantasy hockey would be more your forte. There you can build elite teams if you can manage to trade for them. You won’t have to actually watch games and can just look at stat sheets. Your perspective on managing fantasy leagues might actually be helpful. Repeating vegas odds and crapping on success isn’t too valuable to me as a reader.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 06/04/14 at 09:33 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