by PuckStopsHere on 11/19/09 at 02:56 PM ET
A couple weeks ago I wrote that the best teams of the past decade all occurred before the lockout. This was according to a ranking by Puck Daddy. I argue that the decline in the quality of elite teams is caused mostly by two factors: over-expansion of the NHL and the salary cap and current CBA which prevents teams from keeping good teams together. I argue that this is not a good thing for the NHL. It reduces the quality of Stanley cup final series (which should be matchups of two elite teams). I also argue that this is not some equalization procedure to keep big markets from dominating the NHL (afterall the New York Rangers with the biggest payroll in the league missed the playoffs for the final seven seasons of the last CBA). There is a flip side to this. If the best teams are not as good, then the worst teams are not as bad. This is shown by further Puck Daddy analysis.
They list the 10 worst teams of the last ten years as follows:
10. 2000/01 Tampa Bay Lightning
9. 2003/04 Chicago Blackhawks
8. 2002/03 Carolina Hurricanes
7. 2003/04 Washington Capitals
6. 2005/06 St Louis Blues
5. 2001/02 Columbus Blue Jackets
4. 2006/07 Philadelphia Flyers
3. 2003/04 Pittsburgh Penguins
2. 2000/01 New York Islanders
1. 2001/02 Atlanta Thrashers
This list appears to be selected so that any one team can only appear one time on the list (for example the presence of the 2000/01 Islanders in second spot removes last year`s Islanders from contention). Despite this, we can easily spot some trends. Eight of the ten worst teams came before the lockout. The only two that did not were the St Louis Blues in the year immediately following the lockout and the Philadelphia Flyers in the year following that. Since the 2006/07 season, no team was bad enough to make this list. The new CBA that followed the lockout brought in some parity. Not only are there no more elite teams, there are also no more horribly bad teams.
Is this a good trade-off for a general hockey fan? Here I am defining a general hockey fan as a fan who wants to see as high level hockey as possible. This is not the bandwagon fan that will support his team if and only if they are winning. I think there is no reason to cater to these bandwagon fans, since it is impossible to satisfy them all. It is necessary that in every game, if one team wins, then the other team must lose. The NHL has fudged things a bit to give us points for losing as long as it is not in regulation. This doesn`t change the fact that for each team at the top of the standings, there must be one at the bottom. A general fan is a fan regardless of the record of their favorite team. A general fan is one who just wants to watch good hockey. Under the current CBA, a general fan will not get to see any really elite teams and will not see any really bad teams.
The lack of really bad teams matters little, if one is trying to watch as many good games as possible. Even if a couple really bad teams exist, you can always find a good game by finding two good teams to play each other. The quality and quantity of the good games increase with more and better good teams. The lack of really bad teams does nothing to increase the quality of the good games. It actually takes away from them as the reason that teams are not really bad is they have some extra talent that they otherwise would not have (and that talent otherwise would be on elite teams).
You cannot cater to bandwagon fans. You cannot have a league where, in order to be healthy, each franchise needs to be a winning franchise. Nothing can be done to create that situation. The fact that the Islanders of last year were not as bad as the Islanders of 2000/01 does not help the Islanders attendance or revenues. It doesn`t present the league with better games between its best teams. For a general hockey fan who wants to see as good hockey as possible (and this is how I describe myself), it is a development that has no value. I would rather see some elite teams. I know the consequence is that we also have teams that are equally bad as the elite teams are good. That consequence doesn`t matter. It doesn`t take away from the great games we see when elite teams play each other. Those games are gone in the current CBA. We may still see good teams play one another, but something is missing, we used to see better teams in the Stanley Cup finals. I miss those days and I want them back.
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