Monday, March 21, 2005

Why A Salary Cap (and the Lockout) is Bad For the Ottawa Senators

My last post was about why a salary cap is bad for the NHL and Bryon has argued that point. We have been specifically discussing the effect of a salary cap and the lockout on the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa is one of the best teams in the NHL. They have one of the best young groups of players in the NHL. They have not (yet?) won the Stanley Cup but would have to be considered among the favorites if there ever is another Stanley Cup playoff.

Bryon argues that a salary cap would help the Sens. I strongly disagree.

Ottawa already is one of the best teams in the NHL. Ottawa could very well win the Stanley Cup this year if there were no lockout. Sens fans should be mad as hell at the NHL for letting that chance get away.

A salary cap does "level the playing field". It takes away any advantage a team gains from drafting or otherwise producing a young core of extremely talented players. In fact, under a salary cap, there is little to no advantage to drafting well. The teams that draft well will be forced to give up much of their bounty to the teams that didn't bother to draft well so that they can stay under the salary cap.

Right now, Ottawa has a fine young core. This core will stay together at the very worst until they reach UFA age. By then, if the team has won a Stanley Cup or more, they will have more then enough money and motivation to continue to keep that core together. If they haven't won, they likely won't ever win, since players currently do not reach UFA age until age 31, when they have passed the best years of their career. At that point, it would be in their best interest to dismantle their core and try again.

Under a salary cap, Ottawa has no chance whatsoever of keeping together their current core. It would cost too much to pay all of their current stars to have them stay under the salary cap. They won't have any chance of having few more years with their current core. Under the pre-lockout system they had a chance - and it may have been a chance to be a really special team that would have been one of the greatest of all time.

Their stars would go to teams that did not draft well and can afford their players under their salary caps. Some would go to the bigger markets of New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. It is ironic that the current system allows Ottawa to keep their core, but the system some Ottawa fans seem to want would not allow this.

The current NHL system is pretty fair. Any market can build a top team. Ottawa has. Calgary and Tampa Bay played in the Stanley Cup finals. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all missed the playoffs. It is very possible that Tampa, Ottawa and Atlanta will dominate the NHL for the next several years. That would mean more bad rating finals (people dont want Tampa vs. Calgary - but they would watch if the Rangers or Kings made the finals). Something had to be done. A salary cap is one way to break up the small markets that have become too powerful.

Make no mistake about this lockout. It is not about fairness in the NHL. It is about the almighty dollar. With a salary cap, the big markets make even more money. With a salary cap, the big markets get shots at top players in their prime even if they do not draft well. In the previous system all you could buy is older broken down players (see the New York Rangers for example).

Ottawa has a top team. They have a top team right now. They did that under the current NHL CBA. The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could not do that. They built teams that miss the playoffs. Bring in a salary cap and Ottawa cannot keep its core together so Ottawa cannot dominate. Liberalize free agency in the process and some of those stars may wind up signing with the biggest markets. For example, Marian Hossa will be a restricted free agent this summer. If there is no CBA, there will not be anyway Ottawa can give him a qualifying offer. So he might be an unrestricted free agent. If he is UFA, a team like the New York Rangers who shed a lot of salary would be in a great place to sign him.

This lockout has cost Ottawa one shot at the Stanley Cup so far. Its resolution may cost it its core of stars. Ottawa has been one of the teams that has most suffered due to the lockout and its expected resolution.

You continue to argue that under a salary cap, teams would not stay together, even though this has not been the case in other leagues with a cap. With very few exceptions, teams in the NBA & NFL have been able to keep their core talent together. Not to mention that the draft is extremely important in both of those leagues.

The larger problem with a cap system, IMO, is that it dramatically limits player movement through trades and unfairly restricts GMs when trying to make changes to their teams. But those are problems that are overcome with good management and not just a good bank balance, so I'll take it.

All I want is a league with a more level playing field. I desperately want to avoid the NHL becoming like Major League Baseball. Will some sort of cap system solve it? Maybe not entirely -- there will always be problems -- but I've got to think that it will create a much fairer league. At very least, it will eliminate the ability for teams like Pittsburgh, Buffalo & Edmonton to continually use the overall financial system of the NHL as a big excuse and will hopefully put the focus back on hockey.
Cap systems increase player movement. The NFL and NBA show us that. They do NOT allow teams to stay together.

Theses are slightly different examples. The NFL is a much more hard cap, so it increases player movement more. The NBA is a weak enough cap that it allows the bigger markets to keep their temas for the most part.

Want to avoid being like Major League Baseball, the most important thing is to limit unrestricted free agency. The NHL does this. Under normal circumstances, you cannot be a UFA until age 31. By that point, the best years of your career are over. In baseball, hall of fame track players like Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero become free agents and leave the markets that drafted them BEFORE they playe their best seasons of their careers. This cannot happen in the previous NHL CBA - however, it might become possible under the proposed new ones.
Maximum Salary

"In sports, a salary cap is a limit on the amount of money a team can spend on player salaries, either as a per-player limit or a total limit for the team's roster (or both)" (“Salary cap”). Putting a salary cap on professional sports teams is greatly needed. I strongly disagree with why you don't think it is works. Not all salary caps are bad.
There are two different types of salary caps that are applied to the NBA, NFL, and the NHL. There is the "soft" cap, and then there is the "hard" cap.(Matt Witting. "Salary Caps 101 (Part II)") The NBA as of right now uses the "soft" cap. This "... limits payrolls of NBA teams to 55% of Basketball Related Income..."(Witting). This would mean that it doesn't limit a specific player. The cap was set at $42.3 million in the 2002-2003 season. Matt also remarked that most NBA teams don't stay under the salary cap. There are other ways to negotiate it. For example, the cap can be dropped if the average paid basketball player gets less than the average paid NFL, MLB, and NHL player. This cap, to me, doesn't sound like it is too strict or harsh on any team.
The NFL, on the other hand, has the "hard" cap. This is somewhat like the NBA, except teams are allowed 63% of the related income(Witting). The cap as of 2001-2002 was set at $67.4 million. However, there are many more players on a football team as opposed to a basketball team. There are also ways to get around this cap so there is a chance to keep and sign the better players. For example, signing bonuses can be raised so the balance between each year can be more than just the regular salary.
You said, "It takes away any advantage a team gains from drafting or otherwise producing a young core of extremely talented players." These caps almost seem to be doing the opposite. Because with all of the ways they can get around the cap, and still pay the better players this would make them want to generate a great team for themselves still.
Other things that that could be taken into consideration are the endorsements players receive. Most players are getting paid by more than just the league. This also could take the focus off of their regular salary. If you want to be paid to your full potential, you need to make that for yourself by being the best you can be, rather than trying to negotiate the salary you receive, which for most professional athletics, seems to be way too much. You have to realize all of these athletes are getting paid to do what they love. It shouldn't come to how many millions of dollars they can gain out of it.
Later on in your blog, in regards to the Ottawa Senators, you said,"This core will stay together . . . if the team has won a Stanley Cup or more, they will have more than enough money and motivation to continue to keep that core together." The L.A. Lakers are a great example of how that isn't true. Everyone knows that there is no way the Lakers could have possibly been under the salary cap when they had Shaq, Kobe, Malone, and Payton playing for them all at the same time. Now they aren't even together as a team anymore. Money can't always hold a team together. Think about injuries for example. There isn't any solid evidence or any source that you can go by to say that a player won't get hurt. You can't control anything by hopes.
You also don't think the Senators would stay together under the cap. But if they are said to be one of the best teams in the league right now, how could anyone else afford them, and why would they want to go to a team where they may not have a chance at being as good as they are right now. That could bring them back to the better endorsements if they were to win the Cup.
You said the ratings would be bad if Tampa and Calgary played for the championship, but people would watch it if it was the Kings and the Rangers. How are you sure of that. If you had two teams that nobody thought were going to be very good, make it all the way to the championship, you don't think anyone would watch it? I'm sure I would be more apt to watching the game as opposed to the teams that everyone thought would make it there. So this could be something that would actually raise the ratings.
Bryon, a person that commented back to you, also made a really good point about how the draft wouldn't be so useless like you think. "With very few exceptions, teams in the NBA & NFL have been able to keep their core talent together. Not to mention that the draft is extremely important in both of those leagues." This also proves my point on how there needs to be a salary cap, and how it doesn’t seem to be affecting leagues in a negative way. It just seems that you are a fan of the Senators and want to keep the talented team that they have established, together.
While watching news channels, I have heard stories saying attendance of MLB spectators, has been down for the past couple of years. News anchors said fans have chosen to spend their time occupying themselves with something other than the game because it has become so unfair with certain teams to have such powerhouse-players due to their budget. The New York Yankees, for example, had a payroll of $184.8 million in 2004, while Boston’s payroll was $125.1 million. How are those teams suppose to even come close to the same players(“…owner's stance on salary cap”)? Also stated was that the bottom five teams added payroll wasn’t even the total of the New York Yankees that year. Yes, players are obviously going to go to the teams that will pay them the most. This strategy of letting teams do what they wish would almost make it impossible to recruit some of the better players. Personally, if I was a professional athlete, I would too want to be paid the most that I could be, but if I was only allowed so much, it may change my focus back to the game, and not to the paycheck. I would also stay with my team if we were well established and had a great core team. Why would anyone change the team that they have, if it is going great for them, and they had the chance to win big titles? Great teams do stay together, even if there is a salary cap. This would make it so other teams would have the same chance that any other team would have to achieve success. This is why I feel professional sports teams should have the salary cap applied to their leagues.
I say a salary cap is good because the money comes from somewhere and if you keep spending it it will run out sooner or later.
Salary caps are great for teams! I think this beacause teams are just spending money on big name players and I belive there are too many players that are collecting to much money from their organizations. It has to stop somewhere. Thanks for letting me blog here man.
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