Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Is Ottawa Limping Into The Playoffs?

The Ottawa Senators when healthy are the best team in the NHL this year. If they can get themselves healthy, they should be considered the Stanley Cup favorites. However, they are far from healthy. Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Dominik Hasek, Chris Phillips and Martin Havlat were all unavailable. Without that group of talent, Ottawa is far from the Stanley Cup favorite. As the season winds down, these players are starting to come back. Wade Redden returns from his personal leave tonight. Zdeno Chara is a game time decision and might be back from his hand injury. Martin Havlat is cleared to return from his shoulder surgery this weekend. Hasek and Phillips might also be back before too long (although when the playoffs approach, reliable injury information becomes harder and harder to come by). If these players come back and hit their stride, Ottawa still has a very good shot at winning their Stanley Cup. They may need an easy time of the first round of the playoffs to fully heal - but that might be a possible scenario.

Ottawa's Stanley Cup hopes will be largely determined by the health and return of their injured stars. They are not the only team in the position that injured players will go a long way to determine their playoff success. The Philadelphia Flyers playoff success will be greatly influenced by whether or not Peter Forsberg can make a healthy return. The Colorado Avalanche may have a successful playoff run if goalie Jose Theodore can make a successful return from his injuries. The Nashville Predators playoff chances have now been all but dashed when it was learned that goalie Tomas Vokoun will miss the playoffs due to blood clots from a rare disease.

I think this is the way of a salary capped NHL. No longer can teams afford to have a plan B if their stars get hurt. They cannot keep it under the salary cap. It opens up a scenario that the healthiest of the good teams will likely win the cup. There is no way to have a deep enough team to make a run if you suffer injuries at the wrong time. It does open up a scenario where it is unclear who will win the cup, but it is clear that the team that wins the cup will not be able to be an all time great NHL team. There will be no more all time great NHL teams. They cannot stay under salary caps. Whichever team does win the Stanley Cup will lose some talented players next year, as they cannot give all their successful players the raises they deserve for their cup success. That team will not be as strong next year. Great teams are gone. Dynasties are gone. Teams that win because they managed to be healthy and lucky at the right time are in. Then that winning team gets gutted and we start all over again. Is this the NHL that you want? Its not my ideal league.

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