Sunday, May 14, 2006

Buffalo Eliminates "Best Team In The NHL"

I believe that when healthy, Ottawa is the most dominant team in the NHL, but their health down the stretch was questionable. Particularly, they went into the playoffs without future Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek in goal and rookie Ray Emery starting instead. While Emery was a satisfactory goaltender in the playoffs, he never stole a game for Ottawa the way Hasek likely would have. I think their result was almost as I predicted. Ottawa was the best team in the NHL, but they have an achilles heal in goal. Now that he is into his forties can injury-prone Dominik Hasek possibly hold up an entire season?

The Buffalo Sabres played a very good series (they had to in order to eliminate Ottawa). It was a much closer series than the 4 games to one record would show. Each game was a one goal game. Three of the games were decided in overtime. The mere substitution of Ray Emery with a healthy Dominik Hasek would likely be more than enough to change the tide in the series. I bet with a healthy Hasek, Ottawa could have won the series in about five games.

Ottawa now goes down as one of the best teams to NOT win the Stanley Cup. In part, they have the new CBA to blame for this. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to keep their team together next year. Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara will reach unrestricted free agency (liberalized free agency will be a serious problem in this CBA). Martin Havlat is also a restricted free agent this summer. A salary cap will prevent Ottawa from having the money necessary to pay for the raises each of these players deserve. Likely at least one of (and maybe both) of Redden and Chara will wind up in other markets next year.

Ottawa must also address the question of their goaltending. He turns 42 next season. Although he is clearly a good goalie when healthy, even at an advanced age, what are the chances he remains healthy? They have to be very low. Is there any possible way to address this issue under a salary cap? They don't likely have the money to offer a proven goalie. The new CBA is bad for Ottawa it is costing them another few shots at the Stanley Cup.

Buffalo wont likely come out much better. They have several key players who will become unrestricted free agents, who have played well enough to deserve significant raises and Buffalo cannot afford to pay them all.

This Ottawa vs. Buffalo series was a good one. I would like to be able to see these two teams battle for the Northeast Division title next year. Although they might do so, they will both be weakened teams after the CBA forces them to be somewhat dismantled.

Well, we're not sure how much the salary cap will go up next year. It may go up enough for Ottawa to keep much of its core together.

Still, there needs to be some kind of heart transplant in Ottawa. There definitely is something holding them back in the playoffs. Maybe it's just bad luck, but Ottawa didn't lose 'convincingly'
The problem with keeping teams together is liberalized free agency first and a salary cap second.

I think there is little chance that Ottawa will be able to afford all their current free agents and stay below even a higher salary cap. It is the free agency first that causes these problems.

When a good team fails to live up to our expectations for whatever reason its far too easy to come up with some kind of bs exlanation for it. Something intangible is missing ("character", "grit" etc). That way, at least in hindsight, we can fool ourselves into think that we were not wrong in our predicitions, the team failed instead.

What was missing in Ottawa this year? A healthy all star calibre goalie at playoff time. Can that be addressed? Probably not given a salary cap and all the free agents that they need to sign.
I understand the concern for Ottawa, but really, is the CBA a 'failure' for making things tough on Ottawa, a team with arguably more talent than they deserve?

Is it really the CBA's function to help Ottawa protect all its assets and allow it to improve? I don't think a system like that promotes parity.

At any rate, I won't be feeling sorry for Ottawa. Having too much talent to sign isn't really a problem I can put much sympathy towards.
If a team goes through the lean years to have some early draft picks and drafts well then the market should get to enjoy the good years.

It is a CBA failure that good teams get broken up. As fans we don't get the same chance to see good teams. We are forced to watch a bunch of mediocre ones.

The best teams of all time, the 80's Oilers, 50's and 70's Habs all had "too much talent" and hockey was better for having the chance to see them play hockey on another higher level then the rest of the NHL previously had.
You are quick to point out the "failings" of the CBA but fail to give it credit for creating some competetiveness, as may be seen with the Edmonton Oilers, a team that is where they are thanks to the CBA.

Make all the excuses that you like for Ottawa, but while great teams find ways to win, Ottawa consistently finds new ways to lose. While most would lay this years bow-out on Emery's shoulders they forget too quickly the Spezza behind the back pass to Buffalo, the missed Redden hits, the cough it up passes from Chara, and the disapearance of an offense (the highest scoring team of the regular season, where did they go?). Perhaps with the CBA requirements Ottawa will be able to offload some floaters and acquire some talent that wants to play an entire season.
First off, Ottawa wasnt that impresive in the regular season. True, they would get early elads and blow teams out and make it look good but they were poor in close games. They scored more 'meaningless' goals than anyone.

Parity is a myth. There is no way to have parity under any system in any sport. Even when the NHL had only 6 teams there were great teams and crappy teams.

Because of money, players arent as loyal as before cause the greedy ones will just go to the highest bidder. Also players used to go to a team they liked and was near home. Quebecers would go to montreal, ontarians to toronto, americans to NY or Detroit. Now a kid in quebec gets drafted by florida.. he surely doesnt want to spend his entire career there.
Hockey is a zero sum game. If one team drops in the standings, another team will rise in them to take their place.

So Edmonton improved to an 8th seed that sold their future for a run in the Stanley Cup playoffs today. Another team like Vancouver or St Louis dropped.

Edmonton may be a team that is on the rise right now, but they are not a truly elite team. They are the kind of team that we might see in playoff runs of the future. An 8th seed that barely made playoffs with a couple deadline additions. Truly elite teams wont exist anymore. Liberalized free agency and a salary cap will likely kill that.

For the record, Edmonton's huge improvement is from a team that missed the playoffs by two points to one that made them by three points. Its hardly a miraculous climb.
I have to agree with girlysportsrant about loyalty. If players wanted to be on elite team, they could just take less money to stick it out on a team that consistently wins and goes deep in the playoffs to have a chance at the Cup - every year.

But players arent willing to do that anymore, they want "fair market value" and maybe it is what they deserve, but every player will also tell you that their #1 goal is to have their name on the Stanley Cup. If they want it on there multiple times, why not take less money to try to repeat, or three-peat.

Case in point, Khabibulin. Had he stayed with the Lightning, remained healthier and played better than he did with the Hawks, they likely would've been a severely improved team. Would they have repeated? Who knows. They had many other pieces leave that puzzle as well, but their poor goaltending was a big reason for their 8th seed, which pitted them against Ottawa, who just overmatched them.

Hockey has turned into every other sport out there, it is now a business, with a few games played in between.
We are forced to watch a bunch of mediocre ones.

I would argue that allowing Ottawa to remain the 'cream of the crop' (i.e. not lose anyone) would really mean that the fans of 29 other teams are really watching the mediocre ones.

I don't see how it is in my benefit to see a fully-stacked Ottawa squad. I am not a Sens fan, and don't want to be forced to be in order to see some 'elite' hockey.
The point isnt one team keeping it's stacked players over the other. Every team has a chance to get good players through scouting and drafting. If you draft a star you should have a fair chance to keep him unless he hates you and decides to go elsewhere. Crosby will be in Pittsburgh for years and Ovechkin in Washington, Phaneuf in Calgary and many other young stars.

Back in the 80s, the league didnt purposely create the Oilers dynasty, they just had a good system and lucked out on great players. I like 'elite' hockey, gives something for the others to shoot for. Ottawa has a big decision to make, are these the players the one that can take it to the next level or should they blow it up and start again.

Earl, you're not a Sens fan. Then who is your favorite team? Are they doing enough to be competitive and to keep your support? What suggestions do you have for them?
Then who is your favorite team? Are they doing enough to be competitive and to keep your support? What suggestions do you have for them?

I'm a Mighty Duck, through and through. The other questions aren't quite fair, in that of course I'm happy where we're at, and Burke right now has done well enough (if not better).

It's really just a philosophical question about sport: is a league better that allows (or fosters) a decade-long powerhouse? Or would it be better if those powerhouses had some sort of check-and-balance that makes it difficult to maintain for a prolonged period?

I say screw the Sens. Pitying them for having too many riches is absurd. It's not a 'dilemma' if 29 other teams are envious of it.
I agree. Didn't they also do it to themselves? No one forced them to pay those players that much money. As it was stated in the original post, look at the teams left and how they positioned themselves properly with cap room. I have no pity on them either, they put themselves in that position and now they have to deal with the consequences.

As a fan, would I be mad that they couldn't keep those players? Maybe, but also after looking at the situation, I would probably come to the same conclusion.

Also, they didn't even know if Hasek would be able to perform up to the level he did this year, regardless of the injury, but seriously, who would pay that much money for a 41 year old goalie? Didn't that really hurt their cap position at the deadline as much as anything?
As a Ducks fan you were lucky that your owner has a clue and hired Burke as GM who cleaned house and hired a great coach and got rid of the garbage named Fedorov, Ozolinsh and to a lesser extent Sykora. Otherwise you'd be in the same situation as Ottawa, a 1st or 2nd round exit and wondering what to do.

As for your philisophical question about dominance it's hard to tell.
Do league checks and balances work?
The NBA has a cap and Detroit will probably make it's 3rd consecutive final playing the most boring basketball ever. NFL has a cap and produced the Patriots 3 super bowls in 4 years. MLB has no cap and has produced 6 different champions in 6 years.
The NBA has a cap and Detroit will probably make it's 3rd consecutive final playing the most boring basketball ever. NFL has a cap and produced the Patriots 3 super bowls in 4 years. MLB has no cap and has produced 6 different champions in 6 years.

I am a little less concerned with 'who is champion', as that depends on a lot of factors. But really, 'who is dominating the league' concerns me more.

I barely follow any other sport, but to say that Ottawa simply has too much talent to re-sign I take as an encouraging sign.

Oh, and Ducks fans have a habit of getting lucky.
"The NBA has a cap and Detroit will probably make it's 3rd consecutive final playing the most boring basketball ever. NFL has a cap and produced the Patriots 3 super bowls in 4 years. MLB has no cap and has produced 6 different champions in 6 years."

And BEFORE the NHL had a cap, we had NJ win 3 Cups in 8 years, Detroit win 3 cups in 5 years and Colorado won 2 cups in 6 years. Only Dallas and Tampa ruined any of those teams chances of adding another to their collection.

I'm not sure of the point you're trying to make here?
And before that Montreal won 4 in a row, then Islanders won 4 in a row than Edmonton won 4 out of 5.

My point is that no matter what CBA system you use, the sport will go in cycles and there will always be dominant teams.

Buffalo and Anahiem have very young teams, hypotetically if they go on to the semifinals continously in the next 4-5 years.. does that mean the CBA failed?
PSH, I think you're missing an important point: the team that finished the season is significantly different from the one that started the year, particularly in net. Do you think that the Oilers' goaltending through March 9 would have carried this team to the playoffs, and then the second (and probably third) round? Uh, no. Conklin-Markkanen-Morrison would have left Edmonton in about 10th place.

Put succinctly, this current squad is not a 95-point team. Without some of the painful goaltending flubs that cost the Oilers many early-season games, this is a team that could have contended for the division title. I believe they would have won it handily, after accounting for points lost by teams like Calgary and Colorado, though there's no accounting for a small degree of homerism.

Besides, as girly noted, teams that consistenly make the Final Four tend to breed loyalty. If you had the choice between $4M on a mediocre team or $3M on a great team that could win any year, which are you going to take? Assuming the latter team is not the Buffalo Bills, most people will tend to stick with the contender until things really begin to come apart, as they have in, say, Colorado: six Final Four finishes and two Cups in seven years, followed by three consecutive early exits.
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