Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Problem With Parity

The Stanley Cup playoffs (especially the later rounds) are supposed to be epic battles between great teams. This year, this doesn't seem to be the case. None of the four truly remaining playoff teams look to me as great teams that win Stanley Cups.

A truly great team can be measured by a few metrics. I will choose two as examples (which I think demonstrate the problem). A truly great team has an elite goalie who is one of the best in the NHL. A truly great team (one that wins the Stanley Cup any year in recent memory) has at least four or five (and in many cases even more) players who are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks in their career.

This year, the four remaining playoff goalies are Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller, Dwayne Roloson and Cam Ward. At no point in any of their careers have any been mistaken for a Vezina nominee. That statement is a little bit unfair because three are rookies. Of the rookies, none have ever been mistaken for a Calder nominee. Can a rookie goalie win the Stanley Cup? Sure he can. In my memory, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy accomplished that feat. They are both elite goaltenders who go down among the best goaltenders of all time. Are any of the rookies this year? Maybe, but it is unlikely. Bryzgalov and Miller are on the old side for rookies both at age 25. Most elite rookie goalies are established NHLers by that age (I am sure we can all think of exceptions to that rule - but that's exactly what they are exceptions to the rule). Cam Ward is younger and might be more likely to become an elite goalie based only upon his age, but he is probably the least accomplished of the three rookie goalies right now. As for Dwayne Roloson, he's a solid NHL goalie, but he's never been mistaken for a superstar and at age 35 its awfully unlikely he will develop into one.

There are no goalies left in the playoffs that are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks. It’s not impossible that one of the rookies might get himself onto one, but he certainly is not there yet.

What about other positions? There are two clear Hall of Fame track (perhaps I should define this term - a hall of fame track player is a player who will quite likely make the hall of fame based upon logical projection of his statistics throughout the rest of his career) defencemen in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. There really isn't anybody else out there who comes close. As far as good defencemen who look to make a few all star games in their lives, but not the Hall of Fame, there is Teppo Numminen of Buffalo (though he is 36 years old as has problems with a rapid heartbeat, so he is no longer in his prime) and maybe Glen Wesley (who is 37 and has 3 goals since the start of the 2002 season). Aside from that we have Jaroslav Spacek (maybe but I might bet against it), Jay McKee (maybe but he'll have to stay healthy and find himself a bigger market to play in to get the correct reputation) and Francois Beauchemin (far too early to seriously suggest him, but as a rookie its hard to place limits on his upside). None of them are the truly great players who are likely to even get some failed Hall of Fame support (except Numminen and possibly Wesley). We only have two Hall of Fame track players in goal and on defence in the four remaining playoff teams.

At forward, there are a few more Hall of Fame track players. Anaheim has Teemu Selanne. Carolina has Mark Recchi and Eric Staal. Among the good but not quite Hall of Fame track, Carolina also has Rod Brind'Amour and Doug Weight (given the fact they are well into their 30's and have a way to go to move up the all time scoring lists, I doubt either ever make the hall). Edmonton has Ryan Smyth, who looks far more likely to project to be a Doug Weight type then a Hall of Fame. Buffalo has Daniel Briere, who doesn't project as a Hall of Famer at this point. Anaheim might offer Andy McDonald who at age 28 is giving us his first all star numbers and that is likely too late for a hall of fame type career.

All told, I count 5 hall of fame track players among the four remaining playoff teams. A typical Stanley Cup winner of years past had that on their team alone. In 2001/02, Detroit offered Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov, Larionov, Hull, Robitaille, Lidstrom, Chelios and Hasek (which has got to be the most future hall of famers in recent
memory on one team). In 2004, Tampa Bay offered four people I would place on a Hall of Fame track: Brad Richards, Martin St Louis, Vincent LeCavalier and Dave Andreychuk.

This season will have the worst Stanley Cup winner in recent memory.

Why is that? The CBA was designed to bring the truly elite to the level of the mediocre (at least in its first season or two). The salary cap kept truly great teams from existing this year.

In fact, I think the best model of the NHL is that there are about 20 teams that are roughly equivalent in ability and can beat any other on any give day. There are about ten teams that have been poorly enough managed that they are not on that level. Should the eventual Stanley Cup champions have to play a series against one of the better non-playoff teams that are among the 20 good teams (Vancouver, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Toronto maybe) would the Stanley Cup winner win that series? I'm not so sure they would. In fact there is an almost 50% chance they wouldn't. The difference between mediocre and perceived to be good (Stanley Cup final four) and mediocre and perceived to be bad (missed the playoffs) is tiny. In many cases it comes down to luck. If we played out the season again with the same teams and different luck, quite likely at least one of the final four teams would miss the playoffs. When we play next season, with slightly different lineups, I bet one or more of the final four teams misses the playoffs. It could even be the Stanley Cup winner. Imagine that. Misses playoffs, wins cup, misses playoffs in consecutive (if you do not count a lockout) years. Hard to argue that a team like that would not be the worst Stanley Cup winner in recent memory.

So what can be done about this? Nothing needs to be done. The CBA is not designed for parity. Salary caps will significantly climb next year. Free agency has been significantly liberalized for next year (younger UFAs and less compensation for RFAs). That alone will go a long way toward allowing elite teams to be built. The bigger market teams will be able to afford to sign elite free agents (in their prime vs. past their prime in the old CBA) and have larger payrolls then the smaller market teams (even the final four this year). It will be good for NHL marketing if there is a roughly 50% chance in any given year that a moderately well run New York franchise will make the final four. Sure there will still be Cinderella teams, but it will be David against Goliath battles in the playoffs. A Goliath will exist, unlike this year when it is David vs David.

Is that better for hockey? I'm not sure that it is. I was happy with the old CBA. I was happy with a situation where a team that was skilled (and lucky) enough to draft a really elite core got to keep their core together for its lifetime and not worry about free agency until the players started to decline and until they had several years of success to maximize revenues. It is the nature of the game that an elite core remains an elite core for many years and probably wins multiple cups. It seemed that any market could build that core. New Jersey did with a stadium in the middle of nowhere (East Rutherford is a parking lot) and an attendance that is below league averages even when they are defending Stanley Cup champions. Tampa Bay built such a team (but they were derailed by lockout and CBA). The big market Rangers couldn't despite all the money they threw at the problem. Fans were brainwashed to believe that Denver, Detroit and East Rutherford were big markets and change was needed to keep them from winning in perpetuity. Now we have the situation where a New York, Chicago or Los Angeles can win a cup with competent ownership by throwing money at the problem. We didn't before.

In the meantime to set up this system, fans have to suffer though a year lost to lockout. Then they get a playoff where four teams battle to be the worst Stanley Cup winner in recent memory. There are no battles between two elite powers because there are no two elite powers. There is not even one elite power. We will get a Stanley Cup champ who is not significantly better than the non-playoff Atlanta Thrashers or Vancouver Canucks.

This rant was inspired by the comments on this post and is similar in thinking to that of Tom Benjamin.

Ryan Miller IS having a Calder-calibre year, largely ignored because he a)played 18 NHL games in two previous seasons, and b)has been overshadowed by rookies who have had monster seasons. If Henrik Lundqvist is receiving some consideration for the award, then Ryan Miller should be as well.

As for the teams remaining in the quest, Carolina and Buffalo - while not on most peoples' radars at the beginning of the season to be contenders, grew into that position as the year wore on. One and three points out of the Conference's top spot are not anything to sneeze at. They became the cream of the crop this year in the East and came into the Playoffs as two of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Sexier, more well-known and/or recently established teams (Ottawa, Philadelphia, Detroit) were easier to pick at the beginning of the season, but Stanley Cup contenders only truly come to the forefront as the 82 game schedule is played. Carolina and Buffalo did well with those 82 games and deserve to be where they are: playing for the right to represent the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup. Anaheim and Edmonton are more anamalous than the Eastern teams are, but given the gridlock that existed in the middle of the playoff picture, not to be unexpected in any year. And to point out that none of the goalies are Vezina quality, when three are rookies, is quite farfetched and with little basis. Sure, they may turn out to be Jim Carrey, but they may also be Patrick Roy. And it isn't surprising that three rookie goalies are left, considering that a good half of the crop of 16 were more or less rookies, and even more without much playoff experience.

I disagree that truly great teams, the ones who "deserve" or "should" win the Stanley Cup need to have Hall of Famers playing on them. It helps, sure, but a collection of stars (or former stars) does not make a "team" in the strictest sense of the word. Looking at the four teams left, I see a very high level of "playing as a team" - a vague notion, but critical to the long-term success in a season, and, ultimately, in sport. Given the youth movement that has swept the NHL this season along with rule changes, new stars have emerged - perhaps too late to become Hall of Famers, but invaluable nonetheless to their teams. Will Kirk Muller, Jamie Langenbrunner, Milan Hejduk, Claude Lemieux make the Hall of Fame - no, likely not, but without them would their teams have won the Stanley Cups they did? Sure, they played on teams with HOFers, but a particularly good season or playoff is precisely that, having nothing to do with previous seasons' performances or their future credentials. To discount Daniel Briere, Andy McDonald, Jarret Stoll or Ray Whitney is a great disservice to them and what they bring to their teams.

I agree that the level of parity in the league today is the greatest than at any one time; however I look at things slightly differently. Instead of a Cup winner that is marginally better than a non-playoff team, I see some of the strongest non-playoff teams ever. Would the season and the playoffs have played out exactly how they did if they were to occur again? -probably not, but I imagine things would be closer than a complete reversal of fortunes for everyone involved as has been suggested. Parity has made all games more exciting, as more teams than ever have a chance, and know they have a chance, at winning. But still, some teams are considerably better or worse than others. 11/16 playoff teams this year made the playoffs in '03-'04 - after a lockout which had large implications for teams and their rosters; not bad in an all-of-a-sudden league of parity.
I agree with Nick that Buffalo and Carolina are not really surprises. They are after all the 2 and 4 seeds and we all know Ottawa is a pretender at best. The West has been nuts tho and totally turned upside down.

My problem isnt the teams that make it. It's the stars that dont. The NHL is trying to grow but who are its stars? Americans need star players to watch and preferably an AMERICAN star player. Who is the next NHL star that the league can promote and can he ever make it to the final four under such parity where a lucky bounce is the difference between missing the playoff and winning it all?
I agree with both of these opinions as well. In addition, isn't it a bit early to say that one of these teams is a less-than-stellar representation of a Stanley Cup Champion? Maybe this is how it's going to be in the new NHL every year? We won't know that for a few years now, so to say it after only 5/8 of a playoff is completed is a little presumtuous I think.

Also, to add to Nick's points about Ryan Miller, he also missed about 15 games in November and December while Martin Biron and the Sabres rattled off 13 stright wins. Had Miller won say 8 of those 13, he has almost 40 wins, which in most people's books would get him nominated for the Vezina and probably plays on the Olympic team as well, which gives him some notariety. As for getting nominated for the Calder, well, you've substantially covered that topic about how this year's rookie class is actually 2 years worth. Had there not been a lockout and he played last year, maybe he wins it then...that's a tough call that we'll never know the true answer to.

I think Carolina and Buffalo are only surprsies to those people who didn't follow them closely which in part is due to the poor coverage of the NHL in the American media. As Girly put it, "They are after all the 2 and 4 seeds and we all know Ottawa is a pretender at best." Also, Detroit's points were padded by playing in a weak division (Chicago and Columbus 16x!) and Dallas' points were aided by their ridiculous record in shootouts. They were only slightly overrated teams (I say slightly because they still had a lot of veteren leadership and playoff experience) and had Edmonton gotten even a little better goaltending throughout the season, as they're getting now, most likely, they wind up as a higher seed than 8th.
Well said, Nick! It seems alot of pundits are pissed because the "sexier" picks got upset. But when I hear that I really hear "I didn't watch enough Carolina or Buffalo games, and now I feel a bit silly."
Miller is not having a Calder calibre year. He's not a nominee. At best I can see him finishing 5th in the vote (clearly Lundqvist is number four). Fifth place or worse in the Calder voting is NOT a Calder calibre year.

Truly elite teams have both Hall of Fame calibre talent as well as the ability "to play as a team". Since its harder to independently judge the second factor I chose to look at the first one and these final four teams fail by that standard. A team that has Kirk Muller or Jamie Langenbrunner as their top forward doesn't have any legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. A team that has an elite player or two on the front line and allows a Langenbrunner or Muller to succeed in a role more suited to him may have a good shot at the Stanley Cup. It is the elite players who make the role players look good, because they allow the role players the chance to play their role and not have to attempt to be elite players.

Do we see some of tghe strongest non-playoff teams ever? I don't think that we do. We have seen strong non-playoff teams for several years (since the NHL expanded beyond the 21 team league when almost everyone made playoffs). If pressed I would call the 1996 New Jersey Devils (defending cup champs who had 86 points without any points for losing games in overtime) the best non-playoff team ever. The best 2006 non-playoff teams are run of the mill non-playoff teams for a 30 team league with 16 playoff spots. And the best teams in the playoffs are not much better. So far, the CBA has killed off the elite creating more mediocre.

Are Buffalo and Carolina suprises? No not really. They could be legit final four teams in years past. But as Stanley Cup winners they would be the worst in recent memory.
Ryan Miller, in many, many other years, would be in the top three in voting, making him a nominee. Thanks to a doubly strong rookie class, he's bumped back a bit. Doesn't make his accomplishments as a first-year player any less of value.

Langenbrunner and Muller were two of the keys as offensive players in their respective Cup runs, neither playing on a team with HOF-track players on the front line, with the possible exception of Patrick Elias in Jersey. Yet they won. Not the best teams to ever play, but that really is irrelevent - they were the best after the full (80, 82, 84) games and 20-25 playoff games, which is what really matters.

Ottawa, Tampa, Philadelphia, San Jose, Vancouver, Detroit this year may have had bigger names, established stars if you will, yet in the Playoffs, that means little if they can't get their sh*t together and beat the "no-names" of Buffalo, Anaheim, Edmonton and Carolina. Luckily for those teams, a good playoff run can and does establish new players as "stars" and the league as it is today means that the HOF-power "needed" to win in the past isn't necessarily needed anymore - however, if Edmonton beats Detroit in a 7-game series, does that not make them a better team rising to the moment when it matters most.

And Buffalo and Carolina are not legitimate contenders this year? We've gone through their regular season accomplishments - accomplishments that, this year at least, legitimized them as contenders. After the first year under a new league model and system, one can't say that the Stanley Cup winner will be "the worst" in a long time. At the very least, another season has to be played to see how the winner performs. If they put up a 120 point season and win the Cup again with a very similar team, does that not make them a pretty good team?
Is it the CBA that has killed "elite teams" or was it over-expansion, or a combination of the two? Look at teams prior to the 90's that would have so many great players on one team - the Canadiens of the 60's & 70's, the Islanders and Oilers of the 80's as examples. Now that talent is much thinner on each team. Each team will not have 4 or more HOF candidates nowadays.

Your point about Ryan Miller finishing 5th and not being a Calder candidate is absurd. You've stated many times that this rookie class is really two classes, so finishing 5th out of how many rookies from 2 years is certainly a Calder calibre season. Again, had they played last year and all things being equal (the Sabres still win 52 games, he plays as well as he did, etc ...), he probably finishes 2nd or 3rd behind Ovechkin.

As for your point of the CBA killing off elite teams and creating mediocre, won't that create excitement in the future? You may have 4 teams battling it out for playoff spots, not just the 8th spot either, on the last weekend/day of the season. Because the teams should be relatively equal, having thos ebattles creates excitement for the teams, their fans and hockey in general. Look at college basketball as an example. All the bubble teams during the last couple weeks of the season and their respective tournaments are fighting it out for 64 spots. Some of those spots are clearly taken, but some are not. And that creates a lot of excitement for the upcoming tournament. As well as a lot of debate and that creates excitement. Don't forget, hockey is no longer JUST a game, it's a business. The CBA and expansion should be good things for the longevity of the game, but we can't see it at this point in time.
And Buffalo and Carolina are not legitimate contenders this year?

Yes they are contenders. As I said they are legitimate final four teams of the past. They would however be the worst Stanley Cup winners in recent memory.

If they put up a 120 point season and win the Cup again with a very similar team, does that not make them a pretty good team?

We'll talk about that if it happens. I am willing to bet that it wont. These are not 120 point calibre teams. The CBA precludes these teams from staying together anyway. They will have to be weakened in the off season because of the CBA.
Ryan Miller is an interesting case. He is AT BEST number 5 in the Calder vote. I wouldn't be too suprised if Andrej Meszaros is 5th (which would drop Miller to 6th). Ryan Miller is likely one of the guys who barely got any votes for the Calder trophy this year - but good enough to recieve minor notice. Lets say thats good enough for 3rd place in a Calder race had their been a normal sized rookie crop. Who was third place in 2003/04? Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens. Miller's regular season puts him at roughly the same place Ryder was in 03/04. That's hardly a Hall of Fame track. Thats hardly elite goaltending. Of course, Miller has had a better playoff then Ryder did. So the ocmparison may not be perfect, but it sets the right ballpark for expectations.

Ideally, now would be the time I try to project Ryan Miller's career. That is what one would do in a similar baseball argument. How many 25 year olds who have the year Miller has has as a rookie goalie go on to have hall of fame careers? The problem is hockey goaltender stats are far too team dependent to ever do such a thing in any reliable manner.

While it is possible that Miller is a late bloomer who will have a great career it is unlikely. Unlikely, but nevertheless possible. It is clear right now that he is playing well. It is also clear that he has a way to go to be considered among the greatest goalies in the league. I think it is more likely that Miller goes down as an Arturs Irbe, Jon Casey, Richard Brodeur type career. A goalie who has a good solid career but does not ever establish himself as an elite goalie. The kind of goalie who can get hot and lead a team on a playoff run, but somebody who would be one of the weaker goalies in recent history (right up there with Chris Osgood) if he were to be a Stanley Cup winner.
Fifth place or worse in the Calder voting is NOT a Calder calibre year.

This is stupid. You've never had a pair of rookies as statistically offensively dominant as Ovechkin and Crosby enter the league in the same year before. It's a joke that Phaneuf got the nomination-he's a production of Pierre McGuire and media hype; he's an Andy Delmore who plays the body at this point. Lundqvist is a worthy Vezina nominee. So this is who Miller will finish behind. No shame in that.

As ever, the context matters. Fifth place the year Barrett Jackman wins? Yeah, you're overrated. Fifth place this year? Not so much.
History clearly shows us that a rookie goalie who leads his team to the Stanley Cup is an all time great. He is a Patrick Roy or a Ken Dryden. Is there any evidence to suggest Ryan Miller is a Patrick Roy or a Ken Dryden? NO. His fifth place at best showing in the Calder race (even a tough Calder race) is not evidence that he is an all time great. In fact, he's not even the best rookie goalie this year. Thats not a sign he is an all time great.

Does that mean I think Ryan Miller is a bad goalie? No. I don't think Dwayne Roloson is a bad goalie either. I do think that back when elite teams used to win the Stanley Cup, they did it with better goalies than either of these two. I miss elite teams.
Is there any evidence to suggest Ryan Miller is a Patrick Roy or a Ken Dryden? NO.

His career isn't over yet, you know. I'm sure that at the same points in those season, you wouldn't have been saying "Well, it's Patrick Roy!" "Ken Dryden is one of the greats!"

He's old for a breakthrough but had a funny season. I tend to think that he's for real. Moreover, I think that the rookie angle is overplayed.
I don't remember ever entering any evidence about Miller's HOF credentials, since he has but 70 or so games of experience. I think we are talking about the here and now and in that time frame, Ryan Miller should have been a serious contender for the Calder, he just had too many outside forces working against him - Ovechkin, Crosby, Phaneuf, Lundqvist and the whole 2 years worth of rookies in this year's class. Did you see any of the games he stole for Buffalo? He made some game-saving plays that HELPED lead the Sabres to their 52 wins. Did he win every game for them? No, but what goalie does?

Let me ask you this - is Tom Barrasso an elite goalie because he won the Cup with Pittsburgh? If you look at his career, he had about 5 good seasons, one was his rookie year, in which he was crazy good and 2 of which were on Cup winners, otherwise, he was a very average goalie.
Tom Barrasso is a pretty good goalie. I would put him just a little bit below Hall of Fame level. Of course when it came to having Hall of Fame calibre teammates, in Pittsburgh he had Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Mark Recchi, Larry Murphy, Bryan Trottier.

Ryan Miller is probably not as good a goalie as Tom Barrasso was. Barrasso was a Calder an Vezina Trophy winner at age 18. He had a William Jennings trophy, Canada Cup, all star game experience. All long before Ryan Miller made the NHL. By age 25 (Miller's current age) Barrasso had 354 career NHL regular season NHL games played. Ryan Miller has 66 so far.

Barrasso was a better goalie than I would project Miller to be (with good reason). Barrasso played with far better teammates.

Those were the days when the NHL had elite teams.
You're livin in the past man. I think you're rushing to judgement about what the future of the NHL holds based upon the thoughts in your head. While all of what you've stated may turn out to be true, it may also turn out that the CBA will produce elite teams. We just don't know after less than one year of this new CBA. Let's bring this topic up in 4 or 5 years and see how many different SC champs we've had. I might agree with you if the same teams are not repeating, but until then, it's just too early to tell.
"History clearly shows us that a rookie goalie who leads his team to the Stanley Cup is an all time great."

Two examples in the past 30-odd years is hardly worthy of a "history clearly shows" type of statement, especially when, at the time, no one could have reasonably expected Dryden and Roy to have the careers they did.

Regardless, I didn't take exception to you saying Miller wasn't HOF material; I took exception to you saying "Of the rookies, none have ever been mistaken for a Calder nominee." Michael Ryder's second-place finish (and resulting non-HOF credentials yet) means nothing to this discussion - if you ARE comparing the two as equals, then you acknowledge that Ryan Miller, in another year, could have been at least a runner-up (or, in the year before, a winner against Barett Jackman). All I'm arguing.
I think this CBA will produce elite teams and it will produce them in the markets where the NHL wants them to be (none of those East Rutherford, Denver or Tampa Bay elite teams). The salary cap will go up. The small and mid markets won't be able to follow it up. With liberalized free agency, good players will be available as free agents in their prime (for the first time in NHL history). Big markets will be able to build elite teams if they throw enough money at it.

In the short term, there are no elite teams. That is also caused by the CBA
We have 40 or 50 examples of Stanley Cups (we probably can run back to the days when the NHL stabilized witrh 6 teams after World War II) that have been won where a rookie goalie could not do it unless he was truly an all time great. The fact that it is such a rare event when a rookie goalie wins the Stanley Cup and the fact that those that succeeded are such all time greats shows how hard it was to win the cup as a rookie goalie.

This year 3 of 4 playoff teams have had rookie goalies as their number one. That is evidence that the elite goaltending of the past needed to win the Stanley Cup is no longer necessary.

My comparison of Ryan Miller to Michael Ryder was used to show that even if he might be a failed Calder candidate in a weaker year of rookies, that is hardly a sign that he is the kind of elite all time great goalie that used to be needed to win the Stanley Cup
Very interesting points regarding 'bad' Cup winners. Inspired by this, I posted at my place about it.
It has been noted before that the Oilers had the worst goaltending in the NHL for probably 70 games this year. The worst! They get even decent goaltending, suddenly, they're fighting Calgary for bragging rights in the NW, and that's before they get Samsonov, Spacek, and Tarnstrom. They're not a team that you'd ever mention in awed tones like the dynasties of decades past, but they're hardly unworthy, given what they've accomplished so far.

Oh, and nice try arguing that Buffalo or Carolina could possibly be the worst winners in recent memory. Are a division champion (and not a lame one, like pre-2004 SE winners), and a division runner-up with 10 more points than the forced third seed and only three or four fewer than the top seed are really that bad? I mean, why are you so sour on these guys? They're fun to watch. They have some solid talent, if not the All-Star Game rosters of some previous champions -- at least, as of right now, but more on that in a sec -- but is it really necessary to have your own wing in the HHoF reserved in order to be considered "great"? Is it not enough to win sixteen playoff games anymore? Now, you also have to pass some arbitrary metric of paper greatness to "deserve" the Cup, too? Bullshit.

As for the argument of who's "great" right now, did you know that the Oilers, prior to 1984, were known as big-game chokers without the kind of leadership needed to beat the true greats (i.e. the Islanders)? Ditto, the Red Wings prior to 1997. Bottom line: You make your reputation after you win, not before.
Well said Doogie2k!

I particularly enjoyed: "Is it not enough to win sixteen playoff games anymore? Now, you also have to pass some arbitrary metric of paper greatness to "deserve" the Cup, too? Bullshit."
I am arguing that there are no elite teams in the NHL this year. The fact that the final four in the playoffs do very poorly against two clear metrics to define elite teams is strong evidence.

Now if there are no elite teams, then winning your division (as in Carolina) or almost winning a division (as in Buffalo). Or winning the Stanley Cup, whomever that will be, does not make you elite. At best it makes you the best (or more likely luckiest) of the mediocre.

And then you attempt to rewrite history to suggest that nobody would have called Edmonton or Detroit elite teams before their cup wins. Thats clearly false. They both pass both metrics I have used to define elite teams with flying colors.
I wasn't saying that the Oilers and Red Wings prior to their periods of success weren't "elite" on paper, but that they didn't get the job done and had reputations as chokers. Lowetide even quoted a 1983 Stan Fischler piece from THN that said as much about the Oil. As for the Wings, I remember that for myself, as they lost to lesser-rated teams like the Leafs ('93) and Sharks ('94) before failing a little higher up in the playoffs to New Jersey ('95) and Colorado ('96). You don't think after four years of regular-season excellence with nothing to show for it, people weren't starting to look at them the way they look at the Sens today?

So none of the Final Four pass the "elite" test on paper. My response remains, so what? If the hockey's fun to watch, who cares? One year is hardly indicative of the long-term state of affairs (both in terms of these teams an the NHL as a whole), and I'm not about to flush the NHL down the toilet because the only household names in this year's bunch are Pronger and Selanne. Let's see where things are at the end (or at least the middle) of the CBA before we judge it too harshly.
I'm not about "to flush the whole NHL down the toilet" either.

As I said in the original article I think that elite teams will once again get built. I think that the CBA is written with the intent to do this. It will build those elite teams in the markets that most fit NHL marketing (New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago - as long as they have compentent management).

Its the short term where there is no such thing as elite. That really sucks. I look forward to seeing the elite teams rise to the top in the playoffs.

In the longer term, I expect to complain about the fact that the small markets have little hope. They cannot afford to spend anywhere near the salary cap and their stars become unrestricted free agents at a much younger age then they did in the old CBA. But at least we will likely see elite teams. It just won't be in smaller markets like Tampa Bay or East Rutherford, New Jersey (as in the past) or in Buffalo, Edmonton, Carolina etc.

I don't like the direction of the NHL. I do very much like hockey. The NHL has created a lot of fans like me. I am spending less on NHL hockey then I did before the lockout and I am currently up on a soapbox doing my part to attempt to tell the world why.
The teams closest to the 'elite' tag in today's NHL - Detroit, Colorado, Ottawa, Tampa - were all soundly beaten by these so-called 'lesser' teams, so, in effect, the four teams remaining in this year's playoffs are this year's best teams. As such, watching them is just as rewarding and fun as watching Detroit and Colorado duke it out in the late 1990s.
If the teams you are calling elite went down in the first and second round to teams that are not elite then there is something wrong with what you are calling elite.

I argue that right now there are no elite teams in the NHL.

I presented two (potentially imperfect) metrics. If we assume (for example) Detroit is elite because they have hall of fame track players in Yzerman, Chelios, Shanahan, Lidstrom and potentially Datsyuk, then we have been duped by the ages of these players. They may be hall of fame tracked players but must are well into the decline phases of their careers.
Now if we use the other metric goaltending, we see Detroit is a long way from elite. Manny Legace is hardly a world class goalie.

There are other ways to decide if a team is elite (I may not be smart enough to think of them all). They have to show that a team is good independant of their competition. In a league of mediocres somebody must be the best - but the best does not mean elite.

I would argue Ottawa with Hasek in net is elite. I would argue Ottawa with Emery is not. Thats the closest the NHL had to an elite team this year and we haven't seen them since early February.

The four teams left seem to be the luckiest of a mediocre bunch. If we assumed that a lottery would be held of all the 16 playoff teams to determine semi-finalists, the group would look like this one. In a league with too much parity there is no elite. There are just mediocre teams that got hot that week or that month who are not demonstrably better than anybody else.
Who were the Hall of Fame players on the Philadelphia Stanley Cup winners of the 70s? Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Bill Barber... and Barber is one of the more controversial selections. Brind'amour has probably been the better player throughout his career, all things considered.

Who on the '93 Montreal team was a Hall of Famer aside from Roy and Denis Savard (and Savard wasn't even a factor in that year's playoffs).

That's really silly criteria. Being selected to the Hall of Fame (and even being "on track" for the Hall of Fame) is a judgment call made by people who have their own preconceptions and biases. Winning the Stanley Cup is actually accomplished on the ice.
I'm not talking about 'elite' teams - in the end, the four remaining teams left will likely not go down as "great" all-time teams. And that's fine; a Stanley Cup isn't won over the course of a team's long-term history, it's won after 82 regular season games and upwards of 25 playoff games. Edmonton, Buffalo, Carolina and Anaheim have proven themselves worthy of where they are in this year's playoffs. Call it a 'hot streak' if you want, but if a team can win a Stanley Cup, arguably the most intensive playoff in pro sports, they're more than 'mediocore' for that particular year. They were the best team in the league when it mattered most (and, in the case of Carolina and Buffalo, most of the year as well). They should not be discredited for that.
I disagree.

Sorry we are in a new era, some of the players in the play offs WILL eventually be Hall of famers. Most of the goalies are rookies that does not mean they will NEVER be hall of famers it just means they are not yet. Everybody has to START somewhere.

Peca and Pronger WILL be hall of famers eventually, and mabye so will one of the goalies. Remember Messier and Dryden!!! Moose was forgotten until AFTER Gretsky was gone. Then people started to REALLY notice them. Hockey is a TEAM sport. Its about balance. One great player does not a make a great team.

Mike Peca is definitely not on any Hall of Fame track. Mike Peca is currently 32 years old. He has so far scored 394 points in 693 NHL games. He has defensive value as a two time Selke winner, but your comparison to Mark Messier is awful. When Messier was 32 (Peca's current age), he had won two Hart trophies and a Conn Smythe. He had 1232 points by that point (Peca has 32% of that).

For a better Mike Peca comparable try Dave Poulin here. Solid NHL player but should never get serious hall of fame consideration.

Adam Proteau from the Hockey News had some words about parity, the cap and Ottawa that are appropriate to addressing your stance.

I just want to add it to the record that Ryan Miller finished 8th in the Calder voting.

He was beaten by Alexander ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Boyes, Marek Svatos and Andrej Meszaros.

Certainly the 8th best rookie in a given year could be a hall of famer someday, but he has a long way to go if Miller ever makes it. He's definitely not on any kind of hall of fame track right now
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