Sunday, September 16, 2007

CBA Costs NHL Jobs

One trend which is largely overlooked in analysis of hockey is since the new CBA has been in place in the NHL, there have been less players playing in the NHL each season. This is easily shown by the chart below (which goes back to the 2000/01 season - going back before that time adds the complexity of expansion and adds little to the story).

Number of NHL Players By Season
Season Number of Players
2002/03 1001
2003/04 1028
2005/06 961
2006/07 942

There was a trend of slowly increasing number of NHL players each season until the lockout hit. Teams found it in their best interest to give a few more players NHL auditions each year than they had in the past. After the lockout hit and the new CBA was agreed upon with a salary cap, one way teams reacted was by keeping roster sizes small. They kept as many players as possible in the minor leagues to save money. The problem is once in a while that guy who didn't get the NHL shot due to these decisions could have made an impact. At any rate, a more rested new player might have given a spark to the team in question. In 2006/07 each team used slightly more than two less players than they would have in 2003/04.

Some of the reason for this drop in players used may have also been a lack of availabilitily of good options. More and more potential NHL players are choosing to play in Europe instead and some NHL capable talents get stuck in the AHL due to re-entry waivers. All in all, this is another reduction in the overall talent level in the NHL on any given night. It's a minor reduction that most fans won't pick up on, but it makes a difference to the owner's pocketbooks at the expense of the quality of the NHL game of hockey.

It may be a reduction of talent, but I really don't think it hurts the league. Those who aren't getting jobs are marginal players or those veterans clearly way past their prime. It certainly doesn't bring down the quality of play.

Admittedly it's tough for those hoping to land NHL jobs, but really, it should allow the best players to perform on hockey's biggest stage, and those not good enough or no longer good enough will have to play elsewhere or find another vocation.
Every reduction in talent hurts the league. Some may be bigger than others but they all hurt.

Right now, there are several reasons talent is being reduced in the league. Even if all are small, the sum total can really hurt.
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