The NHL playoffs are underway and there have been multiple ‘upsets’ and some tight and exciting games in this year’s opening round. I think it shows just how much parity there is in the league. Yes, the Eastern Conference had a 33 point spread between the first and last placed playoff teams (an 18 point spread in the West) but the playoffs are showing that when the Cup is on the line, a 33 point spread might not mean all that much.
In some ways, we should expect this. With salary caps and a league that holds 30 teams, it makes sense that concentrated talent on a team, like that which was on the Edmonton Oilers of old, is something that will be hard to build. Add to that the AHL, from which NHL quality players (NHL quality for a 30 team league) are shuffled back and forth at will and the talent pool that the NHL utilizes is deep and broad.
This means that teams, even if they are injury riddled, can stay competitive and pickup points, until playoff time. Then if they can stay healthy through the playoffs, expect them to make some noise, even if they don’t have the horses to make it to the Cup finals.
Is this good or bad? In some ways it’s great for hockey but it also means that the NHL/AHL network, broad as it is, probably isn’t as Elite as we’d like to think it is. Sure, great athletes are in the mix, but in general, it’s the teamwork that makes the teams, and teamwork doesn’t sign contracts for millions of dollars -dollars that have to be made somewhere, usually in rising ticket prices.
So, in a weird twist, even with salary caps, this huge league network may have the seeds of becoming unsustainable because the distinguishing element of the league is not tied directly to team income.
Bizarre, isn’t it?
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