I posted an article on my personal blog just now, that I thought I should share with this community. Join me after the jump for an insight about the current era the NHL is in.
As many of you know, Philadelphia offer-sheeted Shea Weber to a 14 year contract. That's almost a decade and a half. Think about that for a second, and just try to imagine the consequences these contracts will have. Sure, you can argue that Holmgren is just improving his team, which would be correct. But that's not really the point behind my concerns. If you were involved in the NHL, would you feel comfortable with this? I sure as hell wouldn't, and I doubt anyone with some sort of foresight would. Player contracts in the last 3-4 years have been getting way out of hand. For all the bullshit that Brian Burke spews, his concerns over these exact contracts are, in fact, legitimate. Burke is expressing his concern for the entire league, which will inevitably be affected by these mega contracts. However, all this ties in with something I have been thinking about for quite some time. That is that the current era the NHL is in, the "Salary Cap" era, has been a dismal failure so far.
The whole idea behind instituting a cap is to create parity among the league. That way, a team like Toronto or New York can't just buy all the good players. It's supposed to give small hockey markets such as Columbus and Phoenix a winning chance. That hasn't really happened though. The Rangers signed Brad Richards to a very long-term deal, Vancouver threw money and term at Roberto Luongo, and when Chicago won the cup, they signed a slew of free agents. The rich teams are still using their financial situation to their advantage, which causes teams with less money to miss out on key players. The exact opposite of what the NHL wanted to happen. It's become increasingly evident in other sports leagues that parity never really happens. In the MLB, the Yankees are still always near the top, same can be said about the Phillies, the Red Sox etc etc. So instead of trying to create something that doesn't really work, why not continue to showcase the game the way it always has been, the way that has entertained fans for a hundred years.
In his book, Cornered, Ron Maclean expressed his feelings about the new salary cap, and CBA in general. In his words: "The cap lowers the quality of the top teams. Which is better: a powerful cup dynasty, or the suspense created by contrived competitiveness. The Blackhawks blew apart, trading players after winning the cup in 2010. If you build a winner, you have to tear it down. And it used to be that players stayed together for years, building a fraternity and ties with their fans. Now it's a mercenary culture, like all the other athletes in capped sports. Bottom line, I want to see John, Paul, George and Ringo. Not John and Paul and the two other guys they can afford.". Of course I paraphrased it a little, but I wanted to get his point across. The salary cap doesn't really generate new contenders, it simply lowers the standards of every team. Theoretically, Columbus should be a contender by now, but they aren't. It's still the same teams on top, it's just that those same teams are worse. The bottom-feeders never grew in quality, therefore, the parity which the league is striving for, doesn't exist.
There are also problems that have to do with the mechanics of the current salary cap structure. In theory, limiting how much a big market team can spend will create opportunities for the small market teams to snatch up some players. But in reality, sports franchises still have to make money. Since there's a cap floor, these "have not" teams have to spend a certain amount every year, even if the team can't afford to. There's no way a team with no money can spend up to the cap ceiling in that case, which is a requirement if you want more than two good players on your team. The current salary cap system doesn't change the standings significantly, or how teams win. All it has done is change how much a player gets paid.
Another factor that goes unnoticed in certain articles about the salary cap, is the entertainment factor. In the past, powerhouse teams were fun to watch, since they had a slew of good players on their roster. It was also highly entertaining to see the rare occurrence of one of those powerhouses being knocked out of contention. It mirrored the outside world. It told a story, one that movies, TV shows, video games, books etc still tell. A story of the underdogs trying to stand up to the giants. It's something everyone wants to see, but now, it's gone. There's no such thing as a dynasty anymore, which is probably why EA renamed their "Dynasty mode" to "Be A GM".
All in all, the current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) fails to do what it was supposed to. It's purpose was to give the poor teams a chance at winning. However, when smaller market teams are forced to spend a certain amount, and forced to sign these ridiculous contracts just to keep their only star player, it hurts the league. Currently, Phoenix is run by the league with very little hope for a new owner. The New Jersey Devils are going bankrupt (Ironic after signing Kovalchuk to a massive deal) and couldn't resign Zach Parise. Dallas couldn't afford to hang on to Brad Richards either. A lot of teams in the league are going through financial suffering, which begs the question. If the CBA was meant to make these teams competitive, which in turn would make them more money, why hasn't it happened? Well the answer is simple, the salary cap, in it's current form doesn't work. Personally, as a Leaf fan, I think the cap is terrible. Why should a team like Toronto be punished for making money? But hey, Gary Bettman wants another year or two of hockey in Arizona.....