Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
First and foremost, it should be said that Draglikepull has put together a very good article, and in the unlikely event you haven't read it already, you should do so now. His larger points are good ones, and, more importantly, are a perspective that we haven't seen expounded often enough yet.
A brief summary of his words, if I may be so bold:
1. Players don't cost too much, teams aren't earning enough. Before these poorer teams become financially solvent, they'll have to fix attendance issues, and figure out other ways to make money, but it also appears (as we watch the CBA discussions unfold) that player salaries will come down to help matters, as well.
2. A cap system with inadequate revenue sharing (like the one the NHL has now) hurts poorer teams, and helps richer ones. Some control over player salaries helps guarantee the big teams still make money, but the cap floor drowns out the revenues of smaller markets.
3. Most of the league's tabled suggestions don't help smaller market teams any more than the current NHL CBA. In fact, it just further reinforces the gap in revenue, because the larger market teams will get to keep more of what they earn.
Revenue Vs. Cost
In the first section, Draglikepull very astutely points out that dropping player salaries by 10-12% (give or take) still wouldn't fix the problems most teams have staying in the black. This is a good point that not enough people are making.
On the other hand, I know exactly how Gary Bettman would respond to this (if you just thought "like a dirty weasel", give yourself a high-five for me): being able to ice a good hockey club is what herds fans into the arena and builds interest in the team, but if smaller market teams cannot afford big-market price tags, they stand no chance of retaining or acquiring good players.
Essentially what I'm getting at here is the old adage that you have to spend money to make money. The issue I take with Draglikepull's assessment is that it considers revenue and cost to be completely discreet factors when we know they aren't.
People will be quick to point at Phoenix and say that competent management can save any team, but I think even this can last only so long, because, and Phoenix is a great example for this too, it's also about the ownership. Heck, even Shane Doan, probably one of the most noble NHLers out there, is going to leave that damn desert if they don't get their ownership problems sorted out. And why do they have ownership problems? The team ain't making any money. Good management can only take you so far if you can't retain your best players. Clearly, it's a cyclical (and reciprocal) problem.
So I think it's important to acknowledge perhaps a closer relationship between revenue and cost than initially suggested. The NHL isn't entirely wrong to say that player salaries are hurting smaller market teams' chances of competing, but, as Draglikepull already pointed out, they need better revenue sharing to fix the root of that problem.
You might say my previous point was criticism of an unnecessary binary, and I've got one more for you, that is relevant, but isn't at all unique to Draglikepull's article.
This rich team vs. poor team is maybe getting a bit out of hand. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a very important part of this CBA story; Donald Fehr should absolutely be trying to exploit fiscal disparity, as this has been at the heart of the league's financial problems and labour disputes for the last 20 years. But the drop-off between 'poor' and 'rich' isn't as steep as many of us (and I do include myself in this) have made it out to be.
Below, I've graphed Draglikepull's attendance figures, because I think a visual view helps us make sense of this:
We can indeed see that the Leafs and Habs stand head and shoulders above all the other teams, and that poor Phoenix and Dallas might expect a fifth of the ticket revenue that the Leafs get. But there exists a significant chunk of teams - 14, to be exact, in the blue box - that stand within $20M of each other that don't really fit into the 'haves' or 'have nots' binary that everyone keeps talking about. It's a middle class Karl Marx would be proud of! (Larf.)
I think what gets lost in Draglikepull's revenue vs. cost argument is that there are a lot of teams for which the 10-12% reduction in player costs would be a significant boon, and that, more than this just being about poor or rich teams, this could well be about the 14 teams I've boxed in on the above graph, that just need a little bit more help.
One final note is that I have very little sympathy for owners and management when it comes to rising player salaries, and I think it's rubbish that the players - the people responsible for this whole show - somehow earn less than half of all the profits.