Watching the Game of The Season on television Saturday night -- that playoff-quality Chicago overtime win over Pittsburgh --
That was before Twitter and the salary cap made our lives more complicated.
Naturally wonderful things have occurred in the NHL in the interim. The rule changes that came out of the Shanahan Summit during the lockout freed a constipated game, and two seemingly once-in-a-generation players,
See, we're watching the Hawks and Penguins on WGN and RDS and thinking that in a perfect world, this fabulous game might be a Stanley Cup preview not merely for next June, but plausibly for several years to come. Sadly, the system is stacked against extended runs. Pittsburgh's general manager,
And really, the Stanley Cup champions occupy Nirvana compared to the strapped Blackhawks. GM
The Blackhawks finally have a nice thing going, but there is a real chance they could by one-and-done as Cup material. They certainly are contenders for 2010, if their goaltending holds up, but the youth, depth and talent on the team suggest that Chicago might have had the chance to put together an extended run of excellence that could pay off in multiple Cups. But the realities are that even with the salary cap expected to actually nudge up a tick -- a team has told
In any event, Bowman can't gorge on half the menu even if
The best and yes, often the freest-spending, franchises are being sacrificed on the altar of cap parity. Looking at boom times in the NHL, this notion of equality is not all it's cracked up to be. Since the late 1950s, the NHL has been at its best when there has been an identifiable king of the hill that has forced other teams to find a way to knock it off. Starting with the 1956-60 Canadiens, the NHL has been blessed with circus teams, including Montreal of the late 1970s, the New York Islanders of the early 1980s, the thrilling Edmonton Oilers that supplanted them, and finally the Penguins of the early 1990s. Money has broken up dynastic teams before -- think of
Bowman was given the Blackhawks job last summer, in part, because former GM
But Tallon also made some slick acquisitions, especially Sharp, and oversaw terrific high picks in Kane and Toews. Top five draft picks generally are the reward for fecklessness, and the once-horrid Blackhawks duly cashed in. Now they will be punished for having spent too much money on free agents (
The Detroit Red Wings, the NHL's most successful franchise of the past 15 years, felt the clammy hand of the salary cap when they couldn't make the numbers work and allowed Hossa to walk to rival Chicago last summer. Now the Blackhawks, all in for 2010 as the poker players say, will have to do without key players in the future because of the same issue. The age of building a franchise and keeping a team together over the long haul is history.
Call us old-fashioned, but we thought the game was better when each team had its own salary cap: it was called a budget.
After a soporific 3-1 loss in Montreal on Monday, a game in which the Flyers outshot the Canadiens, 15-13, glum Philadelphia defenseman
Anyway, while the focus on the foundering Flyers has centered on the coaching change from
After a promising start following his return from exile in Russia's KHL,
Boucher and the Flyers were somewhat steadier the next night at home in a 6-2 win against the Islanders, a team that has been a reliable patsy in recent years (12 straight losses to Philadelphia), but goaltending remains on the watch list until Emery returns and regains his form.
On the subject of numbers, consider these: 105 and 6.
First, 105: the most goals allowed in the league. Carolina and Columbus share the dubious distinction of worst defensive team. When a
Now, 6: Despite the glut of retired jerseys in Montreal -- the Canadiens added
Among the players invited to the Canadian Olympic orientation camp last August, a handful -- including Dallas'
With Team Canada GM
The Team Canada executives are fully aware of Stamkos' startling speed and heavy shot, but they expect to see more of reliability and acumen when he doesn't have the puck. The 19-year-old doesn't look ready to dislodge a top six forward that figures to be on the roster, which means he seems to be competing for the 13th forward slot.
Stamkos did set up