NHL should give fans salary cap information in new stats package
Off The Draw
You know what NHL fans could really use? A site that accurately tracks contract data like salaries, cap space and no-trade clauses so we can better understand the freedoms and constraints that our favorite teams are operating under as we steam toward the trade deadline.
We used to have a nearly perfect independent source in Capgeek.com. But since that beloved site went under last year, we've been left to scrounge data from a series of lesser options.
Unfortunately, that's not about to change any time soon. Asked about the possibility of adding cap information as part of the NHL's future commitment to big data, Commissioner Gary Bettman told the the Boston media on Tuesday night that the league doesn't sense any demand for it.
“We’re not getting a lot of feedback on [a Capgeek-style site],” Bettman said. “It’s not something that seems to be driving fan interest as much as perhaps the interest of the people [in the media] in this room, and your colleagues.”
Which, of course, is a self-serving load of crap. Let's be honest: Was there really a lot of fan feedback demanding that the league provide shot attempt information? Or was the decision to provide “enhanced stats” motivated by a desire to reclaim ownership of its own data?
Demand has nothing to do with the NHL's position on cap data. Because here's the thing: Fans love this data. We obsess over it. We want to know how the latest call-ups, injuries and trades affect our favorite team's cap situation because that directly impacts our team's ability to make itself better. And our teams getting better matters to us a whole lot.
If demand mattered, cap data would run on a ticker at the top of the league's website. That's how much demand there is.
What Bettman really means, and what he should have said, is there's no benefit to the league if this information becomes officially available. Because that, at least, is honest. Not that anyone on the inside is operating in a vacuum, but making salaries part of the public record would only assist players in their negotiations with member teams. It also shines a spotlight on something that, to their minds, does nothing to advance the success of the business. Goals and wins and records help sell the product, they believe. Contract data, not so much.
That's why we have to accept that the league isn't coming to our rescue here.
Which is really too bad. Contracts are part of the story now, and have been ever since Bettman introduced the salary cap after the 2004-05 lockout. The desire for this information is a sign of passion for the product. Not recognizing and feeding that passion is a blunder, especially in a post-Capgeek world.
The information, after all, is still out there. It's available on Twitter moments after deals are made, and compiled on lesser sites like NHLnumbers.com and Spotrac.com.
And to their credit, several individual teams including the Senators, Wild, Hurricanes and Predators provide rudimentary contract information on their own websites: signing dates, contract duration and status at expiry.
That's useful information, especially for seeing how the team is set up in the near future. But by ignoring the math, they're not giving us what we really want.
And that's just bad business.
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