Interesting piece by Puck Daddy tonight on the future of long-term deals. Frankly, it boggles my mind how senseless owners are, and the lengths they'll go to to try and protect themselves from their own stupidity. We lost an entire season and much of the game's fanbase so they could institute a system they thought would protect themselves from themselves. So they hired people smart enough to keep their teams intact, and now that's not good enough?
A major flaw in the thinking is that every sport wants to model itself on the NFL. Obviously, wanting to emulate the king in this country is not the worst idea. However, it is not the salary cap, or the parity, that makes the NFL the leading sport on these shores. They are part of it, but not the main whole. The TV deals, the fact that it has one day all to itself, and most of all, the gambling, all contribute to the NFL's lofty status. But when NHL owners study the NFL through lenses shaped from their pocketbooks, all they see is the cost certainty.
Frankly, I think the NFL's parity makes it far less enjoyable. The fact that Super Bowl berths are passed around like a joint almost renders them meaningless. Wait long enough, you'll get your turn. Football, for me, was more enjoyable in the 80's, though I only remember it as a kid, when the Giants, Niners, and yes, Bears, could be counted to be powers. Those teams and games against them meant something. When you look back at the teams that won then, you know who they had to overcome. It made the accomplishment greater. These days? Doubtful.
It's better for the game if great teams stay together. The only team people will remember from this era, from the late 90's on, are sadly, the Red Wings. But did they ever have a great rival? A Celtics to their Lakers? A Giants to their Niners? Maybe the Pens now, time will tell. But it's those titans that draw interest to the game. A name everyone recognizes after years and seasons of success. Having a rotating cast of Finals teams doesn't do anyone any good, and cheapens the accomplishment of winning the Cup. The public doesn't get to know any of the players or coaches. It's just another Swedish guy lifting the Cup. But even the casual fan, when he hears, "Detroit Red Wings" knows the style they play, the talent they put on the ice. There's an instant connotation. When you hear 80's Oilers, you think goals goals goals. When you hear 80's Forty-Niners, you think Montana to Rice. When you hear 80's Giants, you think LT and Mark Bavarro and Phil Simms. Now, what do you think when you hear 2004 Lightning? Yeah, not much.
Of course Brian Burke is bitching about long-term contracts. Not only is bitching the only thing he's really good at -- other than use big words to describe toughness that gives Canadians a breeze between their legs --, but these long term deals give him less access to other team's talent. Well, tough shit. Draft better, make better trades, and stockpile your own talent. You think if Burke had a Toews or Keith to lock up right now he'd be complaining about these deals? Probably not, as if he'd have time to get Don Cherry's lips from around his dork anyway.
There is still cost certainty. The Wings, Hawks, Flyers, and any other team that have signed these deals will eventually pay the money on them, unless the owners change the system again because they don't like the one they just created. It's silliness. The NHL needs teams to sustain succes and be perenially challenging, to build up a familiarity. If teams can't acquire enough talent to lock up long-term, that's their fault, and they should suffer for their own stupidity. But no, they're going to make us all suffer for their stupidity, with yet another work stoppage.