Whatever you think of him, Gary Bettman has successfully reshaped the NHL in the image he prefers.
Parity is simply no longer an issue.
There are no outstanding teams any more, just bad ones and mediocre ones, which is exactly the point of draft-and-salary-cap regimes.
The evidence is clear from this season’s playoffs.
When the Ottawa Senators lost game seven Thursday, that left exactly one team in the second round that has appeared in a Stanley Cup final since the pre-lockout season of 2004.
In those eight seasons, 12 teams have reached the final round. Of that 12, only the Philadelphia Flyers remain in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s champagne flute in 2012.
Had New Jersey lost to Florida, and it was close, you would have had to go back 14 years to find another team still alive this year besides Philly that has made a finals run in all that time – the Washington Capitals.
That parity is no accident, the regime Bettman got into place post-lockout means, and was meant to mean, that no matter how much skill and resources a team ownership/management group is willing to put into the creation of a winning organization, they will be unable to do that very thing.
No more can outstanding squads, like the 70s Bruins and Habs and the 80s Islanders and Oilers, be put together to thrill and enchant hockey fans – with rosters filled with outstanding and above average players and exciting play.
Now, no matter the sagacity of its management group, every team must play grind-it-out-and-hope-our-goalie-is-better-than-theirs-tonight hockey.
So we have teams that probably shouldn’t exist, Nashville and Phoenix and almost Florida – playing in uncaring markets and giving away tickets on a regular basis without filling their rinks – still alive as the second round of playoffs begins.
It isn’t about hockey any more. It is about money (often taxpayer money), and a little notoriety, for ownership.
The fact the hockey is boring (that took real effort) isn’t part of the equation for Bettman and his minions. The officiating is deliberately dumbed down with the aim of allowing rough play to substitute for scintillating skill as a fan draw, and on it drags.
Yours truly and plenty of his friends have lost almost all interest in the results of play, so it is a good thing this is re-run season and even bad hockey is better viewing than most other things on the tube.
If Jason Bay is going to have any luck at all these days, rest assured it will be bad. Over the past two weeks Bay raised his batting average 90 points and hit his first three home runs of the season. So, of course he cracked a rib hustling.
Get well quickly, Jason.