The Warmup - Should the best team win?

Harry How

Saturday night's game against the Sabres spurned an interesting question in the comments section of Oliver's recap, but I don't think we explored it enough.

One of the buzzwords the NHL loved to toss around after the lockout that destroyed the entire 2004-05 season was parity. The rule changes the NHL brought in were all about how to create parity. On any given night, any team can win.

The idea of it is excellent in and of itself, and it resulted in the Canadiens, then a pretty bad team, going on an improbable run to the conference finals in 2009-10. It was thrilling for Habs fans, yet a well built team like the Washington Capitals lost perhaps their only chance at a Stanley Cup that they probably deserved.

Then you have years like last year, where the Los Angeles Kings were clearly, by far the best team in the NHL from around January until they lifted the Stanley Cup in June. Stats guys predicted the Kings would win the cup, or at least that they were more likely too, and they never really struggled. They never faced elimination, it looked like it was never in doubt from the outset.

But was it entertaining?

There's a delicate balance that has to be tread in sports. Competent teams that build carefully and create elite teams need to be rewarded, but creating a system where those teams always win creates little intrigue. Upsets are part of what makes the playoffs so great.

But going the other way, where great teams can consistently flame out is also pretty awful. I'm sure Sharks fans would agree with that.

If a dynamic is created where great teams consistently can't win, what is the point of creating great teams? Why hire competent management, coaches, and trade/draft/sign impact players if you're just as likely to get by on lucky streaks?

The NHL is currently talking about how to create more goalscoring within the game, and as Olivier mentioned in his post yesterday, the best and most efficient way to do that is to penalize poor teams for infractions that are currently being let go. But what will happen if the NHL were to go that route, is teams like Buffalo would no longer be able to hang with the good teams in the league. Montreal's run in 2010 becomes less likely to ever happen again, a little intrigue is lost.

But good teams are rewarded, and the product on the ice might get a little better. It's certainly a far better idea than increasing the size of nets.

As a fan, what's more important to you, parity or well built teams being rewarded?


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