How does a copycat league respond to the current state?

Tampa Bay is the shining beacon of everything that a modern NHL team needs to be in order to be successful.

Loaded with talent on team-friendly contracts

Loaded with speed and talent

A player in each of the "7 player profile" slots

They are the last team in the playoffs which fits that mold, and while the series remains to be played, the Islanders took the early lead in the series. Right now, 3 of the 4 teams who remain in the playoffs are built along similar lines. Vegas, Montreal and the Islanders are all built along a robust core of players, with every line being capable of playing roughly even minutes depending on their need. Montreal has the best shutdown line along with arguably the best goaltending, Vegas has the most elite or near elite players, while the Islanders are a jack of all trades team who's playing style makes them greater than the sum of their parts.

If Tampa Bay makes it to the finals...even if they don't win; the status quo of the league will be maintained. The success of the Habs and Islanders (Vegas has enough top-end talent to be considered "of the model") would easily be dismissed as flukes. Cinderella runs like so many others in previous years...plucky underdogs who's moment in the sun comes to a close well short of the finish line.

But if it doesn't, and Tampa gets eliminated by the Islanders...this narrative no longer works. The finals will feature teams who shouldn't really be there. The NHL being a copycat league...something this monumental coming to pass would certainly the NHL world off of its orbit similarly to how the Kings winning in 2012 vs. the Devils...two teams who were considered to not be legitimate contenders when the playoffs began.

The whole league took notice and the "Moar Big" big era kicked off based on the Kings essentially grinding away their opposition, and the Devils smothered theirs...eventually size winning out over system.

For the Habs it would mean that players like Phil Danault who earlier in the year was seen as having played his way out of a big contract could become not just the best C in a weak FA class, but a marquee two way player sought after by teams looking to emulate the Habs' success. Players like Joel Armia and Joel Edmundson would go from marginal players to highly sought after for their skillset.

That's the price to pay for a Stanley I'm sure Bergevin would be happy to pay...first world problems and all that...But the bigger question becomes what does this mean for the league? As team go out of their way to acquire assets which were previously under-valued...what does that mean for high-skill players who don't fit into these larger plans. Players like Mitch Marner who is already (through no fault of his own IMO) on the hot seat in Toronto.

I think that a lot of the post-season is riding onto Tampa's rather sizeable shoulders. The future of the league will likely shift wildly based on these results, and the team who ends up hoisting that trophy. A lot can happen in a week, and I'm certainly not going to pretend that the Islanders winning the first game is the same as them winning the series...but the cracks are forming, and within them a whole new way to build NHL teams can be born. Just like the "Moar Big" movement, I'm sure that this shift won't last...building a team based on skill and speed just makes too much sense in the greater scheme of things. But such a shift along with the chaos that will surely come from the expansion draft will create opportunities to get players who are temporarily under-valued to build a better team. Let's hope that Bergevin is smart enough to not buy his own press and make the right moves to keep the team competitive while his window is still open. Assuming that things play out this way of course. If Tampa wins, the efforts of these other teams will go away in a puff of smoke as every GM reassures themselves that they were building the right way all along.

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