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Poll: Can the NHL have too much parity?

Sep 1, 2012, 6:52 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

A hard salary cap like the NHL has in it’s expiring CBA helps level the playing field so that a small-market team like the Nashville Predators can compete with the bigger franchises. However, the bigger markets still have some options that a less financially strong team doesn’t.

Under the expiring system, they could attempt to lower their best players’ cap hits by signing them to long-term, heavily front-loaded contracts. In addition, they could bury expensive contracts in the minors to get under the cap.

For example, the New York Rangers have been sparing themselves of Wade Redden’s $6.5 million annual cap hit by having him play in the AHL while they signed Brad Richards to a deal that pays him $12 million in the first year of his contract and $1 million in each of the last three seasons.

“The league refers to it as ‘leakage’,” said an NHL agent, according to Adam Proteau of the Hockey News. “It’s the front-loading of deals, it’s burying contracts in the minors or Europe. Last time, (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) only cared about the bigger picture – getting the (salary) cap in place and getting rid of (former NHLPA executive director) Bob (Goodenow). This time, he’s interested in all the details and fine print.”

Which begs the question, as Proteau brought up, is complete parity something to strive for? Should teams with bigger fanbases have some sort of advantage?

Ideally, on-ice success leads to financial success, so a system that provides the smaller markets with a chance to succeed can be of benefit in that regard. In the MLB, for example, you could argue that it is significantly harder for a smaller market to consistently challenge a team like the New York Yankees.

However, Proteau argues that, “Considering where the NHL is right now – with the big-markets making life easier for the small markets as it is – it doesn’t need full and artificial equality. It needs a better system to help the small-markets – a system that includes help from the NHLPA – but it also needs to acknowledge which franchises have earned the most juice, too.”

So we’ll turn the question over to you. Do you want to see the existing rules tweaked to bring us closer towards parity or are you comfortable with a system that allows for rich teams to have some advantages over others?

  1. sunderlanding - Sep 1, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    I think the fans should be rewarded some. If you have a huge die-hard fan base your team should be rewarded for it, so in a sense there should be some advantage to having a big franchise team. I don’t think they should abolish the cap or anything, but if it’s a completely even playing field the league might get dangerously close to random cup champions.

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 1, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    Absolutely not. The NHL already has more parity than any other pro sports league.

  3. bmscalise - Sep 1, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    Pittsburgh is the perfect example of why parity (or hope, as I’d call it) matters – and why Proteau’s argument is garbage. It’s a small market but a genuine sports town. Its two franchises that operate in a hard-cap league are considered top tier – perpetual contenders, sell-out crowds every night, etc.

    And then there’s the Pirates. As soon as they started winning, they were filling up the park. But it hasn’t happened in 20 yrs, and it’s hard to believe it will last. Pittsburghers would come for a competitive team. But the bigger question is: why should they be forced to watch trash as a small market, knowing even if they have a good season there’s no hope of a championship? Why should anyone support that? Baseball’s structure ensure that the Pirates won’t leave Pittsburgh (and even turn a small profit, thanks to insanely priced Yankees and Sox tixs), but I won’t give a second of my time or a cent of my money to the MLB until it institutes a cap and stops crapping in smaller markets.

    Anyone who suggests parity isn’t a good thing is just an entitled, big market, east coast fan.

    • tatdue - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:02 PM

      If you would have just left it at anyone who suggests parity isn’t a good thing is just an idiot I would have gave you a thumbs up but you had to go and ruin it eh?

    • broadstreetbeatdown - Sep 3, 2012 at 4:45 PM

      The Penguins were the Pirates a few years back. Icing horrendous teams, giving away all their top tier talent, purposely tanking, and threatening a relocation until they cried, whined and bamboozled their way to 5 top picks. Face it the Burg has always been Steeler town everything else was just a sideshow to them. Hell they had the worst attendance in the league a few years back. Typical example of the classic fair weather franchise.

  4. tealwithit - Sep 1, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    While I don’t think the league should strive for a completely even playing field, I’d hate to see it lose the parity that exists right now. Sure, it’s great to see the large, devoted fan bases be rewarded with a winning team, but that’s not necessarily best for the league. The NHL is still in need of greater exposure and a larger, stronger fan base. A team like the Leafs can lose year after year and yet still sell out every home game and maintain sponsorships and TV deals. That’s not the case for some of the smaller market teams, who are already struggling to stay afloat. This is especially true for non-traditional hockey markets – If they can’t put together a team that stands any chance at making the playoffs, they have very little chance of getting the city to take an interest in hockey and drawing in fans. Plus, smaller markets have diehard fans too (not as many, but still)… Do they not deserve to see their team hoist the Cup?
    Parity keeps things interesting. Seeing the same teams in the playoffs every year just isn’t any fun. And it’s not fair to the fans of the other teams.

  5. tcclark - Sep 2, 2012 at 12:13 AM

    I am one of the biggest believers in Parity, but I voted no for this. We have great parity in the NHL. The best there is in any game. The reason i voted no is because i think limiting those things would decrease our parity. Those loopholes keep teams from being, what I like to call, “The Mets.” The Mets are a huge market team in baseball with a consistently large payroll, but they have also continually drowned themselves in bad contracts that they can’t climb their way out of it. Had the Rangers not been able to lose Redden’s contract, they would have been stuck in mediocrity for years, a la the Mets. Because they could do this, they were able to become a much more competitive team and help contribute to the competitive balance. These loopholes allow teams to remain competitive without taking power away from the small markets. I mean, the Minnesota Wild just signed the top two free agents. Does it seem like we have a parity issue?

  6. trbowman - Sep 2, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    Parity is the best part of the NHL. You don’t want to become the NBA where only three, four teams if you’re generous have a shot at the title.

    In the NHL so many teams have a shot at the Cup and it keeps things exciting. 16 teams always have a shot once they’re in the playoffs.

  7. freneticgarfieldfan - Sep 2, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    I think a certain parity is a good thing, as argued in previous comments. However, I also think tha the franchises should be kept responsible and accountable for their management errors. It would not be good if they could unload their albatross contracts to financially weaker teams by simply throwing up some dollars in the air. So yes: I vote for
    – closing the demotion loophole
    – charging the actual paid salary towards the current year’s cap (front-loading still possible, but only if cap space available)
    – et al.
    Plus: I’d also vote for a “Justin Schultz rule”: a team that signs a player who was unwilling to sign with his drafting franchise, would have to send draft picks to the team that was maligned. Something along this line.

  8. ricepilof - Sep 2, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Come on the eighth seed team just won the cup. that’s the best parity the league can have. Let’s keep things exactly the way they were . Now if we could just get new CBA in place. 50-50 or 52-48 for owners sounds right to me.

  9. paperlions - Sep 2, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Parity is always a good thing in a league. Parity does NOT mean that every team is competitive every year or that there is a lot of turnover in who wins or makes the playoffs from year to year (as are commonly thought). Parity means that every team has the same change to compete on a level playing field and that differences in the standings are related to the quality of the hockey decisions made by the front office, the quality of the coaching, the quality of the player development/scouting/drafting, etc.

    Parity will still result in dominant teams and crappy teams because some teams regularly make great decisions and others regularly make bad ones.

  10. bensawesomeness - Sep 2, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    the amount of parity in the league is right around perfect now – you get about 10 teams in each conference fighting for 8 spots each, so those races in the final days keep things interesting ( LA made it in on the last day this year)

    Plus you get into the playoff and now, ANYTHING can happen. Like, say, the #8 seeded LA Kings drinking from the Cup in June

  11. lostpuppysyndrome - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Small market or big, the nice thing about a league that largely makes its revenue by the number of butts in seats is that is encourages owners to put a competitive product on the ice. There is something to be said for parity, and few people argue against the changes the league and the union made during the last CBA negotiations. However, if you have an owner who doesn’t want to spend much money but cries poor when they’re bleeding dough, then I have absolutely zero sympathy for them. Furthermore, if an owner does decide to spend money and puts a good product on the ice yet people still fail to come to games, the team needs to move rather than plead for revenue sharing.

    tl:dr the level of parity the league has been able to achieve without ruining the game has been almost perfect IMO.

  12. icdogg - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I don’t see the evidence to suggest that there isn’t enough parity in the NHL. Seems like a lot of different teams are competitive and win in any given year. The better managed franchises are usually strong regardless of how strong they are financially, the worse managed franchises are weak even in cases where they have money to spend.

  13. contraryguy - Sep 3, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Columbus sits back and emits a sad laugh at these claims of too much parity.

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