Year after year, after the confetti settles, and entire cities show out for their Stanley Cup winning team, all eyes turn to the NHL for the release of the coming year’s salary cap. Last year, the number was noticeably low because of some bullshit that the Canadian Dollar was weak due to dropping oil prices blah blah blah. It was all set up to get the lowly Leafs the top pick. Anyways, the cap was way lower than expected forcing teams like Chicago, NYR, Los Angeles and the like to get creative when building their roster. Thankfully for Hawks fans (myself included) Stan Bowman has been nothing short of Rain Man when making trades. Another person that should be thankful for that number is Gary Bettman. Because of the stupidly low number, Chicago, the reigning champs, were forced to move 22 year-old stud Brandon Saad and the pussy magnet Patrick Sharp to stay under the cap. This set off a chain reaction of trade deadline moves that forced Stan to empty the cupboard of prospects to pick up Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, and Andrew Ladd. Not only did they go “all-in” to repeat as champs, but they failed to do so, losing to the fucking Blues in Game 7 because of fucking Erik Gustafsson trying to get fancy in the neutral zone. Had the cap not been in place, that may have been Stephen Johns (who was lost in the Sharp trade) instead moving the puck up the boards. With the Hawks’ first round exit, the 97-98 Red Wings are the last team to repeat.
Despite my anguish in the Hawks’ loss, this is exactly what the NHL needs to help grow the sport. After the first round concluded, 4 of the remaining 8 teams had never won the Stanley Cup before. With talks on the horizon of expansion to a city like Las Vegas, there is no better time to see a team like San Jose make a deep playoff run to help build an identity and hockey culture on the West Coast. To be honest, who the fuck wants to see Detroit, LA, New York or Montreal win? Answer: NOBODY! It is horribly boring when the same damn team wins year in and year out, which is why the NBA Playoffs are so fucking unbearable. Everyone knows LeBron and Steph are going to coast into the Conference Final, but there are so many good, deep teams in the NHL that even a roster loaded with Marian Hossa, Jonathon Toews, Duncan Keith, and soon-to-be MVP Patrick Kane were underdogs in the First Round against St. Louis. This is the beauty of playoff hockey and it is all thanks to the salary cap.