A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

response to "this is the worst cup playoff EVAH"

The Edmonton Oilers have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and are eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the Buffalo-Carolina series. Many people including crotchety old Tom Benjamin and what's-his-name over at The Puck Stops Here have been screaming about how unfair it is that the league didn't automatically hand the Stanley Cup to the Detroit Red Wings. True, neither one of them ever actually suggested that, but they're both loudly complaining about the "quality" of the remaining teams in the race for Lord Stanley's mug.
Take, for example, the opening argument over at TPSH:
The Stanley Cup playoffs (especially the later rounds) are supposed to be epic battles between great teams. This year, this doesn't seem to be the case. None of the four truly remaining playoff teams look to me as great teams that win Stanley Cups.

A truly great team can be measured by a few metrics. I will choose two are examples (which I think demonstrate the problem). A truly great team has an elite goalie who is one of the best in the NHL. A truly great team (one that wins the Stanley Cup any year in recent memory) has at least four or five (and in many cases even more) players who are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks in their career.

In other words, don't even bother playing a regular season. Or have a playoff season. Piece together some sabermetrics, throw some 12-sided dice, and hand the Cup to the best team on paper. The sad news for TPSH is that this isn't a game of Strat-o-Matic baseball. This isn't Dungeons & Dragons. Games are played on the ice. By real players. The better player is only the better player if he is the better player. Likewise for the better team. And to suggest that a team isn't Cup-worthy unless they have five or more "players who are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks in their career"? That's complete garbage. There's another problem with that line of thinking, and it's that people seem to think that the Hall can induct an infinite number of players. That's another post for another day. During the off-season, maybe.

There's a reason that the NHL, and NBA and MLB use a playoff series format. They want to eliminate fluky upsets by inferior teams. They want to take "bad nights", or "playing above one's head" or "lucky bounce" out of the equation. To advance in the playoffs, you have to prove that you deserve to. Detroit finished the season with the best record in the league. With their future HOF roster, certain folks would award them the Cup right then. But when it counted, they couldn't win. You want a marquee matchup with marquee players? Don't blame the league. Don't blame Carolina and Buffalo and Edmonton. Blame Detroit. Blame Montréal. Blame New Jersey. Those are the teams that couldn't, despite their clout, get it done.

As for Tom Benjamin,(who is probably still mad because the Baltimore Stallions won the 1995 Grey Cup during the CFL's failed attempt at expansion into the USA) with his "we want the same four teams to win the Cup over and over" drone, I suggest that he watch the NBA instead. I don't buy into the "it's bad for ratings" or "it's bad for the overall health of the league" garbage. The sad reality is that our sport is a niche one anyway. True fans will watch the Cup final no matter who's in it. Casual fans don't know the difference anyway, and non-fans will continue to not care. While it's true that none of the remaining teams are dynastic, we may be witnessing the beginning of a dynasty. Or not.

In short, Edmonton is there because they deserve to be. They won three best-of-seven series to EARN the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Carolina and Buffalo deserve to be where they are, and by Friday morning, one of them will have earned the right to be playing for the Cup. Anyone who thinks that these teams are "mediocre" or thinks that they don't deserve to be where they are just hasn't been watching. Look, I'm sorry that the Canucks had an epic collapse at the end of the season, playing themselves out of the playoffs and allowing Edmonton to slip in the back. I really am. That doesn't mean that Edmonton didn't help themselves, nor does it mean that they're "lucky". Sure they had some luck to get the eighth seed, but there's a lot more than luck involved when you win three best-of-seven series.

Get over it. The league has more than six teams now, some of them are in non-traditional markets, and most of them are competitive.


Earl Sleek said...

I think you overstate what those guys were trying to say, but I think for the purposes of this discussion you should separate the concept *deserve to be there* from *team quality*.

I don't think anybody suggests we should scrap playoffs and let mathematicians pick a winner, so don't get too preachy on that issue. However, I do think it is a valid question they ask: "is the cup winner the best team in the league any more? does it mean the same thing it did a decade ago?"

Frankly, I think anyone who's team is still in it is a little too emotionally connected to fully answer that.

Tom L said...


That, frankly, is a BS response to D-L's article. Tom B's whole purpose in life is to downplay any team's accomplishments b/c it fuels his argument about the CBA and his hatred for Gary Bettman.

He's an assmunch and becoming self-parody anymore.

Great teams rise to the occasions handed to them and not all great players always rise to the occasion... this year's Red Wings are a prime example of that.

The best team in the league is not defined by anything other than winning 16 games in the SC Playoffs, no other metric matters. Whether that team can continue to do that next year is immaterial to what happened that year.

And, lastly, you are wrong that anyone who's team is still in it can't have a valid opinion. Guys who are bitter about their team losing early are equally emotionally invested... negatively. Whine all they want, their teams still lost and that, again, is the only metric.

I've been of the opinion that Buffalo has been the best team in the league all year based on watching/reporting on them all year. I continue to think that, even though I still think they lose this series no matter what happened tonight. But, I will not complain about the NHL or the CBA or anything else (except bad luck) if/when they lose.

Good luck on Thursday D-L, and great job on this (as always).


Jeff J said...

"The best team in the league is not defined by anything other than winning 16 games in the SC Playoffs..."

So... there has never been an upset in the playoffs? I realize this is just getting down to the semantics of "best team."

As a fan of a team that has been the beneficiary of a couple of remarkable upsets during their last two Cup wins (NYI over Pit in '93, Cgy over Edm in '86), I'm willing to recognize that there is luck involved and the "best team" (by my own subjective definition) does not always win. That is not to say the Habs did not deserve those Cups, because they deserved to win more than the elite teams that blew golden opportunities. Still, if we could go back in time and replay those playoffs, the smart money would be on the Oilers and Pens. It's one thing to recognize an upset, and another thing entirely to suggest that the underdog is undeserving or that an upset is evidence that the current CBA is ruining hockey.

I really don't care which markets make the conference/Cup finals, as long as there's great hockey. The Eastern final has been pretty good, except for the chintzy calls deciding the last two games.

Earl Sleek said...

That, frankly, is a BS response to D-L's article.

Not going to argue that, but I think his article is a bit of a BS response to the writers he cites.

D-L writes that we should play the game on the ice as if the others had said something different. He uses this point as some sort of triumph, when really, nobody has said anything different.

BS to BS, I guess.

d-lee said...

I will admit that I've overstated the points made by the authors of those blogs. I went too far to make a point. And whether anyone likes it our not, my point is still valid. The crux of my argument is that the best team is only the best team if it is the best team. It doesn't matter how many future hall of famers you have. If you don't win in April, May and June, then it doesn't amount to anything.
Will this year's Stanley Cup Champion be less qualitative than the 2002 Red Wings or the 2003 Devils or the 1976 Canadiens? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares?

Earl Sleek said...

Will this year's Stanley Cup Champion be less qualitative than the 2002 Red Wings or the 2003 Devils or the 1976 Canadiens? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares?

Anybody who wants to win a Stanley Cup should care. If the formula for success has changed, we should make note of it and try to emulate it, no?

But we can't quite do that if the only assessment to make is 'the best team won because it took four of seven games.' Let's figure out what that winning team looks like, and why the 'old mantras' fail us today.

The Puck Stops Here said...

Just to set the record straight I am in no way complaining that the wrong team is winning the Stanley Cup or that they wont have had a good run to have won 16 games.

I am complaining that in the NHL this year there are no really good teams. May the best or luckiest of the mediocre win. I hope their city enjoys it. However, you cannot pretend this team is one of the all time great teams in NHL history. They are marginally better then some teams that missed the playoffs.

Rich said...

Well I've said it before and I'll say it again. Regardless of what Red Wings fans want to say, their record this year was greatly helped by being in the weakest division in the NHL. They got to play 24 of their games against the Blackhawks, the Blue Jackets and the Blues - three of the bottom feeders and all in Detroit's division.

So when people comment on Carolina being good cause the Southeast Division is weak, I just point to Detroit and laugh.


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