Parity in sports is a good thing. But when you throw in millions and millions of dollars, though, it makes it hard to do. Watching the NBA and NHL playoffs to compare, it’s evident which league is closer to that feat.
Two years ago the New Jersey Devils were in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes were both in the playoffs.
Heck, the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals were even in it. None of those teams made it this year while the New York Rangers are playing for their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
I’m not going to list the NBA playoff teams, but the top teams were pretty much the same (Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana).
In the NHL, things are different. Yes, the Kings and ’Hawks are the last two champions and they were in the Conference Finals for a second straight year. However, the variety of teams playing for a title differs yearly because of the grueling season and post-season.
Two years ago the New Jersey Devils were in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes were both in the playoffs. Heck, the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals were even in it.
Both the NBA and NHL seasons are far too long, but the effort level in the NBA doesn’t show night-in and night-out.
A 66-16 record is impressive for the Heat in 2012-13, but the same year the Blackhawks went 36-7-5. Even in a shortened season, that is more impressive with all the variables of a hard-hitting hockey season (i.e. travel, injuries, etc.). Those are all present in the NBA, but with just eight players playing, it’s not quite the same.
Now, add in salary caps and things get bonkers. The NBA salary cap into account, which exceeds $58.679 million for a team of 12 players (plus one for an inactive player) with the luxury tax even higher than that at $71.7 million, and you can see why its easier to buy a team.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have a combined salary of about $56 million in the 2013-14 season, and the roster payroll exceeds $80 million (the Blackhawks are spending $66 million this season on the whole roster).
The cap in the NHL is similar at about $60 million (with allowed spending set at $70.2 million). But teams have to suit up 18 skaters and two goalies, so spreading out contracts is necessary to build a complete team. With that money, teams have to pay 20 active players, so it’s tough for a team to establish an all-star team, and thus, makes the competition more equal and exciting.
Roster turnover is a major factor for a lot of NBA teams. Teams don’t commit to signing a player for longer than seven years, and they rarely make it the full seven years. The NHL has contracts of 10+ years, with Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa signed for 12+ years.
While winning four straight Eastern Conference championships is impressive, a hockey team can’t maintain the same caliber play by paying exorbitant amounts of money for four years of three players.
The Blackhawks made one heck of a run with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. In a great seven-game series against a Los Angeles Kings team – which had extra motivation after 2012-13 – the dream of a repeat died.
But yes, it will be Miami and San Antonio in the finals for a second-straight year. Yay…nothing more fun than watching the geriatric Spurs play ball.
As a sports writer, parity makes things more fun. While it is fun to watch a truly great team dominate every year, it seems like a shame that a team like Miami can use the ‘rent-a-LeBron’… and Bosh strategy to get ahead. It didn’t work in their first year, but they were close.
So what’s next for LeBron? Will he stay or go to the highest bidder again in 2014-15? My guess is he leaves. The storylines for the 2014-15 NHL offseason will be much more low-key. There’s no big LeBron-type storyline.
Why? Because there is more of an emphasis on maintaining teams, developing players and making the team better. Not by making headlines signing a hapless defender that can score 40 points a game.
In such a money-first age of sports, I like seeing parity because teams retain players through that team-first mentality. League and team revenue plays a part in that and perpetuates the problem.
If you have never watched the hockey or the NHL, give it a try and you will see why parity is a good thing for sports.