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What We Learned: Blame your NHL owners for your team’s cap crunch, difficulty competing on

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Tony Gallagher's column yesterday was about the way in which the salary cap has had a negative impact on the ability of big-market, profitable teams to spend as they normally would on talent in the offseason, and what that essentially means for the fans in those markets.

(Gallagher equated it to a "screw you" from the NHL, which given the league's history with these kinds of gestures probably isn't all that far from the essence of the truth, even if it misses the mark somewhat.)

Contained within that column was the nugget that the Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning are spending more or less the same amount on players this season.
The implication was that this was inherently unfair to the fans in the "traditional" (see also: money-making) (see also also: Canadian) hockey markets because you're paying, by Gallagher's count, $390 there to see a team of the same quality as someone paying $90 in Tampa, which seems a generous estimate of what a ticket to a Lightning game probably costs these days.

But what that misses, really, is the fact that these teams with their high revenues —remember, there are only a small number that actually make money every season, and thus can spend commensurately — didn't so much want to stick it to their fans.

Remember, the teams most vehemently behind the lockout were not Tampa and Florida and Dallas and the other relative have-nots when it comes to NHL revenues, which vastly outnumber the teams that make money and could have been far more vocal and held out for even more, but rather titans like the Bruins and Flames, whose owners were willing to sacrifice the competitive advantage they carried by being able to spend however much they wanted (though with rather disparate results in the case of those two teams).

Instead, they sacrificed that said it was due to the insipid need to have "competitive balance," and with all 30 teams having made the playoffs since 2005-06 they can say this was a feat they achieved and isn't that so nice that they did it just for you, the fans?

It's not a coincidence that six teams, then, most of which claim to be profitable (the Sharks say they lost money in 2011-12) are actually above the salary cap right now.

Boston had to trade Tyler Seguin to Dallas to clear a little bit of cap space and will get a lot more flexibility when Marc Savard's hit is taken off their books.

Philadelphia bought out both Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere and somehow still have the largest cap number in the league.

Pittsburgh continues to grow even more top-heavy and therefore more vulnerable when the postseason begins.

Detroit just doesn't know how to spend money on players correctly.

San Jose is still giving an odd collection of players an odder amount of money, and may be looking down the barrel of their last best Cup chance given that have the benefit of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle coming off the books at the end of this season.

Finally, Los Angeles is both barely over the cap and only carrying one notably bad contract (that of Robyn Regehr and his $3 million for each of the next two seasons).

Another thing you'll notice about those teams, apart from the fact that they're likely all money-makers, or at least in large U.S. markets, is that they're all pretty good, save for Philadelphia. The Toronto Maple Leafs, in the sport's biggest market and its most profitable team by far, is currently going through a significant amount of cap issues vis a vis its ability to re-sign both Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson to deals either player would actually accept. The Montreal Canadiens, likewise, spent next to nothing this offseason while the rest of its competition for divisional playoff spots beefed up.

Of course, the reality of the situation has nothing to do with competitive balance and is only tangentially related to getting the dizzying ascent of player costs under control.

Think about the motives for owners who have the financial ability to build the best teams possible and overspent so for years before the introduction of the salary cap. What would the ability of (insert historically bad team in historically worse market here) to make the playoffs matter to them?

Let's be perfectly clear here: The reason that so many teams are within just a few million dollars of the salary cap, while relatively few ventured this close last season, is that owners of large clubs would like to recover at least a portion of the revenue losses they suffered last year during their self-imposed lockout by slashing the cap by a little less than $6 million.

Most likely lost more than that, of course, but they have a full 82 games to make it up, and that's getting 50 cents of every dollar on hockey-related revenues, rather than the previous 43. That's going to add up quickly, and though most expect the salary cap to blow up to $80 million within the next few years, it's more likely to only get so far as the $70 million-ish mark it was in 2011-12, meaning another year of owners making more than they had to spend prior to the most recent lockout.

So yes, this is a "screw you" to the fans in successful markets for sure, but only insofar as owners of those teams want to pocket more of the silly amounts of money spent at the rink every night.

That's not the NHL's way, so much as it is that of the owners, who have spent almost a full year a year straight at this point kicking fans in the nuts. But then, fans keep showing up to get kicked and don't think to wear a cup, so really, who's the actual problem here?

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Somewhat lost in the Teemu Selanne return announcement and viral video is that Selanne said that another big reason he wanted to come back is so that he can play in the Olympics. If he makes the team (and why wouldn't he?) it will be his sixth Olympics. Sixth!

Boston Bruins: Milan Lucic said that the reason he started out so poorly last season was that he was finally getting paid big bucks. That and he spent the entire lockout eating churros. Pressure? Talk to his waistbands about it.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres still haven't signed Cody Hodgson, and the team isn't likely to be willing to shell out Adam Henrique money for him (even though he was their second-best point producer last season).

Calgary Flames: Flames draftee Patrick Sieloff spent pretty much the entire summer at various camps, whether they were Calgary's prospect camp or USA Hockey's World Junior camp, and is now headed for the Penticton Young Stars tournament this week. Will he make the big club this season? They might not have better options, which, you know, isn't good.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes' defense has long been one of the worst in hockey, and that status was bolstered by the addition of Andrej Sekera this summer, who thinks he has a "clean slate." All that really means, though, is a new fanbase to start watching through the cracks between their fingers every time he takes a shift.

Chicago Blackhawks: I saw this headline about "Blackhawks' Stanton gets day with Cup" and I was like, "Who's that? A trainer?" And no it's some guy who played one game with them this season. So even if you play one game at the very end of the season and only take 24 shifts, you still get a day with the Cup. That's pretty cool I guess.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs need to pull the trigger on that rumored-but-extraordinarily-unlikely Ryan Miller/Paul Stastny swap, says a guy who is wrong. What does either team have to gain from such a trade, really? The Avs — who have no chance of making the playoffs anyway — get a goalie a year from UFA status and of uncertain quality at this point in his career, and such a swap would largely invalidate the whole "We gave up way too much for Semyon Varlamov" trade with Washington given the Russian's alleged status as the team's Goalie of the Future or whatever. Meanwhile, Buffalo doesn't need a No. 1b-ish center who, likewise, is a year away from UFA status. Picks and prospects, sure send over Miller. Stastny? Ah just hang onto him.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Will Sergei Bobrovsky be the only reason the Blue Jackets compete for a playoff spot in the PatrickPlus? That depends on whether you think they'll be anywhere near that quality, which they won't be.

Dallas Stars: "Shawn Horcoff should rebound nicely in first season with Dallas Stars." Because that's what lots of 34-year-olds who haven’t broken 20 goals since 2008 do.

Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard would really like to make the Olympic team this season but you gotta figure all he has to do is remain healthy to finish ahead of one of Craig Anderson and Ryan Miller.

Edmonton Oilers: Someone made a ranking of all 30 coaches and GMs in the league, and Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins finished last. You know, because Steve Tambellini and Ralph Krueger were bad at the jobs they now occupy. Here's a free tip to anyone making a list like this: If Jay Feaster and Bob Hartley aren't the lastest of the last, throw your list in the garbage, light the garbage can on fire, stick your head in the flaming garbage can, and jump from the nearest roof into a dumpster.

Florida Panthers: Best story of the week: Remember that Panthers minority owner who lost a bunch of money investing in porn sites? He claimed that was investment was made unwittingly, but now it seems like maybe it wasn't.

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Los Angeles Kings: Fresh off two former hockey players whose names I forget and can't be bothered to look up winning the Amazing Race last season, CBS has now cast two Kings Ice Crew members in the new season. Spoiler alert: They are attractive blonde women. Brave choice from the producers.

Minnesota Wild: If he hits UFA status, should the Wild try to acquire Phil Kessel? Oh I don't know he's probably one of the world's premier goalscoring right wings so I guess they probably shouldn't because who likes guys who can score goals not me and definitely not Toronto and definitely definitely not Minnesota.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs might extend a training camp invite to Brenden Morrow, likely because they need a big thing in the middle of the ice for their forwards to practice skating around.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: If the Preds don't succeed this season, is that gonna wrap 'er up for Barry Trotz's long and weirdly successful tenure in Nashville? Jeez I hope not. What a guy.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils re-extended their radio deal with New York station WFAN which is great news for 78-year-olds who don't watch the game on TV. I'll take your answer off the air.

New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov on rumors he would leave the Isles this summer: "To the KHL!? Did someone seriously write this?" That's hilarious incredulity.

New York Rangers: The Rangers are participating in that annual Traverse City rookie tournament, which will be streamed online starting Sept. 5. You'd think this is the kind of thing the NHL Network would cover due to the fact that they a) have done it in the past and b) have nothing better to show than the Bruins/Penguins series from this year all stupid afternoon. But given that this is the National Hockey League, and specifically their no-effort, awful television channel, we're talking about, of course they're not. Because why would they?

Ottawa Senators: Paul MacLean had some stuff to say about Daniel Alfredsson skipping town for a divisional rival and weirdly it was more than, "Who cares? We lost a 40-year-old and got Bobby frickin' Ryan instead. I'm doing cartwheels and giggling about it every day."

Philadelphia Flyers: Matt Read says he doesn't want to get traded by the Flyers, as has been rumored for some time now. Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it: Whatever you do, don't sign a long-term contract.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes and Mikkel Boedker are still working hard to get a contract signed for this season but you know how negotiations usually go for this team, eh?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Every once in a while I read a thing in getting WWL together where I feel like it is incumbent upon me to basically plead with you to read it because of its Cultural Importance and everything like that. Well here it is guys and gals (and yes I know this is old but lay off, it's August): "Scuderi's worth isn't going to show up on your average stat sheet. … Even advanced stats like The Corsii ratings don't measure how effective a player like Scuderi is at keeping opponents in check." Haha, jeepers. "The Corsii." Anyway, stick around for the comments.

San Jose Sharks: I think it's a fairly legitimate question as to whether Joe Thornton will make the Canadian Olympic team this season. I'm not sure he's one of the five best centers they'd be bringing. Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Tavares, and Bergeron seem to have the inside track, do they not?

St. Louis Blues: On the other hand, the fact that Jay Bouwmeester appears to be a legitimate contender for that team doesn't bode well for gold hopes, you'd think. It's not that Bouwmeester is bad or anything like that; far from it in fact. However, that he might be in that country's top-8 should be a little worrisome.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mattias Ohlund confirms what most of us already knew: He's almost certainly done playing hockey. He's not going to officially retire, though, because he's still $6.75 million through the end of 2015-16.

Toronto Maple Leafs: "With a reduced salary cap, Leafs to get younger next season." Well, that's one way to spin it. Say, have they signed that 22-year-old guy yet?

Vancouver Canucks: Two former Canucks, Dave Babych and Garth Butcher, now have sons on the same line in the BCHL. Their coach is Stan Smyl's little brother. How many people even live in British Columbia? I mean honestly.

Washington Capitals: Dynamo Moscow's management will try to talk Alex Ovechkin into returning to the KHL in a very Kovalchukian fashion. Boy oh boy.

Winnipeg Jets: "For first time in years, Jets facing a 'normal' season." You know, because two years is indeed plural. (And incidentally a normal season for the Jets includes missing the playoffs, so that sounds just about right.)

Gold Star Award

For some reason I was watching bad hockey videos this weekend and this made me laugh way, way too hard. (May need YouTube sign-in to view.)

Minus of the Weekend

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Wild

Ryan Haslett of HometownHockey.ca took 17 hours to turn in this story about the Wild's new white sweaters, having short-circuited no fewer than a dozen keyboards thanks to all the joyful weeping he did while writing it. "The creative design team that works for the Wild should sit down with the 29 other NHL teams. It should be in a classroom setting and the Wild can lecture the other teams on how to create a proper hockey sweater." It's a fine sweater, but get a grip, man.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "VoicexOfxReason" is trying to help the Leafs' cap crunch.

To Calgary: Cody Franson, JM Liles, Joe Colborne, 2014 1st

To Toronto: Mark Giordano, 2nd 2014 or 2015 (Flames choice), Ryan Howse

Signoff
Any alien can inject someone with their space juice, but it takes a real man to be a father.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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