What We Learned: Stanley Cup ratings are bad, but why should we care?

Ryan Lambert

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.

Throughout these Stanley Cup Playoffs, we've been given daily updates on the way the NHL's games have performed in the television ratings, and it's all been a bit predictable.

Not unlike the investment bank commercial that has seemingly run on an endless loop during hockey broadcasts, the results have been easy enough to anticipate. "Let me guess: First they went up, then down, then up, then down again."

I saw what most non-hockey fans must have considered a very funny thing last week. It was a list of 66 television programs, on both broadcast and cable networks, that outdrew a Stanley Cup Final game between two teams that, ostensibly, play in major television markets (let's call Newark part of the New York market for arguments' sake). Oh the laughs available from noting that something like a "Big Bang Theory" re-run drew more viewers. What hilarity.

It's difficult to imagine why the hockey world is repeatedly chagrined when ratings come in lower than whatever comparison they care to draw, be it the previous year or the previous series. It's no revelation that this is, at its core, a niche sport cared about primarily in the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S., as well as Canada, which of course doesn't count in the ratings.

Anecdotally, it seems the teams that do well in the ratings aren't the teams in major media markets or the most recognizable stars, but rather those with sizable fanbases (Detroit, for instance, isn't a top-10 population center but people watch Wings games because people like the Wings). Would you ever categorize the Devils or Kings as being in the small group of U.S.-based franchises that do well regardless of how good the team is? Of course not.

The other thing to keep in mind is that hockey is a sport that only hockey fans care about, and more to the point, most "hockey" fans are largely just fans of their own team.

I would never expect a Stars fan, just as a for-instance, to care about what the Devils and Kings are getting up to in this Cup Final, especially as everyone in the media, who they might be following on Twitter, has complained (unduly) about how it's flat-out bad hockey. Only the real die-hards watch every game regardless of who's playing.

The issue with endlessly discussing ratings is that really, it doesn't matter at all how many people watch.

(Coming Up: Marty Brodeur leads historic rally; Alex Radulov update; Blues and Jordan Staal?; Brad Stuart traded; Ondrej Pavelec, KHL target; Matt Duchene's going to get paid; Coyotes arena deal; Jason Blake nor Niklas Hagman done with Ducks; Blackhawks learn from Carter/Richards; Chris Kelly's silly contract; the Oilers' No. 1 pick; and getting Rick Nash to the Leafs for Phil Kessel.)

The NHL isn't a beloved but unwatched show like "Community", which survives from one season to the next on its artistic merits and the network's largesse (and in NBC's case, the resulting cost of developing more shows to take its place that are likely to be just as unsuccessful). It's not as though because ratings are down, the League's national games might get booted from the network and we'll all be stuck watching them on Telemundo next season, if at all.

The TV coverage is going to be in the exact same place next season regardless of how many people watch.

The League signed a 10-year deal with NBC last year, meaning that after this year, we're looking at nine more seasons regardless of the swings the ratings take going forward, and the network has made a substantial commitment to hockey both from the NHL and NCAA. The six-seasons-and-a-movie crowd doesn't have to put any nuts in the mail and go to Subway on the night of NBC Sports' latest Penguins/Rangers game. Hockey is going to be right where it is from now until the end of the 2020-21 season.

More to the point, it isn't a situation where good ratings are necessarily a boon to the League. This is always going to be a gate-driven sport, or at least will be for the next decade. The TV deal can't get better because a bunch of people in Des Moines or wherever would rather watch something else. The ratings are in no way relevant to anyone's life but those at the TV networks and league offices. Personally, I've never understood why there has been this obsession with television ratings, why you want other people to like the things you like.

If 2.98 million people want to watch a syndicated episode of Family Guy instead of the Stanley Cup Final, that's because 2.98 million people are stupid. None of it has anything to do with hockey.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Neither Jason Blake nor Niklas Hagman will be back with the Ducks next season, and would you believe those two were gobbling up $7 million in cap space between them?

Boston Bruins: Speaking of silly contracts, are the Bruins really going to give $3 million a season on a multi-year deal to Chris Kelly? He's 31, just scored 20 goals for the first time in his career, and had the highest PDO among Bruins regulars this season. That contract is going to look bad in a hurry, just like Rich Peverley's, who's two years younger but will probably be a contract comparable.

Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula made a conscious effort to be less conspicuous last season because he didn't want to put too much pressure on his players. But after promising multiple Stanley Cups in his first day on the job, one suspects that this is a case of someone trying furiously to sweep spilled milk back into the bottle.

Calgary Flames: Prospect Laurent Brossoit is now attending Hockey Canada goaltending camps with an eye toward being between the pipes for next year's World Junior Championships. It's rare you see someone so eager to get humiliated by the Americans.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes signed ECHL championship-winning goaltender John Muse to a one-year, two-way deal. You'll remember Muse as a guy who won two national titles at Boston College, so you'd be right in saying that he tends to win behind some good teams.

Chicago Blackhawks: The example set by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — that being "don't trade outstanding players even if they're not necessarily well-behaved off the ice" — is something the Blackhawks have taken to heart. But only to an extent, apparently. So I guess the only thing to do is hope Kane keeps havin' a good ol' time and gets traded to your favorite team for dirt cheap.

Colorado Avalanche

: Adrian Dater projects that Matt Duchene could get $5 million against the cap in his next deal, and both Ryan O'Reilly and Erik Johnson might pull $4 million each. Just wanna note real quick that if David Jones just pulled $4 million per from the team for the season he just had, Duchene et al will be seeking Publishers' Clearing House-sized checks.

Columbus Blue Jackets: "Jackets' biggest need is to improve in goal." The devil you say.

Dallas Stars: The Stars are currently considering whether they should move associate coach Willie Desjardins to the AHL to be the head coach there. Apparently, it could be Joe Nieuwendyk's top priority right now.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Darren Helm was wearing a cast on his wrist for the last seven weeks as a result of Alex Radulov's skate blade cutting him in early April. Now, it's off, and he has a lightning bolt-shaped scar courtesy of He Who Shall Not Be Signed.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers kicked the tires on Ryan Murray over the weekend after doing the same with Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov. Oh hell, will you just trade down already please? We all know you want to.

Florida Panthers: Might the Panthers be disliked by the other teams in the Miami? Personally, I just can't see Michael Yormark being in any way combative with anyone.

Los Angeles Kings: Hey, umm, are you guys, like, planning on winning this thing or what? I mean, I picked Kings in six so whatever, but c'mon now.

Minnesota Wild: Guillaume Latendresse says he's free of concussion symptoms and wants to be back with the Wild, for which he once scored 25-12-37 in 55 games after being traded there. Of course, he's only played 27 games across two seasons, scoring 8-7-15, for that team since then, but you know.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs players say they're looking forward to playing under Michel Therrien but I can't imagine why.

Nashville Predators: So Alex Radulov is gone in Nashville and David Poile has a bit of egg on his face over it. But didn't they learn anything from that Richards-and-Carter thing like Chicago did?!

New Jersey Devils: Stop reminding the Devils about 1942, please and thanks.

New York Islanders: The Islanders seem very likely to promote AHL head coach Brent Thompson to an NHL assistant. This just a season after he won a title in the ECHL. Going places.

New York Rangers: Here's another team that seemed interested in Alex Radulov but now seems to be less so. Gotta think there won't be much competition in the league to sign him at this point.

Ottawa Senators: Former Senators owner Rob Bryden says that Ottawa fans demand a winner, despite all evidence pointing directly and unequivocally to the contrary.

Philadelphia Flyers: Ian Laperriere will retire this summer to the surprise of no one. He hasn't played since 2009-10. Taking a puck in the face will do that.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Glendale City Council approved the Coyotes' latest deal, designed to keep the team in town for the next 20 years, on Friday. That's $325 million over 20 years to the next owner just for buying the team. Sweet gig.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Dan Bylsma finds it "excruciating" to watch the Stanley Cup Final, adding his voice to those in the media, though probably for different reasons.

San Jose Sharks: San Jose traded unrestricted free agent Andrew Murray and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014 to Detroit for the rights to Brad Stuart. The condition is on him signing, which he will, because of course he will. Who saw this coming? *everyone in known universe raises hand simultaneously*

St. Louis Blues: The Blues might be among the lineup of suitors for the services of Jordan Staal but it still seems unlikely that he'd be traded.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Norfolk Admirals were the Bolts' AHL affiliate this season, and won 43 of their final 46 games en route to a Calder Cup title. They were led by Tampa draft pick Dustin Tokarski in net, whose 1.46/.944 stat line this season indicates Steve Yzerman might wanna back off that goalie search.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Leafs and Wings fans looking to go to the Winter Classic might want to get their wallets out. Cheapest ticket is $89, most expensive is $279. That doesn't include fees. Oh wait never mind, they might not even make them available to the general public, even though there are 100,000 of them.

Vancouver Canucks: Team owner Francesco Aquilini is going through a divorce and would like it if the team's finances weren't exposed during hearings. The real question is who gets custody of Roberto Luongo?

Washington Capitals: Jeff Halpern won't be back with the Caps next season, which isn't a surprise given that he was a healthy scratch far more often than not down the stretch.

Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec could be targeted by a KHL team, as he's a restricted free agent. "Pavelec was arguably the Jets' MVP in 2011-12, posting a 29-28-9 record with a 2.91 goals against average and .906 save percentage." Think the team can interest a KHL organization to take anyone else in that case?

Gold Star Award

For the Kings' sake, someone might want to tell Marty Brodeur that he's 40.

Minus of the Weekend

Canadian junior hockey associations being jerks to a coach who puts his players before hockey? I don't believe it!

Play of the Weekend

Not that it ended up mattering, but this screen by Dustin Brown is the best play he's made in the last few games by far.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User SSoH is going to get people out of their chairs with this one.

To Columbus:

- Phil Kessel ( To replace Nash as the franchise player )
- 5th Overall
- James Reimer or 35th Overall ( To challenge Mason, unless CLB wants a veteran)
- Jesse Blacker ( Good PMD prospect )

To Toronto:
- Nash
- 2nd Overall


You boys are a regular family business.

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.