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"lifelong redwings fan"
Malkin wants to be The Man, ON • Canada • -1 Years Old • Male
Remember back in the day when hockey fans would actually talk about which players were the best players in the NHL? Gretzky vs Mario. Coffey vs Bourque. Roy vs Hasek. Or which players had a unique ability to do something which others couldn't? The Rob Blake hip check. Or the Denis Savard spin-o-rama. How Dominik Hasek would purposely deflect a puck into the corner with his head. We'd talk about the Red Wings Left Wing lock. The New Jersey Devils Neutral Zone Trap. Why Alex Kovalev had so much talent but always left you expecting more.

Today it's all about the Salary Cap. When I was a kid in the 1980s it was common knowledge only Wayne Gretzky made over a million dollars (CDN) a season. We all just said "well that makes sense. He's the best player." Now all hockey fans seem to talk or care about are cap hits, no trade/no move clauses, contract length or AAV (Average Annual Value). Or how much cap space does my team have or don't have? How can we create more? Does this make any sense? Why are we all wannabe accountants now? I don't remember all hockey fans loving math class in 1986.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm just as guilty as any hockey fan of complaining about a players cap hit. I've incessantly bemoaned Justin Abdelkader's contract for so long that my wife has made it a household rule that I'm not allowed to talk about it. Steve Yzerman thankfully bought Abdelkader out so I guess I'll have to whine about his remaining dead cap space for the next 6 years. Talking to myself while standing in front of the mirror when my wife isn't there of course.

But seriously. Shouldn't we be embarrassed by this? Shouldn't we be talking about how good of a player Jonathan Toews still is? Instead of reminding everyone that his cap hit is 10.5 mil AAV? When did Mitch Marner become a bad hockey player? I'd sure love to see him wearing the Winged Wheel. But ever since he re-signed with the Leafs it's as if he can't play hockey anymore. So what if he's a bit overpaid? He's still a joy to watch.

Some fans use selective justification to accept their team paying a player to be bad. Take Jack Johnson for example. When Jimmy Rutherford signed JJ to play for Pittsburgh, all we heard from Pens fans was how bad he was. How could Jimmy sign this guy for such a long term? So eventually JJ gets bought out and signs for cheap with the Rangers. Now I suppose we'll hear "yeah well he's barely making over league minimum. He's on the third defense pairing. He isn't hurting the team." He's cheap so he's good now!

Back in the time before public salary disclosure we'd say "Glen Hanlon sucks! Why is he even in the NHL! Get rid of him now!" Just like we now hear Red Wings fans saying "Frans Nielsen sucks! Buy him out! Get rid of him now!" But the difference is that back in the 80s we'd never talk about how much money a player was making or not making. But that's likely because we didn't know how much money Hanlon was making. As fans we now wear our good players playing on entry level contracts as badges of honour.

Flyers fans love bragging about what a steal Carter Hart is. And he certainly is. It's almost as if Flyers fans are just as excited about Hart's cap hit as they are about his ability to stop the puck and win games for them. And I certainly don't blame them for being excited about having a talented young goalie starting for them for probably the next 15 years. But he won't be playing on his entry level deal forever. Eventually he'll be making Vasilevskiy or Price money. Then we'll all complain about how overpaid he is even when he's winning a Stanley Cup for the Flyers.

The Tampa Bay Lightning just won a Stanley Cup built mostly by Steve Yzerman. Tampa choked in the playoffs a few times (like Yzerman's Red Wings did in the 90s) before they finally figured out how to get the job done when it counted the most. They basically won a Cup without their franchise player Steven Stamkos. So many Lightning fans want to trade him now. Afterall he makes 8.5 mil AAV! We don't need him! Let's call up Barre-Boulet from the AHL to replace him! Then we can sign our RFA's! Repeat baby!

Never mind the fact that when Steven Stamkos is healthy he's still one of the best players in the NHL. Why are we taking this for granted? I realize it's important for teams to get good bang for their bucks. A successful NHL GM can't just throw money around Willy Nilly. Overpaying average players to long term cap killing contracts they'll never live up to will shorten any GM's lifespan. Well not Doug Wilson or David Poile. They're NHL GM God's apparently. Just ask Peter Chiarelli or Kevin Lowe about cap mismanagement. I can still list Ken Holland's blunders. Just not when my wife is in the room.

But there must be a balance. I wanted to hear more about the Tampa Bay Lightning overcoming their past playoff failures than I did about Tampa Bay Lightning fans wanting to trade their captain Steven Stamkos because he makes 8.5 mil AAV. Now all we talk about are their big 3 RFAs. Sergachev, Cirelli and Cernak. As I'm writing this Sergachev just re-signed. Get rid of Stamkos now! Who's staying? Who's going? Tyler Johnson sucks. Get rid of him. Yzerman sucks! He left Tampa all these awful contracts with NTC and NMC's! Vasilevskiy went from being a great goalie to now being overpaid because he makes 9.5 mil AAV. He just won the Cup!

No one remembers the outstanding job Yzerman did in drafting and developing players to amass a team full of quality depth. You know. The incredible depth which allowed Tampa to win a Cup without an injured Stamkos? Does anyone recall the many shrewd trades Yzerman made?Sergachev for Drouin anyone? Who's Ben Bishop? No one knew who he was before Yzerman traded for him. I shouldn't say no one remembers the great work Yzerman did. Most Tampa fans know he built an excellent team and appreciate what he did for that franchise.

But the naysayers seem to always be the loudest. Yeah Tyler Johnson makes too much money for what he brings. But you know what? When he signed that contract he was still a top player for his team. Brayden Point hadn't emerged yet and Cirelli wasn't even playing in the NHL. We're all guilty of recency bias.

GM's can't be Nostradamus. It's easy for us finger pointing fans to play Monday morning QB and say "They should've done this or that." Again. I'm just as guilty of doing this as anyone else is. But can we as hockey fans have one conversation without talking about what a player makes? Or about how much money a team is wasting on their salary cap?

I miss those days of talking about Peter Klima's garbage pail helmet. Or Craig Ludwig's over sized shin pads. Or the latest Bob Probert or Joey Kocur fight. Bring those days back! I know Steve Yzerman should be kicked out of the NHL for paying Yanni Gourde 5.3 mil AAV. But someday I just hope we can talk about a player or a team without going on Cap Friendly first. I liked math class but I like talking about hockey even more.
November 30, 2020 1:05 PM ET | Delete
Great blog! Lol to the Kovalev comment. My favorite player. AND YES, I constantly asked why he couldn't give us more.I never even thought about his cap. Just his soul crushing apathy. I think you really nailed it in this one. A great read.
November 30, 2020 2:11 PM ET | Delete
Thanks. Kovalev was so talented. Mark Messier always said he was the best player he ever saw in practice. Mess played with Gretzky! 🤣 Kovalev did have an excellent career. But I don't think he realized his true potential..
November 30, 2020 8:06 PM ET | Delete
100% agree. The year he put up 84 points with the Habs was my greatest year ever to watch him. But he could have done that so many times. i should note as well he had the best hair in the NHL.
November 30, 2020 8:29 PM ET | Delete
Interesting blog, it’s true that money has taken much more room in pro sports these days...Unfortunately, with the season being delayed, cap implications is one of the rare subjects that remain relevant. Whether we like it or not, we’re talking about it now not just because we know how much players are making but because there is a limit to the money a team can spend and everyone wants their team to be as good as they can be, so the money has to be spent wisely....I feel like that wasn’t much of an issue for the Habs the last few years since they had plenty of space, but with Bergevin’s move this off season, Habs fans are now feeling the cap crunch and it does dominate discussions...
November 30, 2020 8:36 PM ET | Delete
Yeah. ALL the discussions. That's my point. Instead of "my team should trade for this guy because he'll make them better" it's "what's his cap hit?"
November 30, 2020 8:40 PM ET | Delete
Star players are now called "overrated" when they cash in on long term contracts. I mentioned Mitch Marner in my blog. He didn't become a bad hockey player. Carey Price is still an elite level goalie but every fan who isn't a Habs fan calls him overpaid and overrated. Let's face it. Hockey fans are wannabe accountants now.
November 30, 2020 8:40 PM ET | Delete
Well, you can’t speculate on trades if they’re not realistic because the guy won’t fit under the cap... Well, you can but the trade won’t come through if the numbers don’t add up...these are the days we live in.
November 30, 2020 8:44 PM ET | Delete
Why not talk about the actual game itself? When Tampa was winning the Cup there were people complaining about Stamkos' cap hit and how he didn't deserve his cup ring. Ridiculous!
November 30, 2020 8:49 PM ET | Delete
Well, there will always be some negative nellies out there I’m afraid...
November 30, 2020 9:01 PM ET | Delete
Heck I can remember back in 1994 after the Rangers won the Cup. Everyone called them the Oilers. They had Messier, Graves, Tikkanen, MacTavish, Anderson, Lowe and Beukeboom. All former Oilers. Who cares? They ended a 54 year drought. I guess it shows there's always going to be Negative Nellie's. Take 1993. Habs win the Cup thanks to Patrick Roy for the most part. But but... they avoided playing Mario's Pens! Didn't have to play the Leafs! I guess there will always be something to complain about.
November 30, 2020 9:15 PM ET | Delete
Oh and hockeyaddict89, it's hard to beat Hank Lundqvist when it comes to great hair. Willy Nylander seems to be the Hair King now. But please google Ron Duguay. He beats everyone. 👍
December 2, 2020 5:21 PM ET | Delete
Its the homer in me talking, I still think Kovalev. Though Dougay's look magnificent in some of those pics. A few through the years look a little too 80's lol. Sorry Nylander, you don't measure up yet. Doesn't have the volume and texture down! lol
December 2, 2020 5:22 PM ET | Delete
Lundqvist gets an honorable mention.
December 2, 2020 8:39 PM ET | Delete
No votes for the Jagr mullet?
December 4, 2020 8:03 PM ET | Delete
Marvelous writing! I still remember waiting outside of the Wings dressing room at the ole Olympia after a game to get autographs from Gordie, Alex, Frank, Gary Bergman, Ronny Harris (who was involved in the check that sent Bill Masterton to his demise) Bob Baun, and even Jimmy Rutherford.....But I felt Roy Edwards was better...I only seen Roger Crozier on TV, But he was definitely more acrobatic in goal. This was when we could get in for a couple bucks with mezzanine standing room only tickets, spy a couple empty seats on the main floor and sneak down and sit in them between the 1st and 2nd periods. Yes, we never knew what our heroes made but I can confidently say that it was not what they were worth.
December 4, 2020 9:08 PM ET | Delete
HH you got to witness a golden age of hockey. It was before my time and I've always been envious of that. I bet you have alot of great memories! 👍
December 6, 2020 2:02 PM ET | Delete
hmmm, My comment get deleted.....
December 6, 2020 2:11 PM ET | Delete
REPOST>>>> I said that I remember the days when we used the visitior's dressing romm to change in for our box lacrosse games at Olympia. It was rather sparse, with green and whiteish tile that resembled a gas station lavatory floor, or a 50's high school class room. Chrome tubular coatrack/shelving and folding wooden chairs completed the décor. The stadium was hot and many lbs were lost during the games, as well as some of my teammates suffering illness from the heat. But hey!, They did give us salt pills before the game!
December 6, 2020 4:32 PM ET | Delete
Mine was deleted too.
December 6, 2020 11:30 PM ET | Delete
December 11, 2020 9:36 AM ET | Delete
Great read! I'd say it's the age of the internet more than anything. Information is so readily available. My biggest gripe is that so many "fans" seem to be able to rattle off the summary of a game that they read online, and can quote most of the stats from the game, but when really pressed admit that they never actually WATCHED the game itself. Different world.
December 11, 2020 7:18 PM ET | Delete
Different indeed. I really don't care about Corsi but I hear lots of fans mention it. You're right. It's likely internet driven. I think I first knew it was different when the salary cap was introduced. Zdeno Chara was a UFA and my first thought was "He'd sure look good as a Red Wing! Sign him Kenny!" My next thought was..."Crap. We don't have to the cap space." 🤣
December 13, 2020 11:49 AM ET | Delete
Another example of how too much information in the wrong hands tends to ruin things.
December 30, 2020 7:21 AM ET | Delete
Well of course fans we obsess over cap space and cap hits. You cant just talk about 'this guy would be great for team we should trade for him' when that dude puts your team 3mil over cap. If there were a luxury tax it wouldn't matter near as much, but as long as there's a cap, your production to value is all that matters. Through analytics in there with the cap hit and you can quickly turn a fan favorite into 'Trade him now!"
December 30, 2020 7:27 AM ET | Delete
Well of course fans obsess over cap space and cap hits. You cant just talk about 'this guy would be great for team, we should trade for him' when that dude puts your team 3mil over cap. If there were a luxury tax it wouldn't matter near as much, but as long as there's a cap, your production to value is all that matters. Throw analytics in there with the cap hit and you can quickly turn a fan favorite into 'Trade him now!' There are CBJ fans talking of not giving Foligno another contract because of his down production. Then there's CBJ fans that will fight you for even mentioning our Captain in a bad light. Cap hits matter. Its part of the game and fan experience now. I know you O6 and Expansion Year teams would love to go back to the days when you just bought a Stanley Cup, but that's never going to happen again.
December 30, 2020 10:26 PM ET | Delete
Bought a Stanley Cup. Hilarious. Biggest myth of them all. Just because your team has never come close to ever winning a Cup doesn't take anything away from what the Red Wings accomplished. Miss me with that.
January 5, 2021 11:39 AM ET | Delete
Great read, sorry i just noticed it today. I totally agree with “lets talk Hockey” I grew up is Chicago going to the Hawks game by bus (only 25cent ride each way) and buy a standing room only ticket for under $3. We would all go stand behind the visitors net on the lower bowl walk way and wait for Bobby Hull to rip a slap shot. Back then there wasn’t any netting so if his shot took off you needed all eyes peeled on the puck. To grab one of his pucks was why we were there. Standing in the old Chicago Stadium was a thrill, the cigarette smoke just hung over the ice, made it dramatic. Every time Bobby got the puck and charged down ice the crowd stood and held there breath waiting on the outcome of his windup and delivery. Great times.
January 7, 2021 11:06 AM ET | Delete
Exceptional blog. Love the take. The anecdote about your wife vetoing further mentions of Abdelkader's contract made me chuckle. Always enjoy your writing.
January 7, 2021 2:21 PM ET | Delete
Thanks Tee. Bobby Hull was my dad's favourite player. I remember going to the old Chicago Stadium. I saw the Wings play there. 1988 I think it was. It was so loud. The national anthem brought tears to my eyes. Wayne Messmer sang it I think. What a glorious old building. Players had to walk up stairs to get to the rink. I was surprised how well I was treated by Hawks fans that day. I was a 12 year old kid wearing a Red Wings jersey and a Red Wings hat. Some good natured ribbing but all in good fun!
January 7, 2021 4:55 PM ET | Delete
Thanks, Kevin. I'll have you know that I've replaced my Abdelkader whining with Frans Nielsen complaining. My poor wife! 😂
January 8, 2021 1:23 AM ET | Delete
fantastic piece...as always
January 8, 2021 8:21 AM ET | Delete
Thanks Ek.
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