Mediocrity or Parity in Hockey East?

Much has been made about the parity or lack thereof in professional sports over the past decade. As a Boston sports fan we relish in the success generated from a large payroll franchise like the Red Sox and are forced to lend a captive ear to the small market teams who lack the funds to compete. We have been fortunate enough to have franchises like the Patriots and even recently the Bruins who have attained success in an environment limited by a salary cap that emulates the principles of socialism. Sustained success in the NFL and NHL is derived from shrewd, well run organizations that operate with a long term focus fon developing young, inexpensive talent. The Patriots are the exception to the rule as they have been a dominant force over the past decade in a salary cap league that typically impedes dynasties and sustained success.

I for one will openly admit to be a staunch supporter of the capitalistic system that is Major League Baseball for several reasons. For one, large market, eminent teams like the Yankees and Red Sox invoke emotions on both sides of the spectrum; they are either loathed to a considerable degree, or have an obsequious and passionate following. This bodes well for TV ratings and puts people in the seats as these teams travel from stadium to stadium. Two, from a personal and pure selfish standpoint, because of exorbitant payroll imbalances , I am fortunate enough to watch the Sox compete for a World Series title on an annual basis; sort of like following Duke Basketball every year and knowing they will be a prominent fixture in the national title hunt.

Some argue that parity is ‘good’ for the game and allows the mundane, less affluent cities of America a chance to compete. If we are referring to instructional league baseball games or philanthropic charity cases, then yes, please coddle and support the unfortunate. The fact of the matter is, professional sports, or to a slightly lesser degree, major college sports, should not be run like a non-profit, philanthropic endeavor. The presence of dominant, perennial powers sparks hatred and jealousy amongst the lesser knowns of the league and creates insatiable rivalries as a result.

Some point to the NFL as proof that parity can succeed given the enormous ratings success the league has witnessed over the past decade. The prominence and popularity of the NFL are at an all time high and many will point to parity as the impetus behind the ratings gold. I counter with the fact that the NFL has been extremely fortunate that large market, polarizing franchises like the Patriots, Giants and a team steeped in tradition (Pittsburgh Steelers) have dominated the NFL over the past decade. If parity had truly prevailed and teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals or perhaps the Tennessee Titans had attained all of the Super Bowl hardware, the ratings would have suffered considerably.

The same holds true for Hockey East this year as ‘parity’ seems to be the resounding theme. There is a clear void in terms of a dominant, polarizing team that the league has grown accustomed to since its inception back in the early eighties. Whether it be Tony Amonte’s BU team, Paul Kariya’s Maine squad or perhaps Brian Gionta’s national championship BC team, Hockey East typically possesses a nationally prominent, “regal” team that puts people in the seats and invokes the angst and jealousy of fanbases throughout Hockey East.

BU could’ve been that team this year had it not been for the much maligned exodus of Coyle and Trivino which has rendered the Terriers somewhat punchless and considerably average in terms of national prominence. The Terriers have the recruiting depth and resulting talent pool to incur the loss of elite players and still compete for a HE title; but they will not have the depth to make a run through the NCAA tournament. BC is arguably the most prolific team in the conference but given the lack of star power across multiple lines, doesn’t seem to have the depth they have had in recent years. The loss of the likes of Jimmy Hayes and Cam Atkinson to the pro ranks has certainly taken its toll on BC this year as they lack the panache of some of the recent championship teams. Chris Kreider may very well be the most NHL ready forward in the nation, but he BC needs a few more Chris Kreider types to be deemed as captivating of a team as they have been throughout much of the Jerry York era.

Chris Peter’s posed the question, “Where Have The Elites Gone?” in his insightful post this morning on the United States of Hockey. He provides a look at the ‘parity’ in a macro sense as he observes the lack of elite teams on a national scope. Peter’s had this to say about BC and BU:

“Boston College is the only school that has appeared in the top five of the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey poll in each of the 16 weeks the poll has come out. Boasting the likes of the aforementioned Kreider, Carolina prospect Brian Dumoulin, Chicago first-rounder Kevin Hayes and a host of others, BC probably should be having a much better season. However, bouts with inconsistency has held the Eagles back after spending four weeks as the No. 1 team in the country. With eight losses on the year already, it’s hard to call this an elite team right now.

Boston University currently sits at No. 3 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and No. 2 in the USCHO poll, yet has lost its leading scorer to legal troubles and it’s best NHL prospect to Major Junior. It is hard to believe the Terriers will sustain this ranking.”

Maine can be best described as top heavy as the drop off from the first to second and third lines can best be described as precipitous. The Diamond, Flynn and Abbott line account for the top three scorers in Hockey East but if a team can blanket this trio, Maine can and will be beat. Merrimack has been a NICE story but they too incurred heavy losses as program savior Stephan Da Costa exited to the Ottawa organization. No offense to Merrimack, but they are not the menacing giant Hockey East needs to maintain its national prominence and quite frankly, NICE doesn’t sell tickets. They are certainly not putting people in the seats as they travel to the rinks around the conference and do not exude the gravitas of a program like BC or BU.

UNH also lost an astounding 53 goals to graduation with the departure of Paul Thompson, Phil DeSimone and Mike Sislo; the 2011-2012 squad has virtually no compelling figures beyond Stevie Moses and lacks the cache of a typical UNH team. CHN’s Joe Meloni details the top scorers in Hockey East including some thoughts on the output of Stevie Moses in his Three Up/Three Down piece this morning.

The lack of firepower in Hockey East is evident when you look at the stark contrast between the big three of the WCHA and the top three HE teams. Minnesota is the only team in the nation to reach 100 goals on the year while Duluth and Colorado College have tallied 89 and 81 goals respectively in 16 games. Hockey East is led by BC which has registered a mere 73 goals while BU has scored only 68 goals; albeit in only 15 contests. UMass may just have the most potent offense in HE as they have tallied 68 goals in only 14 games which certainly speaks to the lack of offensive prowess in the league this year.

Hockey East

 

Overall

 
 

GP

W

L

T

Pts

GF

GA

 

W

L

T

GF

GA

1 Boston University

15

10

4

1

21

52

41

 

13

6

1

68

58

  Boston College

16

10

5

1

21

51

39

 

14

8

1

73

57

3 Merrimack

14

8

3

3

19

40

30

 

12

4

5

65

42

WCHA Games

 

Overall

 
 

GP

W

L

T

Pts

GF

GA

 

W

L

T

GF

GA

 
1 Minnesota

16

12

4

0

24

58

32

 

16

8

1

100

53

 
  Minnesota Duluth

16

11

3

2

24

66

37

 

15

4

3

89

52

 
3 Colorado College

16

10

6

0

20

66

54

 

13

8

1

81

65

 
                                   

The good news for Hockey East fans is that the lack of an elite team seems to be prevalent theme throughout the country. There is not a team in the land that will garner all of the headlines and capture all of the hardware like we have seen in the past as the field is wide open.  I am not suggesting that I would want to see the same team win the title year after year but simply that every sport needs the elite or large market teams to be relevant. It’s inherent in people to root for the underdog to take down the menacing giant; it’s the reason the NCAA basketball tournament has amassed so much popularity because it sets up these perceived mismatches that captivate viewers. There would be no David and Goliath story without the presence of Goliath, there is no Cinderella George Mason team with a powerful UConn program. Unfortunately, In HE this year, there are a bunch of David’s and no true Goliath.

Parity = BORING!!

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