We’ve moved beyond the quarter-mark of the season, almost at a third of it. In the first month of the season, we all sort of marveled at how sloppy the hockey was. We blamed it on the World Cup, with most teams not getting to have a training camp with their full rosters for more than a few days. While play has tightened up a little bit, as the season enters its third month we’re still left with a product that quite simply, isn’t very good.
What’s become clear is that the salary cap has flattened the entire league so that there’s little difference between the best team and the worst team. If you toss out overtime losses, which are essentially ties settled by glorified skills competitions, no one in the Eastern conference is below .500. Only 12 points separate the conference leading Habs from the bottom-dwelling Islanders. While that’s not a gap that’s going to be made up (likely), it’s not all that large for an entire conference.
Thinks are a little more split in the West, where the conference-leading Hawks have a 17 point gap over the wooden spooners, the Avs. But we’ve all seen what a conference-leading Hawks team in the past looks like, and it’s pretty obvious this isn’t the same vintage. Adding to the Hawks somewhat shaky hold on the West is that they lead the league in wins in overtime, which isn’t really a true test of what kind of team you are. They’re 13th in regulation wins.
Essentially, we have a mishmash of a lot of the same things.