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San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks: Lose Two And Drop From Third To Ninth

San Jose SharksOn The War Room, a program on XM Radio’s ‘NHL Home Ice’ channel, the topic of the day was ‘do you like the style of play in today’s NHL and do you like parity’. Since today IS the only style of play I know I really cannot speak to that question, but when it comes to the question of parity I do have some thoughts.

The first time I heard the word ‘parity’ I hated it. For me parity was the league’s way of trying to spin the idea that mediocrity was a good thing. What?!? A little history…

I was a San Francisco 49er fanatic during the 80’s and 90’s which meant I watched my team dominate for 15 years - a true dynasty in the sports sense of the word. The team’s owner Eddie DeBartolo spent whatever it took to acquire talent and win championships. In reaction to Eddie’s spending ways the NFL instituted a salary cap – also known as ‘The Eddie DeBartolo Rule’. This meant that talent could not be hoarded and talent was distributed amongst all the teams. The NFL pitched the salary cap as a way of promoting parity. My recollection of the time was that the quality of play initially suffered. I hated ‘parity’ because it was obvious play was suffering and the salary cap meant owners were guaranteed certain revenue. I felt like I was being sold on bad play and more profits.
I now feel that what I was watching was the league adapting. Because players moved around and couldn’t be kept for years on end, many teams’ systems no longer worked. You couldn’t have an offensive and defensive system that took weeks to learn because you didn’t have that kind of time to develop a player. Eventually teams created systems where players could easily be replaced – an adaptation to the new reality. And that new reality was that offensively and defensively most teams played basically the same 2 or 3 schemes with individual twists put in here and there. The quality of play then got better and parity, which used to be a marketing spin for mediocrity, now evolved into the true reality.

Once the league matured under the new system you have more competition, tighter playoff races and faster franchise turnarounds. Take the aforementioned 49ers. In one year, this year, the team went from afterthoughts to playoff contenders. With true parity it no longer takes years to rebuild, it can happen in a season or two. Unfortunately there are some detractors from the idea of parity, and that usually comes from fans whose teams dominated under the old system (like say, myself). But in the end you build history of different champions from year to year, spreading the sports love around the league and bringing more hope to fans in every corner of the league.

When it came to the discussion on the radio this morning the question ‘do you like the style of play in today’s game’ stems from the idea that most teams run the same system. If you look at hockey it has gone through the same kind of evolution. The lock out, the salary cap, the adjustment and now parity. How else do you explain Minnesota, St. Louis, Toronto and Florida sitting in the top of their conferences after failing to make the playoffs last year? If you think about it even further the same pattern occurred in the NBA and in college football (after they limited the number of scholarships a university can offer).

When I decided to write this post my topic was going to be how San Jose Sharks went from 3rd in the Western Conference to 9th in a period of one week. The answer is parity, and it took me 500+ words to get here.

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