The National Hockey League kicked off its new season yesterday, and it reminds us of this fact: The league has a salary cap ($82.5M) and a salary floor ($61M). That means parity, and when we look at the sabermetric favorites for the 2023 Stanley Cup, this is clear: Of the seven teams with the worst chances this year at winning it all, we see some pretty serious organizations which recently were on top.
For example, the Chicago Blackhawks have the second-worst odds for Cup glory this year—and the team just won three Cups in the last handful of seasons (2010, 2013, 2015). But everything is cyclical, and now it’s a down time for the organization. Likewise, the Montréal Canadiens (2021) and the San Jose Sharks (2016) have recent Stanley Cup Finals appearances, even though they didn’t win the NHL title.
Conversely, when we look at the top of the probability rankings, we see Toronto, Calgary, Florida, and Minnesota—teams with recent histories of struggling to win it all. The Maple Leafs have not won the Cup since the 1968 expansion era began, and Calgary has not been to the Finals since 2004. In addition, Florida (1996) and Minnesota (never) have even longer droughts in progress.
Even the defending champions—Colorado—had not won the Cup since 2001, taking a 21-year detour through the good, the bad, and the ugly before being able to return to the Promised Land. This is what we love about the NHL. Watch the sport long enough, and every team is going to get its shot at winning the Cup.
Now, admittedly, every team in MLB—surprisingly enough—has made the postseason since 2014, now that the Seattle Mariners ended a 21-year postseason drought. That’s impressive for a sport with no real salary cap, of course. Meanwhile, the NFL has a somewhat firm salary cap, but with light penalties for cheating, we have still seen the same team winning it all too often in the last decade or so.
The NBA? Well, let’s just say no team without huge TV market appeal has won the title since … uh … 2004, maybe? And before that, you have to go back to 1979. See what we mean? You can’t win it all in the NBA unless it’s financially beneficial for the league. That leaves us with the NHL—still—as the best of the best in North American professional sports (and that includes college basketball and football).
Enjoy the season … we know we will.