In his latest NHL.com column, John Buccigross lays out five pros and five cons about the current NHL. I more or less see his point on all of them except this curious con:
5. Players are too good. Everybody is on everybody so quickly, there are times when there isn't enough effective passing or beautiful play. This is not always visually pleasing. There is plenty for me to love, but what about the new viewer? I don't mind if my favorite game isn't wildly popular. The Backstreet Boys were wildly popular. But I want the game to be vibrant, I want the game to be around 50 years from now.
By my count, there are seven sentences in there (and the last one's a run-on) and about nine separate arguments, three of which are relevant, and about half of one that's correct. Let's break it down:
Players are too good.
Agreed, the talent level in the NHL (and theoretically in all sports) is the highest it's ever been, particularly in the 19-25 range, but unless you're making some kind of chuckling declaration of awe, I'm not sure by what measure the players in a given sport could be categorized as "too good." Too good like, "Arrested Development" was too good to stay on the air? Is the solution to make the NHL the minor leagues and start a SuperNHL? Or an NHL Premiere League (same league, minus the Blackhawks)? Might actually get the sport into the first 50 minutes of Sportscenter. Surely, Bucci will explain himself?
Everybody is on everybody so quickly, there are times when there isn't enough effective passing or beautiful play. This is not always visually pleasing.
Wait, you're saying the players are so good, they're preventing other players from passing and making plays? Aren't the players that they're covering also too good? Or, did you mean, players are too good at covering other players and not good enough at not getting covered by other players? What's the solution, to have defensemen play worse and forwards get better? But aren't they already too good? Who would watch a major professional sport that was just a bunch of stars scoring at will and no one even attempting to play defense? Name one example.
There is plenty for me to love, but what about the new viewer?
Agreed - the fundamental flaw of hockey is its lack of mass appeal; fans love it, the masses can't follow it and complain about it (like "Arrested Development.") It's the same reason why you hear boxing called the "sweet science," then you watch it and it's two dudes punching each other 500 times then someone wins a 117-111 decision and you wonder why it was America's favorite sport from 1960 dating back to like 1650.
I don't mind if my favorite game isn't wildly popular. The Backstreet Boys were wildly popular. But I want the game to be vibrant, I want the game to be around 50 years from now.
The NHL was founded in 1917, and it's still around. Backstreet Boys? Professional hockey has been around twice as long as the Rolling Stones, and the NHL has actually written better songs since 1980. That's not to say things can't change 50 years from now, but still, this is a pretty damn dramatic conclusion from one bullet point in a list of five after already making multiple other arguments within the same bullet point. It's like when someone asks you to name your five favorite albums, and you name four, but you have so much more to talk about you end up naming like eleven more that all sort of count as number five.
To sum up - One problem with hockey is that hockey players are too good at hockey. They're so good, they keep other players from being good and from having plays be beautiful. Hockey fans love hockey but what about people who aren't hockey fans? If players were worse, this might be alleviated somehow. I'm not saying I want the NHL to be a huge fad, but if players keep being this good and hindering each others' beauty, the NHL will fold.