A Parlour Game
I caught a few minutes of McCown today while his roundtable reviewed the state of each of the Canadian teams. I missed most of what they said about the Canucks (and I don’t care enough to go through McCown’s archives) but as an aside about another team Damien Cox said, “Vancouver is head and shoulders above the rest of the teams. I don’t think you could put together a team from all of the rest of them that would be better than Vancouver.”
I don’t think Cox meant to be taken seriously and my first reaction was to dismiss the comment as hyperbole. The other six Canadian teams clearly have much more talent collectively than the Canucks. Then I remembered the salary cap. Suddenly the Cox comment didn’t sound quite so ridiculous. Not only are the Canucks very good, they are efficient. They don’t have many overpaid players and they are snug up against the cap. The Canucks aren’t allowed to get better so it has to be very difficult for anybody else to put together a very much stronger team.
Suppose Brian Burke (or Kevin Lowe or Bryan Murray) could magically force a trade on any other Canadian team besides Vancouver. The only constraint is the salary cap and the need to have things like goaltenders and penalty killers. (When I was playing around with the idea using the Capgeek calculator, I found it easiest if I traded defensemen for defensemen, but your mileage may vary.) The first trade I made playing Brian Burke was Komisarek for Karlsson. Then Connolly for Spezza. Finally I dealt Reimer for Anderson before I run out of cap space. Is that new Toronto team good enough to beat Vancouver? Probably not, in my opinion, but close enough to tell me that it can be done if I make enough trades.
How many lopsided trades does Toronto need to make a contender? How many before a Leaf fan could confidently say, “This lineup would be as good as the Vancouver lineup.” How many lopsided trades does Steve Tambellini have to make to make the Oilers a contender? Ouch.
Cox is close to being right, but only because the Canucks are close to being as good as the system lets them be.