Zing!, on 16 October 2011 - 02:03 PM, said:
Yea but the point is more, each year, something "new" surfaces, and the entire hockey world just agrees with it.
The 3rd line became standard when the Ducks employed it, sure now it's staple on every team. When the Penguins and a lesser extent Hawks won it, the hockey world did start up the debate "post lockout cap world we need to tank to get high draft picks on ELCs" to win. When Hawks-Flyers were playing, they dubbed it the worse goaltending showcase in a finals, and the onus was on the Norris Keith and Pronger duels. Carolina won it without a Norris D man, while facing a Norris D man too in Pronger, so it's certainly possible. But it's a copycat league, the summer was spent on paying for high priced D men and went cheap on goaltending.
And now this year, 2 Vezina candidates facing off, so they scratched off the "don't need great goaltending" part from the year before. Teams went ahead gunned for better goaltending if available like paying for Bryzgalov. And the "new" thing tacked on this year is more toughness to pound other teams.
Now we wait for this year's winner. And it's almost assuredly that they won't win the same way as the last winner did. They rarely ever do. So it'll be a new fad, a new way of thinking for the league to try to copy over the summer. Only to have a different type of team win again, repeat at nauseum.
And my point (though I failed to state it explicitly, and for that I apologize) is that there is merit to these new developments. That is why they become normative.
The idea of a 3rd line as a checking line was by no means introduced by the Ducks. It's been around for a while. Detroit already had the Draper/Maltby checking line. And I believe that the team that Anaheim beat in the finals, Ottawa, had a checking line as well with Vermette, Kelly, and Schaefer (I may be off on that one, apologies if I am). And since the Ducks won the Cup with it, its popularity hasn't waned. GIven that, I submit that the idea of a 3rd line as a checking line was not a passing fancy but rather a normative standard for team-building.
The example of the Penguins and Hawks as a model for rebuilding through high draft picks definitely created some buzz when those teams won the Cup. However, the idea of rebuilding is by no means new, not in hockey and not in any major North American sport league. It's been common place for a long time for struggling teams to blow up their rosters and start from scratch. And the best way to do this has always been to stockpile draft picks as a means to developing a young nucleus. What the Pens and Hawks emphasized, rather than created, was the idea that drafting and player development are of essential importance in the salary cap era, not just for small market teams but for wealthy teams as well. The salary cap made small market teams more competitive, and it also changed the rules so that big market teams could not spend their way out of trouble. Before the salary cap, no matter how many poor management decisions the Leafs and Rangers made, they could also buy their way into the playoffs, either by overpaying for free agents or trading for other teams' talented but underperforming players. This is not so anymore. Now it is crucially important for all teams to develop from within through drafting and player development. This, however, does not require for a team to rebuild and acquire high draft picks. Tanking to acquire high draft picks is just one way to do that. Note that the Canucks and Red Wings have great internal development programs despite not having had a lottery pick in recent memory.
The idea that goaltending is not important as a new but short-lived development is probably your strongest case. However, there are holes it it. Note that it was not as well established as the other new developments that you listed. In the post-lockout era, the Hurricanes, Ducks, Penguins, and now Bruins have won Cups thanks in no small part to excellent goaltending. So as a new development, that idea did not have as much evidence in its support as the other new developments. Note also that it is a model that the Red Wings had been successful with previous the Hawks-Flyers final.
The idea of the importance of superstar defensemen boasts a consistently successful record. The only team in recent memory who won without a superstar defenseman was the Hurricanes, as you pointed out. However, that year was an anomaly. That year probably should have been the Sabres year, but they were decimated by injuries. Despite that, they made it all the way to game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to a healthy Hurricanes team. Also, one can argue that it was amazing that the Oilers made it as far as they did, given they were a #8 seed. Perhaps Chris Pronger was the reason they made it so far despite being outmatched on paper against probably every team they faced. Notwithstanding that year, each Cup-winning team post-lockout has had a superstar defenseman. And this idea has certainly only gained strength after the hockey world watch the Chara-Seidenberg pairing dominate the Canucks.
So now we come to the newest new development, as proposed by you, that of team toughness. I submit that, like the other new developments you cited, this one will not be a passing fancy but rather become normative. I will also point out that the importance of team toughness is not new. The Hawks and Flyers had a lot of toughness. The Penguins had a lot of toughness. Ditto for the Ducks. The only team that stands out as not embodying the value of toughness in recent memory is the Red Wings. The Canucks were trying to follow the lead of the Red Wings and break the mold. But since we failed, the hockey world has re-submitted that toughness is vital: a team cannot win with skill alone.
This is a fun debate. Cheers.