The salary cap system that was supposed to help downtrodden franchises such as the Coyotes has done nothing to help them. It instead forces them to spend to a floor and the exodus of players continues.
It takes an awful lot to piss off Shane Doan. But when he was interviewed between periods Sunday night about his team’s decision to trade center Martin Hanzal, you get the impression that the fact he is a devout Christian and was on live TV were the only things preventing him from cursing a blue streak. Take a look at how red his neck is. That wasn’t only because he had just played a period of hockey.
“You just can’t replace (Hanzal) and the fact that we just continue to, uh, seem to go, I don’t understand,” Doan said. “It’s hard to understand. I mean, you understand people’s hands are tied and you just don’t get it.”
Doan has every right to be upset. So do Coyotes fans and the good people of Glendale, who have backed this complete boondoggle with their hard-earned tax money, only to have the Coyotes probably leave. They have the right to be upset because they’re being sold a bill of goods by an organization that simply can’t afford to pay the freight to be competitive in the best league in the world and a league that is selling them a different bill of goods, one that makes their fans believe that teams like the Coyotes will one day be able to punch above their weight and put together a perennial contender.
On a conference call Sunay night, Coyotes GM John Chayka said the word “miserable” three times and basically summed up the franchise’s annual fire sale by saying he was, “just trying to make the best of a bad situation.” He also talked about “never, ever, having to do this again.”
Good luck with that one, John. More than any other thing, sports teams sell hope and no team has done that better than the Coyotes have over the years. Fulfilling that hope has been another matter entirely. Two years ago, they peddled hopes and dreams in the form of Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek. Last year it was Mikkel Boedker and this year it was Michael Stone and Hanzal.
And with the exception of Michalek, all those players who were dealt away were players who were drafted, developed and cultivated by the Coyotes. So the scouts did their jobs and the minor league and NHL coaches did their jobs, but these players who were franchise fixtures were dealt because the organization couldn’t afford to keep them. And here’s where the big ruse comes in. Remember when we all missed a season of NHL hockey in 2004-05 because the NHL was intent on forcing a salary cap on the players? Of course you do. And what was one of the NHL’s primary justifications for ensuring cost certainty? Well, a huge component was that small-market/non-traditional teams such as the Coyotes were supposed to be able to hang onto the talent they had worked so hard to cultivate when it came time for those players to be paid.
What a crock. Instead of helping teams such as the Coyotes, it instead forces them to spend to a floor and the exodus of players continues. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are able to jerrymander the cap by taking on contracts belonging to Chris Pronger, David Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk, the two former of which are largely paid for by insurance and the third one not paid at all because the player is suspended. When you look at the Coyotes’ list of contracts, their salary cap and their depth chart, it is a clear and unadulterated case study on everything that is wrong with the salary cap in the NHL and how miserably it has failed in its primary objective.
So it’s all well and good for Chayka to stand up and proclaim that he’s only doing what’s best for the long-term future of the organization, but all he’s doing is continuing the cycle. It’s not his fault. He probably thinks that the Coyotes will be a powerful team one day. But riddle me this. What happens when these young players such as Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Jakub Chychrun and Clayton Keller are in the same position that players such as Hanzal, Stone, Boedker and Yandle were in before they were traded?
If history is any indication, they’ll be shipped out for more promising young players and draft picks who will be put through the same cycle. The question is, when does it ever end with this franchise, the one that is looking for a new home and has been turned down by the Arizona State University? The salary cap, the one that was supposed to help downtrodden franchises such as the Coyotes, has done nothing to rectify this. And it’s because salary caps can’t prevent greedy owners from building arenas on the wrong side of town and it can’t make people who don’t relate to hockey somehow gravitate to it.
It’s all getting a little old. Just ask the Coyotes. And despite Chayka’s claim that he never wants to be in this position again, just ask them again this time next year. And the year after.