During his appearance at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, Gary Bettman took the opportunity to trot out one of his favorite talking points: praising the league’s competitive balance. The commissioner pointed to tight playoff races and turnover among post-season teams as factors that make the league’s competitive balance, in his words, “so extraordinary“.
This is hardly new ground for Bettman, or for the NHL. Last summer, he banged the drum during an appearance on Prime Time Sports, and the league’s PR department is constantly finding opportunities to reinforce that message. From standings logjams to frequent overtime and shootouts to playoff upsets, it really does feel like we’re living in the age of NHL parity.
Maybe you could nitpick Bettman’s point; this is still a league in which just two teams account for five of the last six championships, and this year’s playoff race is looking like a potential bust. But let’s put that argument aside and accept Bettman’s premise: that the NHL really has become a league where any team can win on any given night, where the race for playoff spots and seeding will always come down to the final weekend, and where nobody can truly know who the best team is until the final horn sounds.
Let's ask a bigger question: Is that really a good thing?