Each of the 30 teams in the NHL shares one common goal: winning the Stanley Cup. Yet no two teams take the same route to the Cup. There are just too many variables involved.
If it was as simple as following the plan that brought the reigning champ to victory, every team would inevitably go the same route but the fact of the matter is that it is not the case.
Teams are restricted by any number of factors, including the salary cap, funds available, and/or the ability the draft and develop talent.
In the case of a big market team like the Flyers, the salary cap is a big hindrance. So is developing defensive and goaltending talent.
A mainstream media personality — perhaps it was Darren Dreger? — recently said that teams that are unable to develop talent overpay for free agents.
Such is the case with the ridiculously expensive but still incomplete core that comprises Philadelphia’s blue line. Such is also the case with the manic and quirky Flyers’ goalie that cost $10 million in salary and an additional $5 million in signing bonuses last season.
It is money that allows the Flyers to remain competitive but the inability to develop players on the back end that keeps the team from becoming a dynasty — or even recent Cup winners, for that matter.
Consider the best defensemen to ever wear orange and black. Mark Howe? Barry Ashbee? Eric Desjardins? Brad McCrimmon? Kimmo Timonen? Not one came up through the system in Philadelphia.
It is a major flaw within the Flyers’ organization that leads to situations like the offer sheet that Shea Weber signed this morning.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Nashville Predators, the organization that currently calls Weber its franchise defenseman.
Nashville is a small market team that drafts and develops amazingly well — especially on defense and in net — but does not have the capital to retain those players when the fair market value for those players grows beyond their means.
So, Nashville loses key components but has a long line of talented prospects ready to step in. When Kimmo Timonen was traded to Philadelphia, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were just starting to come into their own. That trade opened up a spot for such players to develop.
It appears likely that Nashville’s prospects will once again have the chance to make their way to the top of the blue line pairs next season. At a bare minimum, the loss of Ryan Suter opens up one spot on the top pairing.
The way that Nashville operates is vastly different than the way the Flyers do business yet both teams remain competitive season after season.
To date, the largest contract handed out by the Predators was Pekka Rinne’s extension for seven years and $49 million. Ed Snider wouldn’t even flinch at that number. The Shea Weber offer sheet is way out of the league for an organization that only loosens the purse strings around the trade deadline when they feel they have a chance to win the Cup.
The truth of the matter is, that is not necessarily a bad thing. At the very least, it should not be seen as David vs. Goliath. The situations are just different.
If Nashville does not match Philadelphia’s offer, the Predators will get four first-round draft picks in compensation. It is safe to say that they will make more out of those draft picks than just about any other team in the league could.
For that, Nashville deserves more credit. They deserve to have fans lining up to see the team play and shelling out big bucks to own team merchandise. It is unfortunate that is not the case but it also may be a blessing in disguise. If the owners had more money, perhaps they would put more of an emphasis on signing marquee players and lose the focus of developing prospects. Who knows?
Whatever the case is, Nashville is not David and Philadelphia is not Goliath. These two teams represent the yin and yang of the NHL, attempting to reach the same end through very different means. Neither is right or wrong but both are appropriate for the respective team.