Hockey's Slow Death in Traditional Markets
What is going on here? Earlier in the season I tweeted about Canadian-based NHL teams inferiority next to sunburned-Joe-Thornton-type teams. It's true. If you want to see good hockey, move south. Way down, south.
Take a look at the 2017-18 NHL standings on a map. It looks like Canada is infected with a virus and contaminating the north-eastern American-based teams too. The traditional NHL markets are looking old. Somehow Winnipeg and Toronto are immune, and could hold the secrets to achieving success in a challenging market.
Its also possible that it could get worse for traditional hockey regions as several superstars cross the threshold of peak performance years. Players like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Lundqvist, Bergeron, Weber, Price, Zetterberg and the likely exodus of Karlsson in Ottawa may force hockey fans in the north-east to start planning weekend trips south to watch some good hockey.
MAP A: Large Green = High Standings Points | Small Red = Low
Hold on now. Is this just fear mongering? Panicking a bit? Probably. Of course teams can turn things around quickly, after all hockey is mostly a game of chance and the NHL is " parity for prosperity ". "Look at Vegas", as everyone says. There's hope for everyone.
I'm happy to buy hope. But that's not going to stop us from looking at the numbers and ask: why have Canadian-based teams struggled in the "new NHL"? The numbers don't lie. Since the 2013-14 season, Canadian-based teams have only outperformed American-based teams in one season, 2016-17, by a small margin (just over 1 point in the standings). In that season the average Canadian team earned just over 92 points.
The other seasons? American-based teams dominated. In 2013-14 the average American team had over 11 more points than the average Canadian team. In 2015-16; almost 20 more points! And this year, 9 points.
INTERACTIVE CHART: CANADA VS USA NHL STANDINGS
But, if you believe these numbers, then what is the explanation? The Canadian dollar? Pressure? These explanations seem tired to me. If these are real reasons for poor performance, then Canadian teams must accept them as a market force and overcome them like any other business would overcome market realities. Maybe Winnipeg and Toronto have done just that. And we can look forward to the other Canadian teams adapting to the environment in the near future.
data source www.hockey-reference.com
ANNEX (MORE CHARTS)
MAP B: Playoff Teams Only (Dark Green = Highest Points)
INTERACTIVE DATA VIZ MAP