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Volume 26 No. 48
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Gary Bettman Attributes NHL's Competitive Balance To League's Economic System

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference said the league's competitive balance is "extraordinary," attributing it to the NHL's "economic system," according to Nicholas Goss of NESN.com. The NHL "has a lot of parity" and is a "hard league to establish consistency in." There has not been a repeat Stanley Cup champion since '98, which is the "longest back-to-back title drought among the four major North American sports leagues." Bettman: "Last year, we had seven teams that made the playoffs that didn’t the year before. If the playoffs started (Friday), I believe there would be six teams that weren’t in the playoffs last year that are in this year." Bettman said of the league's current economic system, "We paid a high price to get it, but the fact of the matter is we have a system where all teams can afford to compete, and as a result, we probably have the best competitive balance in our history and the best competitive balance in all of sports because we will go down to the wire to determine playoff matchups" (NESN.com, 3/12). Goss also noted fighting is "declining in the NHL" to "record lows." If the '15-16 projections come to fruition, 352 fights "would be the lowest single-season total of the last 15 years," excluding the lockout-shortened '12-13 campaign. Bettman: "What I think has happened, is over time, most teams have concluded that because the game is so competitive, they want four lines of players who can play, that are skillful, and they’re not looking for the specialty players anymore." Goss noted another factor contributing to the decline in fighting "is the visor rule that was put into effect" starting in '13-14. But "perhaps the primary reason for why fighting totals are down is the latest research on concussions and the impact they have on players during their careers as well as retirement" (NESN.com, 3/11).

CAN'T SEE IT COMING: The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson noted FiveThirtyEight Founder Nate Silver at the Sloan conference "didn't hesitate" when asked which sport is the "hardest to predict." He suggested that if the NHL standings "were distributed randomly year to year, they wouldn’t differ much from the actual results" (NATIONAL POST, 3/13).