The NHL has had trouble throughout its entire history to become a real member of American mainstream sports. With the recent rule changes, including the salary cap, the NHL has taken the proper steps to join that group.
The next thing they need to do is get back on ESPN, but that is another matter. The thing teams can do to help this along is use the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings as a model for how to structure their teams and play the game.
In the era of salary caps, every team in the NHL has at least one superstar. The Red Wings and Penguins, however, have chosen to surround their stars with good role players and great coaching methods.
Both teams rely on their transition game for success and both teams are very good at that transition game. Credit for that surely belongs to Michel Therrien and Mike Babcock for creating great defensive structure for both teams and building the offense around that.
Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa are all some of the game's best offensive players. Unlike players like Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Kovalchuk, these five all play strong defensive hockey. They are by no means trying to compete with John Madden for the Selke trophy, but they are defensively conscious and responsible in their own end.
The reason these two teams are such a positive for the NHL is they play exciting offensive hockey. And the best part is they are great defensively without bogging down the neutral zone and trying to win games 1-0.
The Red Wings even managed the fewest goals against in the NHL. Both teams are able to do this because they rely heavily on their transition game. They both allow few odd man rushes and if a team does manage one, it is usually evened out by a hard back-checking forward.
If football and baseball fans learn a little about where and why the puck goes where it does, and if they are exposed to the high powered transition game of the Red Wings and the Penguins, the NHL is sure to attract more fans.
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