2011-12 NHL Rosters: 8 Teams Getting Most Bang for Buck
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There are always NHL teams that spend to the salary cap and others that barely meet its floor. But the money spent does not always tell the tale of success and failure on the ice.
Using salary information on CapGeek,com is not without its flaws. For instance, it includes Chris Pronger on Philadelphia's payroll. It has 26 active players for the San Jose Sharks, including goalie Antero Niittymaki who has been on injured reserve all season.
However, not professing to know all such details about all teams, their content was used for salaries to be consistent. Statistics used for that and point percentage (taken from NHL.com) are as of December 18th, 2011 at midnight Pacific Standard Time.
What we find is that of the 16 teams that currently project to make the playoffs, three are at least $10 million under the salary cap, five more are in the bottom half of the league in spending. Four each are in the top half or among the six the site shows as over the cap, forced to use their long-term injured reserve space.
In other words, money spent is not making much difference in who makes the playoffs.
In fact, six of the 10 teams projecting to finish with over 100 points are in the bottom half in payroll. Five of those teams project a top-five seed in their conference just like every Cup-winner at any time in any active player's career.
The teams that win the most for the least player salary spent are the ones that offer their owners the most bang for their buck. However, making the playoffs is everything, not only because it gives them a chance to earn additional revenue in the spring but because it keeps them alive for the only goal that matters: Winning a Stanley Cup.
Thus, there are the eight teams on pace to earn a playoff berth for the least payroll, listed in order of their projected seed and thus, Cup-winning chances. Six of those teams are in the Western Conference, and four in the Central Division.
8. Nashville Predators
Barry Trotz could win the Jack Adams Award every year for getting this bargain team to the playoffs
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Every season, the Nashville Predators lose talent to free agency and struggle to spend the minimum the league allows. Yet every year, they are in the playoffs.
So far this season, they project to finish with 97.4 points and earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Having the smallest payroll in the NHL (just over $48 million), they are the only team in the league getting over two points for every million they spend in payroll.
However, as an eight-seed, history tells us they may win their division, but they have almost no chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Their own history tells us they are unlikely to make it out of the first round. This puts them lowest on this list.
7. Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars could not afford to keep Brad Richards, but are playing well without him
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The Dallas Stars took some chances on low-priced veterans and decided to put their faith in a few low-priced young players. So far, it appears to be paying off.
The Stars project as a seventh seed in the Western Conference with about 98 points while carrying a payroll just over $51 million, fifth-least in the NHL. That gives them 1.906 points per million dollars spent, and with a tough surface in the playoffs (Dallas heat and humidity) and previous playoff success, this gives them a better chance at the Cup than Nashville.
6. St. Louis Blues
Could St. Louis win two major sports titles in under eight months?
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The St. Louis Blues barely project into that all-important top-five seed in their conference at almost 106 points. Their payroll is in the bottom half of the league at just over $55 million, and they are getting 1.919 points per million dollars spent.
Unfortunately for them, they would match up against the much more accomplished Detroit Red Wings in the first round and have to play through a deep, competitive conference.
5. Detroit Red Wings
Could Nicklas Lidstrom get one more Cup before he retires?
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The Detroit Red Wings know how to win a Stanley Cup. Much of the roster that won it in 2008 and was within two goals of winning it in 2009 is still intact.
Unfortunately, that means the team is four years older than the one that last hoisted the Holy Grail of Hockey in Hockeytown. The last two years, the San Jose Sharks look like they have exploited that age in winning eight of 12 games.
Typically, this team has been one spending to the cap, but this year they are in the bottom half of the league at over $58 million. Despite projecting to earn over 108 points (1.861 points per million dollars), they would not win their division and thus have one of the most difficult paths to a title among these teams.
4. Florida Panthers
The Panthers had to take on Brian Campbell's contract to make the salary floor
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The Florida Panthers have made the playoffs just three times in 17 seasons, and are among the worst all-time NHL franchises in winning percentage.
But thus far this season, they are overachieving.
Their payroll is just over $53 million, eighth-lowest in the league. Yet they project to win their division with 102.5 points, fourth-best in the Eastern Conference. This gives them 1.913 points per million spent, fifth-most in the NHL.
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup as recently as 2006 as a third seed coming from the Southeast Division. The Panthers would face a team in the first round that would not even qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference, giving them an easier road than many.
3. Minnesota Wild
Could Dany Heatley finally get the Cup he has smelled with the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators?
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The Minnesota Wild have never won a game beyond the second round and have only reached it once in 10 seasons. But right now, the State of Hockey has a chance to see its team play for the Cup for the first time since the North Stars moved to Dallas.
Every Stanley Cup champion from the Western Conference during the franchise's existence has been a first or second seed, and the Wild project to finish second with almost 112 points. They are doing it on a budget of just over $56 million (10th-lowest in the NHL), and getting 1.993 points per million dollars spent.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago won the Cup just two seasons ago and is a favourite to do it again
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on pace to finish with the top seed in the Western Conference with almost 113 points despite playing in the division with the best composite record in the league. Only two teams are on pace to eclipse that number.
They are also just two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup. As a team that sold off 12 players who had their names etched on that trophy because of excessive salary, it may seem surprising they make this list.
However, the trade of defenceman Brian Campbell was enough to officially end their high payroll days. They now rank 12th-lowest in salary, giving them 1.943 points per million dollars spent.
1. Boston Bruins
Last year's champion has the highest chance of winning it this year despite a modest budget
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The Boston Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champions. The roster is almost the same this year as last. They project to earn almost 114 points this season, losing the top seed on a tiebreak to Philadelphia.
You have to like their chances.
Yet for all the things working in their favour, the Boston Bruins are spending less than over half the league on their roster. At just over a $56 million payroll, they are earning an impressive 1.908 points per million dollars spent on players.
While only a second seed in the Eastern Conference, they would have the home ice against anyone out West, exacerbating their already stark travel advantage over those teams. They also would get a team with fewer than 90 points in the first round.
Beyond that, they have more Cup-winning talent on their roster than anyone else in the league. All of this gives their roster the best chance of winning a title, and for reasonable money.