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Luck is the Residue of Design

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The NHL’s Western Conference finals feel like a Cinderella matchup. And yet both teams eminently deserve to be there. Katie Baker has a good summary of Veags’s success. Yes, they’ve had some luck — Karlsson is a lot more likely to get 12 goals next year than 40 — but they also made a bunch of clever moves and hired a good coach. On a broader level, I like what the Golden Knight have done in part because unlike some other teams in non-traditional markets (but like Nashville and Tampa Bay) they proved that you can attract fan bases in non-traditional markets by, whaddya know, constructing a good roster and marketing it well. And they benefited in part from Sun Belt teams doing it on the cheap — Florida donating them the two essential components of their excellent first line, Carolina not outbidding Vegas for Fleury although they’re way under the cap and have wasted several consecutive years of competitive 5×5 play with sub-replacement level goaltending. And you have to like their up-tempo style. If they got a little luck, they earned it.

But let’s also give it up to the Winnipeg Jets, a fantastic team that has the best chance of the final 4 to win it all. They first of all deserve credit for what they didn’t do — that is, panic after a couple of disappointing seasons and start randomly trading core players to CHANGE THE CULTURE. Instead, they focused on building depth around their core. You can see this in Dom Luszczyszyn’s breakdown, but every forward on Winnipeg’s typical starting roster is useful and there for a hockey reason — the third line is dangerous offensively and the fourth line is good at shot suppression. One reason the window was open for Vegas is that the other two western Canadian teams with some striking young front-line talent that should be in a position to replace the aging former California powers — Edmonton and Calgary — have the back ends of their rosters cluttered with busted prospects and guys who PLAY HEAVY and have SANDPAPER and are CHARACTER GUYS but don’t contribute anything offensively or defensively. (One reason being a CHARACTER GUY is a nice racket is that when the team bombs in part because it gets its brains beat out when you’re on the ice it’s the team’s best players that get their character questioned.) And while I’ll still save a full Chiarelli SUPERGENIUS post for the MVP vote, Edmonton of course further squandered having the best player in the league on a rookie contract by inter alia trading one of the best players in the league for an ordinary second-pairing defenseman who wasn’t even cheap. There’s no “Canadian curse”; there is a “curse” on teams that make transactions as if they’re trying to get immediate positive coverage from idiot pundits and talk-radio callers rather than increasing the skill levels of their teams.

As I said, I think the Jets are the better team and picked them in six. I also picked the Bolts in 5 which…is still technically possible! Anyway, I’m hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to see Ovechkin, a genuinely great player who gets far too much abuse for coin-flip playoff losses, in the finals. If they eliminate Tampa after the latter gets a legal goal disallowed in Game 6 and then loses in OT even better!

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