The NHL is the elite league in the world for ice hockey and where the best players from almost every country around the globe come to ply their trade.
It culminates in one of the biggest cup matches in world sport, the Stanley Cup, and the NHL play-offs are always an occasion to be admired.
12 teams qualify for the play-offs, three from each of the four divisions and it is naturally expected that the top team in each division will be one of the favourites.
But this year the term favourites doesn't quite go far enough to explain it.
The gap between the top team- or teams if you're talking about the Pacific division, in each division is very substantial and makes me wonder if there is too big of a bridge between an elite club of five teams and the rest of the NHL?
The Boston Bruins lead the Atlantic by 16 points, the Pittsburgh Penguins lead the Metropolitan by 15 points putting them as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference by a long way.
Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the St Louis Blues have more points than anyone in the NHL and lead the Central division by 14 points while the Pacific is tied between the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks who both hold a 15 point lead over the third placed LA Kings.
Most of the final play-off spots are still within single digits but the gargantuan chasms between the five top teams and the rest of the NHL I feel pose a very real problem to the league in general.
Sure we'll get some great play-off hockey and who knows, there may be some surprises along the way but after the Stanley Cup has been won, and the post-season begins, everyone will be looking to strengthen.
Should teams like the Bruins, Penguins or even, god forbid, the Blues strengthen anymore the question of just how much bigger the gap between the elite teams and the rest can become just gets even more unanswerable.
Of course everyone will be looking to strengthen and teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, LA Kings or Colorado Avalanche will certainly be able to get closer to the elite teams but in reality, will they be any better than Homer Simpson trying to jump over Springfield Gorge?
Well there is always the possibility that they will find some hidden gems that may propel them above those elite organizations but the chances of it happening to them all is almost impossible.
Then of course theres the question of the teams even lower in the NHL.
Teams like the lowest scoring Buffalo Sabres, the Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators or even the Florida Panthers.
Are they to be doomed to an existence without play-off hockey or left to hope they can scout better than the bigger teams and bring in some incredible young talent?
I think it goes without saying that the NHL is currently struggling with a group of elite teams pulling away from the chasing pack as they all show their quality over the course of the season.
I say over the course of the season because just tonight, the Panthers over came the Sharks in San Jose while the Ducks lost at home to the Washington Capitals.
As mentioned earlier, any game can throw up a surprise and upsets can occur anytime but the idea of the play-offs pitting teams against each other for a best-of-seven contest pretty much guarantees the best team will win overall and it undoubtedly favours the bigger teams.
Should the play-offs be changed? its hard to see that working and making much difference.
What about the off-season? There could already be too big of a gap to be bridged so who knows how the NHL can be fixed but in my opinion, it is an issue that will continue to plague the development of the league.
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