February 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) prepare for a face off during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Correlation Between Spending To The Salary Cap And Winning In The NHL

Last July I wrote an article about whether or not teams need to spend at or near the salary cap in order to win, and based on my data I came to the following conclusion, and that has become a sort of philosophy of mine:

Spending does not guarantee winning, but not spending does guarantee not winning.


You can look at my data from previous years at the article linked above, but lets translate that philosophy to this season and see how it holds up.

  • Of the 10 teams that spent less than $62M of the $64.3M salary cap, 9 of them missed the playoffs.  The lone exception was the Colorado Avalanche, who caught lightning in a bottle and won the Central Division.
  • Fifteen of the sixteen teams that qualified for the playoffs spent within $1.2M of the Salary cap.
  • Granted, six teams that spent more than $62M didn’t make the playoffs, but that further proves my point.
  • The 8 teams remaining in the second round all spent 98% of the cap or more.  In many cases, due to LTIR (long term injury relief) teams spent well over the cap, because they could.


Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s consistent argument that spending doesn’t guarantee a winning team is right, but only half right.

The chances of winning or even advancing deep into the playoffs, declines greatly when you have not spent close to the maximum allowable amount of money on your roster.

That doesn’t mean you go out and throw $10M over 2 years on Alex Kovalev for the sake of doing so, because that isn’t smart.  But, for example, re-sigining your veteran 17 year Senators face of the franchise and 11 year captain AND trading for Bobby Ryan AND signing Clarke MacArthur as well because they all make your team better might make sense.   I’m not saying Alfredsson would have been the difference between making the playoffs or not this year, but it would have been a different team with #11 in the lineup.

And before you say it was Alfredsson’s choice to leave, I agree, it was.  But it was Melnyk’s low-balling, stinginess that put that choice to him in the first place.

So, if you want to have even a snowball’s chance in Toronto of winning, you need to spend.  With the Salary Cap going up for next year, the onus will be on Eugene Melnyk to ante up some of that nice new TV money.  Or else it could be another long year in Sens Army.


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Tags: Eugene Melnyk Ottawa Senators Salary Cap Spending

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