Mason Marchment had his first career hat trick On Friday-evening, the Florida Panthers led to a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild in a game that could be a preview of the Stanley Cup Final.
Wait, that can’t be true, can it?
Well, here we are, the trade deadline is approaching in the NHL, and the Panthers have the best record in the Eastern Conference, while the Wild is No. 2 in the West. There are certainly many other good teams, and every individual matchup has a slim chance of happening, but it’s really hard to imagine a Florida-Minnesota series, isn’t it?
Perhaps it’s because the Panthers have won nine playoff games and zero playoff series since they were defeated by Colorado in the 1996 final. And then there’s the Wild, losers from six consecutive playoff series and with just three times past the first round in franchise history.
It is not that they are not good teams or that they cannot meet for the cup, but it is also an indication of the dilemma created by sports leagues that preach the value of competitive equilibrium. It will be hard to get casual fans hooked on teams they don’t really know. Hockey fans know Jonathan Huberdeau and Kirill Kaprizov, but they are not household names.
It’s great for Florida and Minnesota to have competing teams, and fun for fans of the sport to see different players and teams making waves, but it gets a bit of a blur for the people who make the difference between a playoff series with good and bad ratings.
The NBA has this too, where the Bulls and Cavaliers are good now, and LeBron James will most likely be back in Cancun by the first week of May.
The best thing you can do? Don’t worry if this is good for the leagues. They’re going to play the games anyway. Just enjoy the one you want to see, like a Panthers-Wild game that is surprisingly telling in mid-February.