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11-08-2012, 01:37 PM
Morgoth Bauglir
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Originally Posted by Czech Your Math View Post
Yes, it's difficult to say. Perhaps it's a wash, but I tend to believe there has been some compression of talent over the last ~35 years. Here is my general view (educated guess) as to how the NHL talent per team has changed since WWII:

before/during WWII- a relatively low population with often > 6 teams, which is then further diluted by WWII

late 40s to mid-50s- some players return from war, population increases, and talent per team roughly matches previous levels

mid-50s to early 60s- increase in roster size offsets continued population growth, so talent per team is diluted then makes it way back to roughly previous levels

60s- population increases further, and in the last few years before expansion, the talent really becomes compressed

late 60s to mid-70s- population increases further still, but massive and repeated expansion, as well as the WHA, serve to substantially dilute the talent per team

late 70s to mid-80s- NHL stops expanding, contract by one team, then absorbs WHA, while population continues to increase, all of which negate much of the previous dilution since expansion

mid-late 80s- Europeans trickle in further, and US becomes a significant source of talent again, which combined with lack of expansion further compresses talent

90s to present- hockey-age population seems to peak, while there is large influx of Euros/Russians... much of this is offset by expansion

Perhaps the overall talent per team is similar to the mid-late 80s, but I still tend to believe that there is more talent per team at the top. There were 21 teams then and 30 teams now, so the new talent would have to be ~30% of the current NHL for it to be roughly the same. The overall representation of US/Euro players probably hovers around that 30% mark, while the increase in their representation at the top has done so as well. Of course it varies by year and position. For instance, in the mid-late 90s, the top tiers of scoring forwards saw an increase of more than 30 percentage points, while expansion was still being completed (so the benchmark would be < 30%). Meanwhile, goalie representation was much less than 30% during that time. Since the lockout, top forwards have dipped under the 30% mark, while goalies have easily surpassed that level.
Ok, that sounds reasonable. Any chance of a study being done on it? I'd seriously like to read through it if one gets done.

As an aside, in an appendage to his book "The Game", Ken Dryden posted numbers regarding how many kids are playing lower-level hockey (ie the talent pool the pros draw from) as of 2003:

Canada: 532,000
United States: 425,000
Sweden: 63,000
Czech Republic: 50,000
Finland: 45,000
Russia: 40,000

Now Dryden doesn't provide a footnote for his source for the data, but taking it at face value, is there any way that it can be shown just how much the talent pool has grown in proportion to how much the NHL has expanded?

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