I'm not saying the trap is the core reason why the NHL is not good now; the trap is a visible symptom of the real problem.
I'd agree, but only in the sense that such a play style is ubiquitous now, and that's my only real issue with today's NHL: the sameness of the teams. Not just in terms of parity of performance, but in style as well. There are very few teams that have anything distinctive about them.
I think part of the problem in comparing a past era to now, is we look at everyone now based on recent results and include all their faults, yet when we look at the past we tend to remember the players at their best. The list has guys like Selanne, Forsberg, Jagr, Lindros, etc who peaked in the mid-later 90s as well as Hull, Lemieux, Neely, Yzerman, Messier who were better in the early 90s.
If we look at the players today at their best, they stack up pretty well outside of Gretzky and Lemieux. Crosby is a dominant player who's put up or been on pace for 100 points every season. I think he's a better player than Sakic or Yzerman. Same thing for Malkin. Ovechkin seems on the downswing, but his peak is up there with any LW in history and he seemed like his might be this generations Bobby Hull. There's a ton of other stars in the league as well who can match up with some players on this list.
Some are a bit of stretch in term of play style and some aren't quite at that level yet, but some are also better than the comparative player, despite what I mentioned in the first paragraph.
Also, this doesn't include players like:
Seguin, Hall, Bergeron, St. Louis, Eberle, Benn, M+B Richards, Ryan, Landeskog, Pavelski, Koivu, Spezza, Skinner, RNH etc.
I think there has been a real influx of talent in the league since the lockout, as we have seen from so many recently drafted players making an impact, and the league is as deep as it ever has been. The players just have to play up to their capabilities and stay healthy. And one reason the players seem to not be as good is the amount of competition we currently have. As well, there seems to be a bit of a shift in the type of players we're getting. The 90's saw an influx of high scoring european wingers like Bure, Mogilny, Bondra, Selanne, etc. who were capable of putting up huge goal numbers with flashy skills, whereas we seem to be getting a lot more well rounded players with better defense, playmaking and board play.
One thing that has been lacking since the 90's has been defensemen, as a lot of mid-90s to early 2000s draft defensemen never took the next step. Guys like Jovanovski, Redden, Brewer, etc. topped out as decent # 1, solid #2 guys. But we've seen a lot of recent defensemen who might change that soon. Guys like Karlsson, Pietrangelo and Doughty could be the next Leetch, Lidstrom and Bourque. Weber the next MacInnis, Letang the next Niedermayer, etc. We also have Keith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Suter, Subban, etc.
As for goalies, we might not have any guys like Roy, Brodeur, or Hasek, but I think part of the reason is the fluctuation of goaltending year-to-year along with the current level of competition. I think we're at the highest level of goaltending since at least the 06 era. Lundqvist has put up a consistently high level that is similar to Brodeur, and we'll have to see how the rest of his career pans out, but he could be thought of as an all time great. Luongo puts up good seasons every year and is very underrated by many. At the very least the Curtis Joseph of the era. Rinne, Price and Quick are fantastic goalies, as are Lehtonen, Kiprusoff, Ward, etc.
This was why I was looking for, comparing players and their styles to today's players, liked to see what others thought, agree with a lot of them.
I'd probably switch up Kovalchuk and Zetterberg's comparisons, Kovy got that physical edge.
I don't want to get off topic but Mike Trout is one of the greatest players of all time and he is just a rookie this year. Think Ruth / Mays type greatness / dominance. There hasn't been a baseball player this much better than the 2nd best guy in quite a few decades.