I think the NHL is 6 teams too big.
If you look at how the game has changed over the years, in the 70's and 80's you had guys who could play AND fight and those are extremely rare today and then the designated fighter(s) era began with Dave Brown
in my opinion being the first and other teams followed suit to the point where each team had 1 or 2 guys who did the majority of the fighting in the 90's and before the first lockout and 1, if not both tough guys would often get scratched and not play a full season.
Today? It's a rarity to see 2 tough guys on a team but there has been a bit of an arms race in the east this off season, even the Lightning picked up BJ Crombeen and kept Pierre-Cedric Labrie
which is a mammoth change for them, last year they had Labrie for all of 14 games, I'm shocked that they kept him with the big club.
Team's 3 and 4th lines are often filled with AHL quality players who have no business being in the NHL, they just aren't very good so I completely disagree about the talent pool being thick, I think it's super thin and contraction of 6 teams like Phoenix, Columbus, Florida, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Nashville would do more good than harm in my opinion, I think it would be much better for the league, especially if they are really trying to get rid of fighting.
I know, I know, I want my own team to go away? Of course not, but they lose money every year and have players on the roster who have no business being in the NHL, their 3rd and 4th lines are pretty lame and the same could be said of almost every team in the NHL. What teams have really good 3rd and 4th lines?
I could live with it if those 3rd and 4th lines had guys who fight a lot but for the Lightning I guess I'll just have to be happy with 2 guys who fight because that's twice as many as they had all last year when Ryan Malone
and Eric Brewer
were getting drilled every 10th game or so.
Perhaps there will be some talented players that come down the pike like a Cam Neeley, Wendel Clark
, Rick Tocchet
, guys who hit, score, and fight, the league is dreadfully thin of guys like that, we have Lucic, Simmonds, Ryan Malone
to a lesser degree but in the same power forward mold, and maybe a handful more at most, it's pretty frustrating to watch because I think we all love those players, I love them a lot more than a designated goon who fights the other designated goon on the other team every 3rd game as he takes whole nights off to rest his hands.
Oh well, it could be worse but not a whole lot, the game today is NOTHING like it used to be and maybe it's just a phase or what the head honchos actually want, less hitting, less fighting, playoff type hockey with lots of power plays and lots of shootouts.