Back and Forth: Who’s Got the Best Offseason?

A different kind of hot-stove talk

From: Brendan Murray

To: Tim Culverhouse

Subj: The stove is hot

Tim, I write to you from the peak of the NHL’s free agent frenzy, a little after 1 PM on Friday afternoon. So far, the Bruins and Islanders have signed guys much older than us (or most people we know) to lengthy contracts, and we’ve already spent much of today trading texts and Tweets about the league’s early signings.

But I don’t want to talk about the nuts and bolts of free agency today (at least not yet—Garth Snow, your day of reckoning is nigh). Instead, I want to talk about offseason in general. Specifically, which sport has the best (and worst) one.

For the sake of our conversation, let’s focus on the traditional big four American leagues/abbreviations: the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL. To get us started, here’s my “power rankings” for the leagues’ respective offseasons:

  1. NBA
  2. MLB
  3. NHL
  4. NFL

Ok, now to try to defend these picks before you jump in and tell me how wrong I am.

We’ll start at the top, with the NBA. What gives Adam Silver’s crew the lead when games aren’t being played? Oddly enough, I think it’s the NBA’s max contract rule. While it may hamstring the best of the best like LeBron or Durant from getting what could truly earn on the open market, it makes the free agency discussion that much more exciting. For the most part, every team can offer the same contract, eliminating the question of who can offer the most money. Instead, players are forced to focus on other aspects of the decision: a city’s atmosphere and climate, the makeup of the team offering a max contract, the team’s coach and so many other things.

Ultimately, the NBA’s max contract provision means more teams are involved, which makes things a bit more dramatic, which I like. Also, guys like Timofey Mozgov get absurd offers in the NBA, soo that’s always fun to watch.

Baseball grabs the second spot because of the Winter Meetings. While the offseason can be a bit spread out, having all the league’s GM’s and agents in one spot breeds some definite excitement. I’ve loved (or at the very least, been drawn in by) the NHL free agent madness so far today, but baseball gets the leg up for putting everyone in the same room.

And finally, there’s the NFL. Maybe it’s because outside of the Giants, it’s the league I follow the least as a whole, but it does very little for me. The players that change teams in the prime of their careers, whether on the open market or through a trade, are a rarity in that league, what with its salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts.

What says you, Tim? I’m sure you’ll have the NHL higher up on your list. Anything you think the leagues with slower offseasons can do to spice things up a bit?

From: Tim Culverhouse

To: Brendan Murray

Subj: The stove is hot, but you’re luke warm

Ah, what a wonderful time of the year. Like we discussed on the podcast the other day, that 20 minute span of just pure chaos from the other day with Steven Stamkos, PK Subban/Shea Weber and Taylor Hall/Adam Larsson was one of the best times of the offseason in recent memory.

So naturally, I have a much different take on your rankings. The NHL definitely has the best offseason out of the four major sports, as exemplified by the last 24 hours of this free agency period. My main argument as to why it’s the best deals with how fast and furious the signings came on Friday afternoon. In the first 60 minutes of the official free agent period, over $300 million was spent on players like Milan Lucic, David Backes, Loui Eriksson and other big names. Also, the fact that the NHL offseason begins at noon instead of midnight is also a big draw.

My second would be like yours: MLB. The Winter Meetings add a completely different dynamic unlike in the other leagues. All of the big brass in one place is like a fantasy baseball player’s wet dream. Deals come fast and furious, and that makes it more exciting. I think what you’re seeing with my opinion is that the deals that happen in right at the beginning of free agency make it more exciting.

For the NFL and NBA, neither really do it for me in the offseason. I do agree with you that in the NFL you almost never see guys getting moved when they’re still at the peak of their career. And, the fact that a deal can be ripped up at any time makes it less exciting.

But now to where we differ the most. NBA free agency is just dumb, to be frank about it. First off, starting the signing period at midnight? Hey assholes, we have lives, and can’t stay up to scroll Twitter all night to see who ends up where. And then you have guys like Timofey Mozgov that signed a god-awful contract with the Lakers, as just one horrible deal that happened all day on Friday. The numbers put up on NBA contracts are obscene, and the fact that big-name players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James can hold the entire league hostage by signing one-year deals is so frustrating. That’s why it’s last to me. Screw that.

From: Brendan Murray

To: Tim Culverhouse

Subj: I guess I’ll defend the NBA

In a stunning turn of events, Tim, you’ve hoisted the NHL up on a pedestal and thrown the NBA into the rubble. At least you’re sticking to character.

In order to stay in line, I’ll stay in my character here and defend the Association. And I’ll do so my saying this: the NBA’s offseason is much-watch TV—whether you’re a basketball fan or not.

The NHL ‘s free agent frenzy at the noon is surely very exciting. That is, if you’re a hockey fan. There’s nothing that draws you in if your team isn’t one of the handful either signing or losing free agents, or if you’re just a casual fan.

The NBA meanwhile, has some real drama. I’m sure you’ll tell me it’s a testament to the character of hockey players that they don’t involve themselves in social media (or just media) drama, or some other Stanley Cup full of excuses.Say what you will, the Dwight Howard fias

Say what you will, but the DeAndre Jordan saga was one of the most exciting and interesting story in any season last sesaon. The season before, he Chandler Parsons back and forth had many of the same elements, though Parsons has flamed out pretty hard in Dallas (maybe it’s just Cuban.)

It may make us cringe from time to time (see: Hassan Whiteside announcing his return to the Heat via SnapChat) but the NBA’s offseason is never boring, and that’s why it reigns supreme.

From: Tim Culverhouse

To: Brendan Murray

Subj: Drama is defined in the eyes of the beholder

I guess you can say that I put the NHL on a pedestal, and my bias shines through pretty clearly here, but so be it. The immediate rush of players signing in waves right when the clock strikes noon is must-watch TV. Or in this era, must-watch Twitter. I’ll revisit something I brought up in our first exchange: the average person can’t be glued to Twitter at Midnight on July 1 to see where the players are headed. Making it at noon at least allows the average fan to check in on their lunch break.

But the time isn’t even my biggest gripe about the NBA. The max contract aspect of NBA deals really limits the creativity and drama when I see these guys signing. By giving teams the ability to re-sign players with the highest offer available, it pushes players to stay in their current market, and limit other teams from landing a marquee free agent.

And on top of that, you see the same teams every year making the same runs at the best players, and middle of the road franchises really unable to make that next step to championship contention. Take Kevin Durant for example, meeting with the Heat, Celtics, Clippers, Thunder, Warriors and Spurs. In that we have the two-time defending Western Conference champions, the pinnacle of success from San Antonio, the nicest geographic areas in the country in Los Angeles and Miami, and one of the up and coming teams in Boston. But, the chance that KD goes anywhere besides OKC is slim to none, because he can make the most money with the Thunder this year, and then make a shitload more next year when the salary cap goes up again.

Teams in warm weather or major media markets tend to land the big fish, and other spots get left picking up the scraps. You don’t really see that in the other sports, and the NHL in particular. If that was the case, the Coyotes and Panthers would be cup contenders every year. Instead, players pick Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota because of a chance to compete for a playoff spot, and be on a strong team. It’s not the same type of move, and it doesn’t carry as much as excitement when you compare the two.

Happy 4th of July!


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