Earlier this year, CapGeek went down on short notice. Medical issues were cited as the reason why. As we've learned last week, the owner and operator of CapGeek and former Metro Halifax sports report, Matthew Wuest, died of colon cancer. Condolences to the Wuest family and his friends and colleagues. Per his brother Ben on Twitter, donations should be made to Colon Cancer Canada, a national organization dedicated to the awareness of colon cancer.
Ever since the site was shut down, there has been a demand for a new CapGeek. This demand has increased with Wuest passing, as his legacy was remembered upon passing. While sites like NHL Numbers and SpoTrac have salary cap information for teams, they lack the easy-to-use interface, depth of information, and several related apps like reserve lists, free agent finders, and calculators for waivers and buyouts. For fans who can remember, CapGeek provided a massive leap over NHLSCAP, another site built by someone interested in presenting this information shortly after the salary cap became a reality. Because CapGeek provided so much information in such an intuitive way, it was used by millions of people from fans to media alike. It was an important resource. Naturally, there would be demand for a replacement.
So far, there really hasn't been one. Sam Ventura, A.C. Thomas, and Alexandra Mandrycky are trying to fill in some of the knowledge gap at War on Ice. You may have noticed in recent weeks that they've added cap information and a new single player contract section. I will say that they've reached out to some users like myself as far as what else CapGeek had that would be useful. Do not be surprised if they make further additions. That said, it's still a work in progress so the demand remains. So much so that even with mentioning of Wuest's passing . This is where I get confused because the demand is for the NHL to provide this information.
Yes, the National Hockey League. The governing body of thirty franchises. The demand from people like Bruce Arthur and Chris Peters and so many others is that they provide details on player contracts, team's salary caps, and more. Even James Mirtle questioned whether the league would start a similar site. Could the NHL do it? Of course. One of Wuest's big advantages was that he had a source at the league to get all kinds of information from big signings to minor league deals. As all contracts have to be registered with the league, they would have the primary source of information. Furthermore, as with their enhanced stats section, the league would provide stability and could have more than one resource maintaining it. The league's website would become more indispensable than it already is.
However, like the enhanced stats section, it likely wouldn't be perfect. It certainly wouldn't be flexible like CapGeek was. One of the reasons why Wuest's CapGeek was so great was that it wasn't perfect. If there was a mistake, you could tell him and he'd fix it. If you had a question, he'd answer it. If there was something that would be worth adding like a buyout calculator or a cap recapture penalty, then he'd add it. The NHL, short of an omsbudman, wouldn't have that kind of feedback loop and so mistakes may not be captured, features may not be addressed as requested, and anything that could be added would have to go through some kind of red tape for approval instead of just being added.
Moreover, I've yet to see a reason why the NHL would benefit from providing such information to the general public. Again, the NHL represents thirty teams. This information would highlight the many mistakes we see every year from teams with respect to free agent signings, trades, roster moves, and so forth within a roster. Many teams like the New Jersey Devils have policies where they don't disclose contract details. I can't see why the NHL would undercut those policies. Much less show off a team's costly signings. Yes, the NHL's site would garner more attention but are the gains enough to convince thirty teams to expose how well or how poorly they've managed the cap? I highly doubt that. I agree that Gary Bettman's public explanation as to why the NHL won't do it is a crummy, false reason. But that doesn't insult my intelligence any more than just a demand that the NHL should do it because they can. I'm a practical person and regardless of any terrible public answer, I don't see the NHL doing it. Because I am a practical person, I have some suggestions of who else could.
First off, why not the NHL Player's Association instead of the NHL? The union already posts player salaries by team and they have done so for years. As they don't answer to team regulations, they can show off what exactly someone is getting paid and how much that impacts a team's cap as part of disclosing compensation. They would show off how much money is being spent on players, which is always a point of contention whenever the Contract Bargaining Agreement is brought up. In my opinion, I'm surprised the demand hasn't been for them to do it instead of the league. Perhaps this is because the NHLPA doesn't have as many resources available to get more detailed information available and present it in an easy-to-follow format. I also don't know if they'd go as far as to provide the other calculators (why would the union want to have people figure out how much it costs to buy out a union member?), but I think it's more possible that they can provide something to start with than requesting the NHL to do so.
Second, why not a larger group like TSN, RDS, Sportsnet, or even ESPN? Wuest was a sports reporter that created a massively important resource. Surely a larger media corporation can provide something similar if not better? These companies have reporters with such a wide range of legitimate sources that when a trade or a signing is announced, they provide the details that team's don't publicly disclose. This can even include no movement and no trade clauses. Outside of minor signings, reporters like Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Renaud Lavoie among others are frequently the source of how contracts breakdown. Surely someone at these respective companies and compile this information, build a database similar to CapGeek's, and put together an interface with it. Those were the building blocks for the site. As these companies already track trades and free agents at the appropriate time, it seems like this is the next logical step. As they compete with each other and drive to be the source for hockey news, whoever can put together something like CapGeek would gain a massive advantage. Potential users like you and me may even benefit from competing groups as they try to provide additional features. It comes down to whether the company wants to put in the resources to put it together, but I'd think they have more an incentive to do so than the NHL.
Third, as more local media sources struggle to survive in a globalized media world, I'm surprised local reporters and papers put something together like it for their own team. For example, Tom Gulitti tweeted out that he used to keep track of the team's contracts. He may not remember how to do so now, but it does mean that it's entirely possible to do so. Let's use him as an example. Should Gulitti re-learn what he once did, someone at the Bergen Record or North Jersey Media Group should contact him about making that information available. Bring someone to put it in a readable format and make it easy for Gulitti to update it. A link to that on Fire & Ice and Gulitti goes from being the best Devils beat reporter to the best Devils beat reporter and an important resource for anyone who wants to know about the Devils' cap situation. It can absolutely increase their importance in the larger world, even if it is only specific to one team. Like with the larger companies, this is an incentive worth pursuing provided the effort is there to pursue it.
Fourth, there's always the hobbyist option. DIY, if you will. Wuest may have had contacts that you and I don't have, but building something that could lead to a contact or at least compile publicly available information is something that can be done. It's what Wuest started with, it's how NHLSCAP came about, and CapGeek was proof positive that it absolutely can be done. Basically, it'd be a better NHL Numbers, a better SpoTrac, and, from where I stand, what War on Ice is already trying to do. Again, it comes down to putting in the time and effort to do all this. That's a tall task, but it's there for the taking.
That's what boils down to for anyone who wants to make the next CapGeek. It cannot be stressed enough that for great things to be made, great effort must be made. Whether it's the NHLPA; a larger media outlet like TSN, Sportsnet, ESPN, RDS, or someone else; a local media outlet; or another enthusiast or a group that wants to take all of the information. Even if the NHL, for whatever reason, though I highly doubt all thirty teams would sign off on that happening. Wuest created something invaluable. It's a testament to his work that there remains a large demand from media and fans alike for something like it. It'll be a big boost for whoever wants to answer it. Good luck to those who want to pursue it.