The Blues welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to town tonight. It’s an interesting matchup, on and off the ice.
On the ice, the Blues more than hold their own with the tradition-rich Canadian team. As of Wednesday, the 20-6-3 Blues ranked fifth in the Western Conference with 43 points, one point removed from third, five behind first-place Chicago. The 16-12-3 Maple Leafs had eight fewer points (35) despite playing two more games. Toronto ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Off the ice, it’s no contest. Forbes recently valued the Maple Leafs franchise at $1.15 billion and estimated their operating income from a lockout-halved 2012-13 season to be $48.7 million. The Blues were valued at $185 million and their operating income from last season was listed at a loss of $2.5 million.

The average ticket price for a Leafs games this season is more than $114. The Blues’ average price is just over $55. The Leafs are fifth in average NHL attendance, drawing 19,359 a game to Air Canada Centre, or some 700 bodies more than the official capacity of the building.

The Blues rank 19th in the 30-team league in average attendance this season, pulling in 16,514 a game. The rate represents a drop of some 700 a game from last season’s abbreviated home schedule. Capacity at Scottrade Center is 19,150.

Ponder those contrasting numbers as you dissect the news earlier this week from the NHL Board of Governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif. That is, the NHL salary cap for next season is expected to rise to a ceiling of $71 million with a $53 million floor. This season’s cap is a $64.3 million ceiling and $44 million basement.

“Everything that’s happened is a testament to the enduring strength of our game and the passion of our fans,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN.com. “Things build on each other. When you put the right foundations in place, when you have the right system, you bring in good owners, good things happen.”

Perhaps Louis Armstrong should finish the thought, “And I say to myself, what a wonderful world.”

There is a substantial quid pro quo to that rosy picture for teams like the Blues. It’s true, a handful of NHL teams — such as Toronto, Montreal, New York (Rangers), Vancouver, Chicago — are killing it. A rising tide lifts all boats, so perception-wise, the entire league is growing and thriving.

Another way of looking at it is the elite teams in the NHL have the rest strapped to a seat on the bus, dragging them along on a Magical Mystery Tour they’re ill-equipped to make.