HFBoards's discussion is not good, but it seems like a much more civil place to me. That's because it's heavily moderated.
As someone who has been here since the beginning, this place was an oasis away from the basically unreadable message board over at nj.com/devils. It was this weird thing that we were all doing, talking online about our favorite hockey team. There were posters that were picked on, and posters who it was thought 'wow, this person's weird', but there wasn't quite the level of rancor that I see here now (but there was plenty of rancor elsewhere on the site - that old Politics forum, yeesh). I think a bit of that is because the Devils were generally winning, but also because it was a novel thing to do, that you could open up your computer and see all of these different ideas coming at you. Now talking online about anything is not a weird thing, and you can do it anywhere you like - attitudes towards online writing have changed because the environment has changed. I feel like back then people were more interested in different perspectives since we were all these kinda strange people doing this kinda strange thing, and there wasn't an endless supply of material online. Now in the days of Facebook and Twitter there is a never ending stream, and you can just delete someone you don't like, never having to interact with them again (and they you). Or, if you don't do that, you have to scroll past your crazy uncle's rantings about Obama or Trump or whatever. It's become banal, and so people's expectations for what they're going to see on a site like this have changed. I'll admit I don't always read PK's posts but I usually enjoy them when I do, there's always something in there even if it's not necessarily about hockey. Anyway, to me, that's what people are talking about when they're talking about what's missed about the old days. There's some romanticism mixed in of course, but it felt more like a community - where weirdness would make you think 'Oh, that's just person X being person X', instead of 'I wish I never had to see any of Person X's posts ever again'.
In a nutshell, every emotional and insecure child has a smart phone with internet access these days. That wasnt the case 10-15 years ago. People on the internet dont realize that half the time theyre arguing with someone who is still in junior high.