Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

886153.jpg

Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

Those that know him best said it was genuine anger in NHL commissioner Gary Bettmans eyes as he delivered a 30-plus-minute diatribe ripping into the NHLPA on Thursday evening at the Westin Hotel in New York City.
Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly rejected the NHLPAs latest offer for an eight-year CBA that included 300 million in make whole money and loosened player contract rights in most areas. But Bettman and Daly both insisted they were willing to die on the hill for a 10-year CBA that limits the term for contracts at five years or seven years for players re-signing with their own team and doesnt allow more than a five percent variance in salary each season.
They added a little insult to the injury of rejecting the deal by simply calling NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and leaving a voice mail message, and then Bettman started the verbal bombing that seemed equal parts angry, distressed and despondent.
The key for all of us is to have a long-term agreement. Thats what the fans deserve, said Bettman. Thats what the game deserves. Thats what the players deserve. Thats what all of the leagues business partners deserve.
The four new owners wanted to push ahead and do something bold. They virtually put a new 100 million on the table to show that they wanted to get the game back and play as soon as possible.
The unions response was shockingly silent, so to speak, in terms of reaction. There was almost no reaction other than thank you, well take the 100 million. The owners were beside themselves. Some of them I had never seen that emotional. They said they dont know what happened, but this process is over. Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal.
Bettman went on to illustrate a negotiation where they clearly identified three things from the players: a 10-year CBA that would guarantee labor peace for a significant portion of time, a five-year term limit on contract for players that protect GMs from themselves and the five percent variance limit for year-to-year salaries that would eliminate the back-diving contracts. The NHL was giving in certain areas to get those necessary CBA features, according to Bettman, and was looking for a simple yes or no answer on Thursday.
Instead they got an NHLPA offer that moved partially toward the league, and that caused steam to start pouring out of Bettmans ears. Also unimpressed were the four moderate owners from Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay that got involved with negotiations this week.
We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal, said Pittsburgh co-owner Ron Burkle. Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didnt hold back.
We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach. We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and 'non-negotiable' decision which is their right, to end the playerowner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months. I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.
Bettman basically stated that the 300 million in make whole money is off the table, any negotiated middle ground from this weeks talks are now off the table, and things could get frosty for a little while.
We are proposing a long term system that will pay the players billions and billions of dollars over the terms of the contract, said Bettman. I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight. Were going to have to take a long, deep breath and regroup.
Sometimes you feel like youre chasing your tail in this process. But we so much want to play we went even further than we should have.
If one judges by things like franchise value and monetary power then Toronto Maple Leafs owner Larry Tanenbaum should be one of the biggest power brokers in the NHL, and he sounded 100 percent frustrated after witnessing the process firsthand.
I must admit I was shocked at how things have played out over the last 48 hours, Tanenbaum said. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
"The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement. I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.
Well, everybody believes it now after watching the surreal CBA soap opera play out at the Westin. It has left the NHL still stuck in suspended animation, but perhaps a little closer to an agreement somewhere down the line.
But heres a word of advice for both sides: There is way too much Bettman vs. Fehr pay-per-view action going in these negotiations. Things wont get settled until theres much greater concern about doing whats best for the game.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

bruins-noel-acciari.jpg

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.