Haggerty: Bettman, Fehr need to skip Hall of Fame ceremonies

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Haggerty: Bettman, Fehr need to skip Hall of Fame ceremonies

Monday night is supposed to be an unfettered celebration ofeverything that is right and good about the NHL.

Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Mats Sundin and Joe Sakic are allset to be inducted together into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It should bean evening of pageantry and wonder with the NHL fraternity of greatnessgathering to give each of these favorite sons a welcoming embrace. Normallyits a notable event amid the NHL regular season when hockey fans turn back theclock to remember some of their favorite players something that allows themto feel like little kids once again.

But instead Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have sent all thosekids to the corner for a time out with no hint of when the punishmentwill end.

The entire hockey world will cast its lonely eyestoward the Monday night Hockey Hall of Fame induction as a puck oasis in thelockout desert. If things had gone a little differently this year, your humblehockey reporter would have been chatting with Patrice Bergeron about idolizingSakic as a youngster who grew up worshiping the Quebec Nordiques. Instead theBs center is in Switzerland wondering when hell next be able to pull on aBruins sweater as hockey writers in North America churn outunflattering blow-by-blows on the NHL lockout.

Hockey Hall of Fame Day has turned into one of the few feel gooddays in whats become a barren hockey wasteland over the last nine weeks. Itserves as one of the only surviving reminders of why people love the game somuch. So thats why both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec DirectorDonald Fehr need to take a knee and sit out the ceremonies on Monday night.

Im certainly not the first to say it, and I wont be thelast either. But it will stink to high heaven if Bettman and Fehr show up inToronto with their Alfred E. Neuman What, Me Worry? expressions that all iswell.

Symbolically the two high-powered hockey executives shouldopt to instead sit together working to find common ground on player contractrights -- or locking down a make-whole provision that works for both theleague and the players. Its a much better message to those that love the gamethan infuriating images of Bettman and Fehr sipping champagne and munching horsdoeuvres on Yonge Street while the NHL burns to the ground.

If they show up they might as get out the fiddle and startplaying to add a soundtrack to their NHL arson job. Its a privilege to attenda Hall of Fame ceremony honoring the games elite athletes, and its somethingneither Bettman nor Fehr deserve given the state theyve left the game.

Above and beyond the mere perception of choosing an NHLevent over an ongoing negotiation that needs to be settled, both Bettman andFehr should step away rather than become the ill-advised cloud over the event.Whether purposeful or inadvertent, the mere presence of the commissioner andthe NHLPA Grand Poobah at the HHOF induction ceremony would take away deservedattention from the nominees.

Imagine toiling your entire career to achieve a certainpinnacle of greatness rewarded with a night honoring your dedicated body ofwork, and instead every topic of conversation reverted back to the toxic messyour workplace had become after you left.

Who needs that?

Bettman and Fehr are smart, proud men with high intellectand healthy egos, but theres also an underlying level of decency andprofessional decorum common to both individuals. No matter what theirbackground is in hockey, they are now NHL gate-keepers and need to toe thatline with proper respect and deference to Sakic, Sundin, Bure and Oates.

They should know better than to attend a night honoring thegame when neither of them can get it back on track right now. Video images ofBettman handing Bure the 1996 Conn Smythe Trophy were aired at Air CanadaCentre over the weekend at an Old Timers Game, and heavy boos rained down fromthe normally bloodless Toronto crowd. That tells you how ugly it could get if Bettmanbecomes a part of the proceedings. It would be an effective tool to show theleague just how uniformly angry the hockey world is at both theleague and the players union, but it would arrive at the expense of four classyHall of Famers.

That should be a league concern: Theres no place for booingand vitriol hurled toward the NHL commissioner as a message of lockoutdisapproval on a night about the honorees. For one night, the NHL should beable to exhale and take a step away from the lockout stench, and that wontbe possible if Bettman and Fehr bring the stink of stalled negotiations withthem.

Perhaps the best thing Bettman and Fehr could do is hole upin a restaurant around the corner from the Hockey Hall of Fame, and work onbridging their differences while keeping an interested eye on the televisedinductions. It would give both men an idea of what they should be aiming forand more importantly what everybody is missing as more games slip rightthrough their executive fingers.

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.