Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

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Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

Maybe this legal gambit will work out fantastically and end the lockout. Or maybe it will be the final nail hammered into the 2012-13 NHL regular season's coffin.

Those are the kind of wide-ranging legal opinions being tossed out as both the NHL and NHLPA weigh their arguments in case the lockout heads to court.

Legal experts can opine and give their educated takes on how things will play out if it does get to that point, but the truth is that nobody really knows. The NBA settled before things got to that point. And though the NFLPA decertified during last years lockout, the circumstances were different.

Both the NHL and NHLPA would probably like to avoid court. That would open up the possibility of a giant labor defeat for the NHL if the players win. Or, if the league wins, it could mean the voiding of all current contracts. Neither of those options are good ones for the long-term health and well-being of the NHL.

Heres what we do know: The NHLPA is currently holding an electronic vote among their 700 plus members on whether to give the Executive Committee permission to potentially file a disclaimer of interest that would essentially dissolve the union. The results of the vote should be known by Thursday, and then the NHLPA Executive Committee would have until Jan. 2 to decide on their action.

The players feel like they have done their part. They made the last offer and moved toward the NHL in CBA length, player contract rights and transitional rules. From day one, it hasn't ever felt like a negotiation to members of the NHLPA, and that certainly hasnt changed with the lockout hitting Day No. 93 on Tuesday.

The one message weve come away with over these last few months is that the league has no desire to negotiate, said a source on the players side of the table. In most negotiations both sides will give a reason why theyre standing pat on certain issues. Theyll tell you why they need something. With the NHL all you hear them say at the table is 'because thats what we need' when you try to find out what their thinking is. They dont want to have give-and-take to negotiations, and that can be difficult to deal with.

The lockout will hit Day No. 100, by the way, on Christmas Day. So theres a nice little yuletide kick in the Santa pants for hockey fans.

NHL owners, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly feel like they are done. The league has made their final offer with a 10-year CBA, a 300 million make whole provision to offset the 5050 split, five-year limits on personal player contracts and strict transitional rules with no escrow cap. Theyve repeatedly said it was the best offer they had to make, and its in the take it or leave it mode if its even still on the table. They also believe the NHLPA disclaimer of interest is a charade meant to create negotiating leverage.

Both the NHL and NHLPA feel like theyve done all they can do, and both sides are simply waiting for the other to end the stalemate.

Thats what everybody wants to hear, right?

At this point there are no winners. The owners and league are universally viewed as the entity responsible for both the lockout itself and the hard feelings that have characterized it. But the players are also taking a major hit, especially in Canada where the economy is feeling the bite of hockeys absence. Many hardcore Canadian hockey fans seem to view this as simply a battle of millionaires versus billionaires," and they've swung their support to the NHL owners, something players are keenly aware of.

The middle ground is still there for both sides, and they could hammer out a workable CBA within a few hours if thats what the NHL and NHLPA wanted. A conversation this week could make all of this moot, but sometimes the most difficult part of negotiations is when both sides sense the finish line is near.

Now it becomes about perceptions of winners and losers, and keeping promises that were made before this began in September. Realistically the NHL and NHLPA have until at least mid-January to finally agree on a CBA preceding a 48-game shortened hockey season. So neither side is in last ditch mode quite yet.

But if the union dissolves, lawsuits ensue, and the lockout moves to the federal court system, odds are that everyone loses. Then things could get awfully dark for the world of hockey. Once things are out of the hands of the players and owners, just about anything could happen.

That the situation could possibly get any murkier and gloomier than it has already become is a scary thought.

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.