Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance


Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance

It probably couldnt have ended any other kind of way.
Both the NHL and NHLPA appear to be wholly uncomfortable with actual discussions and good faith negotiations simply because thats the quickest way to a CBA solution. Instead, both sides continue to mistrust the other, and with good reason. The NHL players and league officials have made great progress this week on a number of Collective Bargaining fronts, but the players are also miffed that the league has backed away from previous commitments made to the pension plan.
Theres also an issue with Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) that became the only topic of face-to-face conversation between the players and league. NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr never showed up at the NHL offices for any of the negotiations, and instead was focused on putting together another vote to potentially dissolve the union. The renewed disclaimer of interest vote is necessary because the NHL was acting very differently on Thursday without the threat of decertification hanging over their collective heads.
It seems that neither Fehr nor NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appear willing to close a deal before staring down the barrel of the season cancellation gun at the end of next week. In fact, the Winnipeg Free Press quoted a veteran Board of Governors member on Thursday night saying that Bettman is prepared to cancel the season on Thursday if a deal has not been reached or appears to be imminent.
Despite this, the NHLPA believes Bettman will flinch when it comes to whacking the entire 2013 NHL season given the pressure from media, fans, sponsors, advertisers and some very unhappy owners that have watched a three-ring negotiating circus sully the leagues reputation.
The NHL believes it can threaten, bully and browbeat the players as theyve done in the past, and that eventually their tried and true techniques of schoolyard negotiating will work once again. But this is a different time and a different group of players that dont trust the league, and feel like they must stand up for themselves after getting pounded in 2004-05.
Both are resolute in their strategies at this point. But both the owners and the players know they cant cancel this season without permanently damaging their 3.3 billion brand, and so NHL employees around the league are being told that the season will begin on Jan. 19. A 48-game regular season has been in the works for weeks, and it will start with rivalry games in nearly every corner of North America. It will be a shining beacon of the best that NHL hockey can represent when everything else doesnt get in the way.
But it will also be a stark reminder of the searing stupidity and morbid selfishness that allowed things to spin so monumentally out of control, and once brought the NHL to its knees without even a single game being played.
Things like threatening the cancellation of the season and disclaimer of interest movements are seemingly the only language that moves anybody once it has reached this level of trench warfare. At least both sides had consistently traded offers over the last few days and significant progress had been made on year-to-year variance, CBA length, amnesty buyouts (teams have two rather than one now) among other things.
But it doesnt really matter whether its the pension plan, the salary cap during the second year of the CBA or term limits on individual player contracts. This was a deal destined to never get done until there is exactly one second left on the stopwatch to a cancelled season, and both sides had made their final attempt to scrounge up any remaining scraps left on the table.
That means there is still a week of wiggle room left to harass the other side, show up two hours late for meetings or perhaps stage one last take it or leave it offer before storming out of a conference room.
Sadly it appears that Bettman and Fehr wouldnt have it any other way.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.