Haggerty: Owners, players finally working together


Haggerty: Owners, players finally working together

One important thing to remember after the NHL and NHLPA met for over seven hours on Tuesday: The terms progress and done deal arent synonymous when it comes to a new CBA for the NHL.

Both sides met for the first time since Oct. 18, and according to sources on the players side the discussion was wide-ranging in the realm of contractual issues. It was the longest meeting during the 53-day lockout, and the longest amount of time that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have sat in a room across from each other.

It was an opportunity to discuss a secondary set of topics, including restricted free agency, the length of free agent contracts, arbitration and years of service until a player can become a free agent.

One player said traction is being found with these topics and that it seems to be an area where the league might have been willing to give a little back to the players.

Were still talking on Wednesday, one player present at the NYC meetings said to CSNNE.com. The fact that theyre willing to talk I feel means the owners want to get stuff done.

Thats the kind of optimistic tone that has been missing from the players voices throughout the process. Its perhaps the best sign yet that significant progress is being made.

The NHL and NHLPA will sit down again in New York City on Wednesday at an undisclosed location, and its expected that the make-whole provision will be the main focus of negotiations.

Without hyperbole or overstatement, this is where the deal will be made or broken.

The NHL owners are expected to guarantee some level of a make-whole provision funded by Board of Governors rather than the players -- as was originally intended in the first make-whole offer attempt by the league -- in long-term deferred payments.

These are all good things, of course.

Even better if the NHL (spurned forward by a group of owners that are ready to start making money again and advertisers that are concerned about the future of the league) and the NHLPA (now pushing hard for a deal after players expressed to the Fehr Brothers they wanted to step up the urgency to make a deal) arrive at a mutual agreement thats livable to both parties.

But there is also still a long, long way to go. The NHL and NHLPA must figure out a salary cap floor that works for teams like Phoenix, Florida and Nashville as they navigate through a league of haves and the have nots. But revenue sharing and propping up the NHLs struggling financial teams should be a league issue rather than a CBA issue.

Some have attempted to paint it as the players burden to give back so the leagues weak sisters can flourish, but thats ridiculous. It wasnt the players that concocted the idea of shoehorning NHL hockey into the Sun Belt, and its only a simple band-aid solution to shift points in the Hockey Related Revenue pie.

It should fall on the leagues 30 Montgomery Burnses, not the drone workers in the Springfield nuclear power plant, to create a financial model that will work for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils.  

But thats where both sides sit currently. The players are willing to take a significant drop in their share from the 57 percent negotiated in the last CBA, and theyre willing to make no gains in player contract rights. All theyre simply asking for in the end is for the NHL owners to live up to the contracts they signed prior to the lockouts deep freeze.

The players union understands it has little leverage and has drawn its line in the sand where they feel both victory and self-respect reside. Its up to the NHL to give that to them after botching the entire negotiation with the draconian July offer thats put the league in its current predicament.

Now its up to the league and the players to fast-track the negotiation process and hammer out a deal this week if possible. The least profitable portion of the NHL season has been lopped off as a favor to the NHL owners, and upwards of 22 percent of player salaries have been chewed up by the work stoppage.

The NHL has already achieved some of its short term goals while getting the players to agree on the 5050 split of revenues that they wanted all along.

If a prompt deal can happen, then perhaps the NHL regular season can start sooner than Dec. 1. Only the NHL and NBC know if things like the Turkey Day Showdown and a different version of the Winter Classic could still be in play, but some pretty intriguing possibilities remain for a livable shortened NHL season.

The scariest part might be just how well a truncated NHL campaign would actually work. So many people in non-traditional hockey markets act as though they think the NHL season doesnt begin until Christmas anyway, this season might just show how workable that proposition would be.

But those are all luxuries the NHL can enjoy only if they get a deal done in the next 7-10 days.

Back over the summer Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was very complimentary when talking to CSNNE.com about Fehrs leadership, and what it portended for the CBA negotiations.

I dont know Donald Fehr aside from what Ive seen of him in the past, but I think hes a deal-maker, said Chiarelli. I know he does his job.

Fehr has his marching orders from the players, and the NHL now appears open to actual negotiations. Its time, as one player said, to get stuff done.

Finally, it appears that everyone that matters in the NHL world shares that same goal.

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


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.