NHL labor talks gain traction after secret meeting

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NHL labor talks gain traction after secret meeting

The welcomed term traction has finally become a buzzword in the CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA this weekend. The second-in-commands for both the NHLPA, lead counsel Steve Fehr, and the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, met at an undisclosed location on Saturday into the wee hours of Sunday, and both sounded hopeful tones after the meeting was over.

That it happened just 24 hours after the league cancelled the Winter Classic was a curious case of timing.

The long face-to-face exchange of ideas should lead to more bargaining sessions, and could be the first step toward a new deal that could save the season. Daly sounded optimistic on Sunday morning, but in true secretive fashion neither side was willing to share much of what was discussed during the long Saturday night meeting.

We had a series of meetings over the course of the day and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us, said Daly after it was over.

Fehr echoed Dalys sentiments on Sunday morning, but there was a sign much more encouraging than the curt statements from both high-level execs. The fact that none of their discussions have leaked into the media shows two sides that are looking to make a deal rather than win the next round in a prolonged PR battle.

"I agree with what Bill said," said Fehr in a separate statement. "Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress."

While both sides have already essentially agreed that Hockey Related Revenue will drop to a 5050 split between the league and the players, the rapidity of reaching the even split is still believed to be a sticking point. But perhaps the biggest subject of discussion between the two sides is the make whole provision offered by the NHL in their last proposal.

The make whole agreement would guarantee that players will receive all of the money owed to them in contracts signed prior to the CBA expiration, but the original offer essentially boiled down to players-paying-players in deferred installments over time. Its believed the two sides are now discussing NHL ownership funding a portion of the make whole provision, and both sides perhaps agreeing to an escrow cap that will limit the money taken from players.

Its the kind of topic that only an economics major would dream about discussing, but it also might be the key to new CBA getting hammered out in the next few weeks. Right now its just a nice beginning to the process, but an agreement in the coming weeks could pave the way for a shortened 64-game season along with a full complement of Stanley Cup playoffs.
The NHL and the players will look to make more positive steps next week, and hopefully expand the process toward an agreement.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON -- Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players -- not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which ended the Celtics season.

While the C's won more regular-season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight in the playoffs than last April's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having it all end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where it was a year ago.

“You go from 40 (wins), under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking in at the end by winning six straight, to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “And so, yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up,” said  Jae Crowder. “So until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do, obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there.

"And the next (task, which is becoming a legitimate championship contender) is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

In doing so, they look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a truly successful season . . . which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “Last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first-round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.