Bruins 'extremely frustrated' by inevitable NHL lockout

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Bruins 'extremely frustrated' by inevitable NHL lockout

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins had the largest contingent of players at the NHLPA meetings in New York City this week. The team felt as a group it was important to be fully educated on everything concerning the CBA labor battle taking place between the league and the players association.

With over 10 hours of meetings behind them during Tyler Seguin proudly proclaimed that he took notes and brought them home to study the Bruins are fully educated and properly aggravated about the situation. All members of the Black and Gold remained hopeful that the season wont get interrupted even if a lockout is imposed at midnight on Sept. 15.

But the Bruins players were also frustrated that the game they love is being taken away from them a fact they faced after participating at another informal practice session at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning.

Its something nobody really wants to deal with. As players we want to play, but it is what it is. Well have to deal with it, said Gregory Campbell. Its a game that everybody loves. Everybody plays hockey because they love it. The players want to play and the fans want to watch us play.

There are a lot of people not just players that are involved in this business that dont want to see it go away. Its an unfortunate thing that we have to deal with. Its extremely frustrating. This is what we do for a living, but this is also something you enjoy doing.

Put yourself in the players shoes while mulling the issues: the business you work for is raking in record-breaking amounts of revenue and then gives you a choice between taking a 10-20 percent pay cut or getting booted from your job.

Seems like a pretty crappy situation, doesnt it?

That kind of Sophies Choice wasnt exactly giving the Bs skaters warm and fuzzies after realizing over the last few days theres roughly a 1 billion gap between current offers from the NHL and NHLPA. The two sides cant agree on the importance of principles like revenue sharing, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was decrying the cost of jet fuel and massage therapists as reasons why the NHL needs a greater slice of the revenue pie.

Clearly the league is entitled to something much closer to a 5050 split agreed upon by the NBA and the NFL in their most recent CBA negotiations, but the pace of discussions amid seasonal urgency has frustrated the players.

Its unfortunate were in the position that we are right now. More things need to be resolved and settled, said Milan Lucic. Im sure conversations and negotiations will heat up after tomorrow. None of us were really expecting it to get this far. But now its more of a reality. As players were united and were going to stick together and keep going on the course we believe is right.

Theres a sense among the players that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league owners want the lockout, and theyll attempt to bust up the players union once the game checks begin to disappear. Its always worked in the past, but the 283 players that showed up en masse in New York City for NHLPA meetings would seem to speak to their resolve.

We all want to play. We all love hockey. Its our job," said Bs Captain Zdeno Chara. "But we also have to play under certain rules and it has to make sense for us. Well continue to train and skate while keeping ourselves in shape.

The Bruins will take the weekend off from the ice, but will reconvene elsewhere in the Boston area starting next week when they get together for informal practices. Thats because theyll be officially locked out and barred from the ice and locker rooms at their Ristuccia Arena practice facility until Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can hammer out an agreement.

With the NHL offering something in the neighborhood of a 47 percent share of Hockey Related Revenue and the NHLPA seeking something closer to the 5152 percent neighborhood and each percentage point representing roughly 33 million per season it could still be some time before both sides agree on something close to a 5050 split of the hockey spoils.

In the meantime the Bruins will stick around at least until the end of September, bide their time hoping for a resolution and begin to make alternate plans if the NHL is indeed headed for another nuclear winter. Todays frustration should be nothing compared to what it will be a month from new when the owners, league, fans, players, arena employees and local barsrestaurants begin to feel the sting of the second NHL work stoppage in the last eight years.

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.