Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

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Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. Dark days are indeed ahead for the NHL, and those that love it so dearly.

The NHL and NHLPA broke off talks on Tuesday with no progress serving as the biggest buzzword emanating out of the meetings in New York City. There was ample evidence that both sides are ready to move on to heightening their defenses rather than continue working to find some very elusive middle ground.

Thats the very definition of the word "discouraging."

The NHL released its first revenue loss projections due to the lockout, and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league will lose roughly 100 million due to the cancellation of the preseason.

But it gets even gloomier than that.

Whispers have kicked up in Canada, largely due to the sports radio megaphone enjoyed by Toronto radio host Billy Watters, that the NHL could begin setting into motion plans for replacement players if theres no end in sight for the lockout. Its a far-fetched notion that would appear to be patently illegal in places like Quebec and Alberta, so theres that.

But just the mention conjures up images from when the NHL last utilized replacement players, or worse, a bad Keanu Reeves movie.

At the very least, the NHL is expected to begin cancelling regular season games over the next couple of days with the Oct. 11 NHL regular season debut an impossible task at this point.

One player on the AHLNHL bubble that would likely be asked to take part in any theoretical replacement player scenario was quick and forthright in their response when asked if they would cross over.

Theres no way. That kind of thing stays with you for your entire career, said the player. Guys want to make it to the NHL the right way and be accepted by the brotherhood of players. That would never happen for anybody that crossed the lines while the lockout is going on. Good luck finding players willing to do that.

And good luck to finding customers willing to pay NHL prices to watch a patently inferior project.

In another move thats going to sting the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman, ESPN and the KHL have reached an agreement on a plan to televise Russian League hockey games and give fans an outlet to watch familiar NHL players like Zdeno Chara. The KHL games will be broadcast starting this week on ESPN3, which is a live stream channel not offered as part of the cable packages.

But the mere action of ESPN getting involved with a competing pro hockey league has to deepen the concern of Bettman and the NHL owners no matter how mild it is that the hockey consumer is ready for life to go on without the NHL. In the age of live-streaming video, satellite television and 100 percent coverage of everything under the sun on the Internet along with minor league and college hockey, diehard puck fans will find another outlet while the owners and players prepare for battle over a billion dollars.

So both the NHL and NHLPA camps have decided to go their separate ways for the time-being with the start of the regular season less than two weeks away. They cant agree on what constitutes the all-important Hockey Related Revenue and, according to CBC rink side reporter Elliotte Friedman, they cant even agree on who foots the bill for NHL players with over 600 games played that are guaranteed their own single hotel room on the road per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That is crazy given that the NHL raked in 3.3 billion last season, and that much more important things sit on the brink of obscurity.

Granted its not all something out of a disaster flick with Bettman and his Board of Governors hellbent on breaking the unions back, however.

The NHL acknowledged that a federal mediator might get involved if things continue on the same untracked pace for the next few weeks, and the league could still pull off an 82-game season provided a new CBA is in place by the first week of November.

But things must feel pretty real for Bruins fans as they watch key players like Chara and Patrice Bergeron pick up stakes, and head for Europe to play hockey until something breaks stateside. That wouldnt be happening if there was an end to the money madness in sight.

And when the first regular season games of a promising NHL season get chopped away this week, fans will likely be left with that same empty, hollow feeling for the second time in eight years.

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.