Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'


Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'

The NHLPA response over the next two days will tell the complete tale of exactly what the NHL is facing in the next few months.

Labor strife and regular season time missed are moving closer to certainties rather than idle threats. The tea are there for all to see.

The NHL took a preposterous first proposal that players association executives determined would slash the players percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) from its current 57 percent level to 43 percent of the 3.3 billion money pie.

After a painstakingly crafted counter-offer from the NHLPA sought to solve the NHLs problems with a plan linked heavily to revenue sharing that would bail out the teams regularly losing money, the NHL returned on Tuesday with a proposal similar to the first offer that was barely worth its weight in pucks.

This time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors have upped the players share to 46 percent of the HRR a drop of 11 percent for the players and a cutback of roughly 330 million in earnable wages. For a group of players that have helped lift the NHL to unforeseen heights and agreed to a wage-limiting salary cap the last time around, that is whats commonly referred to as a dope slap.

Instead Bettman interestingly labeled it a meaningful, significant offer to reporters camped out in New York City over the last few days. The league has leverage and financial muscle, and theyre attempting to flex it simply because they can. Meanwhile NHL agents are preparing their clients for the worst with one hockey representative telling his players to prepare for there to be no NHL hockey until Christmas at the earliest.

Essentially this is what the NHL did with their latest offer: They improved on kicking the NHL players in the teeth by instead opting to kick them in the stomach.

Or perhaps the analogy should be more like how one hockey source with knowledge of the negotiations portrayed it to CSNNE.com: You took a really expletive proposal and made it a little less expletive. But that still makes it pretty expletive.

So that about sums it up, doesnt it?

Bettman is underscoring that the leagues offer is a meaningful and significant move, but thats pretty misleading, said the same source. The league hasnt moved one dollar. They moved off their own ridiculous offer that turned back player rights to years into the past, but they havent moved one dollar.

The players made an offer to partner with the big revenue clubs to help the smaller revenue clubs. They offered to give back some of their future growth in player compensation. The NHL isnt acknowledging at all the role that the players have played in growing the game.

The good news is that the NHL and the NHLPA are still negotiating and discussing things while sending offer volleys back and forth to each other. The bad news is that the NHL and NHLPA are speaking difference languages. It doesnt appear the league feels compelled to get on the same page as the players until after they start missing games in October.

Its a shame, but it shows how seriously committed the league is to getting exactly what it wants.

Why else would the straight-faced NHL present a proposal to the players that would turn back the clock three years on the salary cap ceiling to 58 million, and allow 16 out of 30 teams to already be in cap trouble before the season has even begun?

Theres no rush to action by a group of owners thats proven theyre willing to miss a season to achieve their goals, and theres no hesitation by an NHL commission fully prepared for a third work stoppage under his watch.

All of this will be happening while they take full advantage of two vital things that have made the NHL a golden goose during a time of economic recession: invested players that care intensely about protecting the game they love and diehard fans that returned after the NHL wiped away the entire 2004-05 season.

Bettman and the league know they can let their Gordon Gecko-style greed flag fly high, and those two things will always help insulate the NHL when things take a turn for the nasty.

Rookie preseason games and the beginning of training camp is already very much in danger as it appears both sides will blow past the Sept. 15 date when the current CBA expires. At that point the NHL owners will officially lock out the players and the NHL regular season will probably start cancelling games if both sides dont have something hammered out by Sept. 25 a date that would give teams a 10-14 day training camp to get ready for the NHL schedule.

Most expect that the NHL season will get underway prior to New Years Day to preserve the advertisingtelevision jewel that is the Winter Classic, but the two sides dont seem very close right now.

Forget about years until free agency, salary arbitration, entry level contracts and everything else that was wrapped up in that first draconian proposal from the NHL.

The negotiations will stall or turn in the arena of HRR, and the ever-changing definition and percentages divvied up by the players and the league will dominate negotiations until theres a breakthrough or a breakdown.

The players seem to understand that it will eventually become something closer to a 5050 split with the league as the NBA and NFL both agreed to in the last year leading up to hockeys summer of the CBA. Instead of creating their own ridiculous wish list proposal that asked for 59 percent of the hockey related revenue, players took the high road and negotiated with an adversary that doesnt seem to want to give them a fair shake.

Perhaps the NHL will get serious once they start to miss games, or once they realize that the NHLPA isnt going to break under the unprecedented solidarity Donald Fehr has fostered with the hockey rank-and-file.

But none of that is going to matter until both sides invest in a translator that has them speaking the same language.

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

So, what do the Bruins do now amidst a three-game tailspin that could easily devolve into a six- or seven-game losing stretch if they’re not too careful?

The goaltending has been predictably porous with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin out of commission with injuries. The Black and Gold allowed 11 goals in the past two games despite Zane McIntyre battling in tough conditions at Madison Square Garden. The bottom line is McIntyre and Malcolm Subban don’t look ready for NHL prime time and there are legitimate questions as to whether Subban ever will become an NHL goalie.

Beyond that, the Bruins defense has been downright atrocious just as the goaltending situation has deteriorated. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have struggled individually and as a pairing that the B’s coaching staff had hoped would complement Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo in Boston’s top-four. McQuaid is a minus-3 in his first two games back from an upper body injury and Krug is a minus-4 with a surprising zero points in his first seven games this season.

In fact, every Bruins defenseman not named Chara or Carlo is a combined minus-16 on the season and, of that group, only currently-in-the-AHL rookie Rob O’Gara has a positive plus/minus for the season. Both the defensive zone coverage and the compromised ability to break the puck out of their own end have been problematic and Boston’s opponents have enjoyed way too easy of a time getting into the slot area for juicy scoring chances.

In other words, the defense looks very much like last season for the Bruins with – surprise, surprise – nearly the same cast of characters returning from that subpar crew.

Then there’s the forward group, which has enjoyed great production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the early going and from David Backes before his elbow injury that was at least partially caused by the hard miles the 32-year-old brawny center has logged over the years. 

Patrice Bergeron has just one point in four games since returning from a lower body injury and opposing defenses in recent games have been able to key on that top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak while mostly neutralizing them. 

That’s because the other Bruins forward lines are doing nothing offensively from a production or puck possession standpoint. Sure, Austin Czarnik had his first NHL goal Wednesday night against the Rangers and Dominic Moore has a couple of goals for a fourth line that’s been decent for Boston this season.

But David Krejci has no goals and three points in seven games with a minus-4 rating while looking slow and tentative coming back from hip surgery, Ryan Spooner is off to a slow start bouncing between wing and center and the third line winger combo of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have zero points and a ghastly combined minus-14 rating on the season.

So, basically the Black and Gold have nothing to hang their hat on with the goaltending, the defensemen and the forwards all working at far less than full capacity right now, and that’s making them hockey road kill for opponents. To make matters worse, the Bruins find themselves in the middle of a six-game stretch where they’re playing quality teams that made the playoffs last season, and can expose all of their weak spots.

A prolonged losing streak could knock the Bruins far out of the playoff picture over the next few weeks and leave them more than a handful of points out of the postseason cut by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the odds would be against the Bruins turning things around and there would zero margin of error for a team that needs leeway based on the glaring roster weaknesses.

So, what are the Bruins to do right now?

There’s not much they can do aside from simply play better, hope that Backes and Rask can return rather quickly and avoid buckling and quitting in games like they did against the Wild and Rangers over the past few days. The Bruins will try to ramp Rask up potentially for this weekend against the Red Wings in Detroit and perhaps that will be enough time for his reported hamstring and groin issues to have healed up.

But if not, the Bruins will need to look on the goaltending market for possible answers rather than asking rookie goalies to thrive behind a struggling, substandard defensive group. Ondrej Pavelec out in Winnipeg would be too expensive in terms of cap hit and there may not be a chance to snag Mike Condon on waivers from Pittsburgh as the Penguins look like they want to hold onto the Massachusetts native with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury also in the fold.

That leaves the Bruins with a number of retread goalie options like Kari Ramo, Kevin Poulin, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis and Yann Danis, who might have to become a reality if Rask suffers a dreaded setback in the coming days. Bringing in a veteran goalie with NHL experience certainly makes some sense on paper if things are left to Subban and McIntyre, but the bottom line is that Boston will continue to resemble an imploding hockey club until some of their other deep-seated issues are fully addressed.

Gerry Cheevers isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and if he did, he’d smartly walk back out rather than get hung out to dry by a Bruins team that’s playing embarrassingly poorly in front of a couple of young goalies that need their best.  

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both.