Haggerty: Things just got real with the NHL labor situation


Haggerty: Things just got real with the NHL labor situation

Most with an understanding of the NHL labor issues both overt and underlying expected this moment to arrive.

That didnt make it any more disheartening when the NHL and NHLPA both decided to take a recess from CBA negotiations at the end of this week with no further discussions scheduled. Both NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr addressed the media after a brief 90 minute bargaining session, and it sure sounded like the two sides were stuck-fast at an impasse.

Perhaps most interesting of all, each side charged the other with calling for the break in the talks with nothing officially scheduled after the Labor Day weekend.

We have advised the commissioner and Bill Daly that the players and staff will be in New York for the next two weeksand therefore we are available to continue meeting, said Fehr. But at this point the talks are recessed. We will not be discussing these issues again unless or until there is word from the NHL that they are ready to continue. Hopefully that will be soon.

Of course there are still two weeks before the Sept. 15 date when the previous CBA officially expires, and an agreement up until then means the NHL regular season goes on unaffected.

But Bettman stood firm to the NHLs latest meaningful and significant proposal the league claims would give the players back upwards of 400 million in prospective salary while making it close to a 5050 split between the owners and players.

Of course Fehr and the players dont see it that way at all. Theres the rub.

During this period and this is a good thing the league has had record growth. I believe there have been record revenues every year, or virtually every year, with a big revenue jump in each of the last two years, said Fehr. Given those things the players overall feeling has been that they are not prepared to and dont feel its appropriate to see an absolute further reduction in their aggregate salaries.

The owners have the salary cap system that they want and that incorporates already large reductions in players salaries. Then the question is if there are further issueswhere do we look for the responsibility in those. The players made a very forthcoming proposal to the owners in an effort to find an agreement by limiting salary growth to a specified dollar amount over the next three years. The theory is that the player concessions in the first three with revenue growth could allow the NHL to grow their way out of whatever problems they perceive that they have.

The NHLPA contends the second proposal moved their percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) as its currently defined -- from 43 percent to 46 percent.
Thats still an 11 percent drop from the players current 57 percent slice of the revenue pie. Thats also roughly 363 million in salary the NHL wants back in their pocket books while dropping the salary cap to 58 million to reset player salaries back to what they were in 2008-09.

Under the NHLs latest proposal the NHL salary cap, 16 teams over that amount scrambling to dump salaries and essentially turn back the hockey clock with clubs like the Bruins and Flyers in serious cap trouble. The NHL is essentially looking for a do over after their owners handed out lengthy, exorbitant contracts to superstar players including the Minnesota mega-deals to both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter earlier this summer.
Some might call that cold-hearted business, and others would call it incredibly disingenuous for a league to approve contracts it knew wouldnt be sustainable under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Bettman essentially told the players theres nothing to talk about if theyre not willing to go along with the cost-controlled main objective from the league, and Fehr was adamant about revenue sharing as a viable alternative to slashing player salaries.

Instead Bettman calls the revenue sharing thats insulated all Major League Baseball franchises a distraction and says its got nothing to do with the leagues objective to reduce the NHLs player payroll amount.

There was no counter-proposal or new proposal from the players. There was some discussion of revenue sharing and I dont even know why because that doesnt address the fundamental business issues. We dont believe that revenue sharing fully addresses the issues that we feel need to be addressed, said Bettman. The union was clear on the economics where we moved 460 million on Tuesday that theyre not ready to move anything at all. We both agreed that when one of us has something to say that well pick up the phone.

Were not going to respond further with a proposal based on their non-movement within the economics. We believe we should be paying less to the players. We believe that 57 percent of HRR is less than we should pay.

Bettman wouldnt give reasons why the league should be paying less to the players but its clear the NHL is attempting to help out the 8-10 teams that are losing money each season. Its also clear the owners are looking to cash in more fully with the NHL on the verge of its biggest profit boom in the sports history.

Theyre hoping to create league-wide health with their hard line stance, and line their own pockets at the same time.

The mere fact the NHL watched a record 3.3 billion in revenue stream into their coffers last season betrays that they already hold the solution for their lesser franchises fiscal problems.
Something just seems fundamentally wrong about a league thats broken revenue records nearly every season since their last lockout, and now wants employees to take a haircut on their payroll. Beyond that the two sides cant even come to an agreement on the length of a new deal: the NHLPA wants a four-year deal and the NHL wants something in the six or seven year deal.

Its as if the NHL and NHLPA are speaking different languages, and they dont seem willing to invest in a translator. One thing is pretty clear from fan feedback: the court of public opinion is strongly and squarely on the side of NHL players that have already admitted they are ready to make sacrifices in order to preserve the health and well-being of the game they love.

A Pro Hockey Talk poll of fans showed that the NHL ownersBettman have little support from the ticket-buying customers.

The fans dont like Bettman or the NHL owners, and they dont trust them either. Its a dangerous game the NHL Board of Governors is playing while continuing to push a loyal fan base that already boos Bettman at every Stanley Cup ceremony with vitriolic luster.

At some point the fans wont come back, and theyre not buying what Bettman and Co. are selling right now on any level.

The NHLPA is looking for a partnership with the NHL to preserve franchises like Phoenix, New Jersey and Florida that seem to perennially find themselves under water financially. Bettman and Co. are still treating it like its a dictatorship and that the players will ultimately bend to their will once things get real in October.

Gordon Gecko found out at the end of Wall Street that perhaps his Greed is Good mantra wasnt all its cracked up to be. Unfortunately the NHL may find the same if they go through with their third work stoppage in the last 18 years that now seems inevitable.

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

There’s been smoke for weeks signaling trade talks between the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche, and things are reportedly heating up with the Bruins potentially reaching a tipping point with their subpar play on the ice. According to Bleacher Report columnist Adrian Dater, things may be progressing between the two teams because the Bruins are beginning to entertain the idea of trading away 20-year-old top pairing rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr. was expected to be out in Colorado scouting the Avalanche/Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, and perhaps getting a long look at players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie among others.

The expectation is that 24-year-old Landeskog is in the middle of these trade discussions, and that he would be one of the players targeted by a Bruins team that could use more size on the wing, and more players that can put the puck in the net. Certainly Landeskog has done that in his brief NHL career after being a No. 2 overall pick, and has four 20-goal seasons on his resume prior to a disappointing, injury-plagued current season in Colorado.

The word around the league was that talks fizzled between the Bruins and Avs previously when Joe Sakic asked about the availability of the Colorado Springs native Carlo, and those discussions hit the same crunching roadblock that Winnipeg did in discussions with Boston about Jacob Trouba.

Perhaps that has changed in the last 24 hours after Cam Neely and Don Sweeney watched their Bruins completely no-show against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon. Now one would expect that Bruins management is getting desperate feeling that a third “Did Not Qualify” for the Stanley Cup playoffs could be in their future if they don’t make a bold, swift move to shake up their dazed hockey club.

But let’s not pull any punches here. The entire Bruins management group should be fired on the spot if they trade a 20-year-old, top pairing shutdown defenseman on an entry level contract like Carlo unless they are getting a bona fide superstar in return. Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak should all be young, untouchable assets for a Bruins organization that is years away from legitimately holding a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Landeskog is not a bona fide superstar. He’s a good player that’s topped out at 26 goals and 65 points in the NHL, but he’s also the Captain on a horrendous, underachieving Avalanche team over the last three years.

If the price were right for Landeskog it would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to deal him, but it’s a giant honking red flag that Colorado is looking to unload a player like him that’s signed for a reasonable $5.5 million price tag over the next four seasons. Teams don’t trade young players like that with term unless there’s more to the story, and that’s something the Bruins would do well to consider before giving up a player that could be a top-4 shutdown defenseman in Boston for the next 10 years.

Teams like the Bruins that are in reloading mode also shouldn’t be trading 20-year-old players for 24-year-old players that have already cashed in on their second contract. That’s exactly how the Bruins can get right back into salary cap trouble, and do it with a team that’s producing far less than the Peter Chiarelli groups that were at least still making the playoffs.  

Certainly the Bruins have other young D-men like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon coming down the pipeline, but none of those defensemen are in the mold of a true shutdown D like the 6-foot-5 Carlo. With Zdeno Chara in the final few years of his career with the Black and Gold, the B’s are going to need Carlo to slide into that defensive stopper role given his size, strength, wing span and willingness to do the dirty work the D-zone.

That goes beyond the simple fact that rebuilding the back end with ALL of those young stud D-men is the best way to actually build the Bruins back up into a legitimate Eastern Conference power. 

It would be a giant mistake for the Bruins to ship away a player like Carlo with the hope Landeskog can put Boston over the hump for the playoffs this season, and perhaps ease some of the intense pressure currently weighing on Sweeney and Neely. That kind of desperate move smacks of doing it for all of the wrong reasons, and that’s one way to ensure that the Bruins will never escape the web of mediocrity that they’re currently caught in. 

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season.