Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

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Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

Kevin Westgarth's summer has gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Los Angeles Kings, the forward is now spending his time in labor meetings trying to help negotiate a new CBA for the NHL. If it doesn't happen by September 15, there will be an NHL lockout.

As you're aware, it's not going well, and Westgarth, a Princeton graduate, seems pretty fed up with the negotiating process thus far.

On Wednesday, he was a guest on Danny Picard's radio show, "I'm Just Sayin'", where he was highly critical of NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman.

"As you said, the fans are frustrated, and I think the players are frustrated as well," Westgarth said. "It's something that we do want to take care of. I think the owners and the NHL got essentially everything they wanted last time, and for them to come with the variety of proposals they've brought so far just strictly isn't fair. We're looking for a fair deal just so we can get back to playing hockey."

Westgarth says he attends as many meetings as possible enough that he couldn't remember the number. Last week's meeting that he attended wasn't a good one.

"Obviously the week didn't end well and it sounded like the NHL was essentially cutting off talks. And we're obviously looking to get back into the negotiating room as everybody wants to figure this thing out before any hockey is lost like the tragedy that happened last time.

There's only a certain amount of money to go around, and neither side is happy with what each proposal dishes out.

"Inevitably it's - I think in any industry it's money," Westgarth said. "Gary Bettman has said it himself, he said he feels that the owners should be paying us less. That obviously- I tend to disagree with that. It's a league that has had record revenue the last few years. The game is just growing. The last time they locked us out they got as I said basically everything they wanted including a slurry cap which controls their cost automatically for players. They got all that and they basically said that the players will share in the growth of the game, and when you have as salary cap that's tied to revenues it automatically does that and now they're trying to take that away and tell us that essentially that we had nothing to do with the game growing, and the fans supporting it more and more."

Westgarth thinks the players' proposal is fair, centering around "a huge piece of revenue sharing". That's something the players don't look to budge on.

"Our proposal is based on the players giving up a number of concessions. We're going to give back hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years so that the owners can get themselves out of their own problems, and with that is a piece of revenue sharing, that is what we're asking for them to help us out to essentially fix whatever problems they may have and to help out these teams that may be struggling. We're willing to take some cutbacks over the next few years to limit the amount that we will be growing league-wide and obviously that was not accepted very well by the owners, but moving forward that has to be the way that we go with it with a huge piece of revenue sharing.

"As I said, we were willing to make some concessions over the next years and it's just unfortunate because for us any type of work stoppage would be an absolute last resort but I think as we're seeing with a lot of the leagues now but especially the NHL it seems like the lockout tends to be essentially one of their negotiating tactics and kind of first course of action to try to put pressure on the players. As a player it sucks because we want to play hockey, we know the fans want hockey and we love watching it as much as anybody else."

But it appears as though the two sides are very far apart at this point, and with the owner-imposed September 15 deadline looming, hockey in October looks grim. Westgarth even went as far as saying the ownership "believes in a different reality".

"Well we're definitely willing to work and to keep talking so that we can figure it out. But it's tough when you're negotiating against someone that believes in a different reality," he said. "They basically just want to have money grabbed from the players as opposed to trying to fix the actual problems and that's what we're trying to do here. As I said, it would be wonderful to get it done by the September 15 deadline and we'll do everything that we can to do it. That being said the September 15 deadline is only important because the owners have said that they will lock us out. We'd be more than willing to play under the current CBA and to continue negotiating in good faith and to get ready and to play hockey this season but the owners won't let us do that and it's something I guess we'll see coming up in the next week."

The next week is obviously a crucial one. If a lockout happens it will shorten or eliminate NHL training camps, and threaten the October 11 start to the regular season. Westgarth is still hoping for the best for the players' sake and the fans' sake.

"I am extremely hopeful that, yeah, we will be having hockey," Westgarth said. "As I said, I know the fans want it. I know that the NHL sometimes might - the league and the commissioner might think that they can do anything to the hockey fans because they're the best fans in the world but I think that's just being incredibly obtuse and taking them for granted. It's not something that we're willing to do as players. We're on the fans side. We want to get this done and make sure we're playing as soon as possible and make sure that no games are lost in the greatest sport in the world."

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

It sounds like Claude Julien has reached a breaking point with a fragile, inconsistent group of Bruins players who have lost four games in a row at a critical point in the season.

The Bruins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon, and completely fell apart in the final period after Tuukka Rask was lifted because of migraine issues in the middle of the game. It was a typical Bruins effort, in which there weren’t enough scoring chances despite 45 shots on net -- largely from the perimeter -- and the defense totally unraveled in the third period once the Penguins got their offense going.

After the loss, the embattled Julien challenged his players, saying they weren’t providing enough across the board . . . which has largely been the case for the last two months as the Bruins have stagnated as a team.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” he told reporters after the game. “With the opportunities that we had, we don’t capitalize on them. You always give the goaltender on the other side some (Matt Murray) credit. He was good tonight but at the same time, if you’re going to win hockey games, you’ve got to find ways to get [shots] through to him.

"It’s frustrating. There are a lot of guys that, right now, aren’t giving us enough, and this is a team that I think needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game, so this is where it’s important for our guys to understand that and it’s important to have 20 guys that want to go. It’s okay to have talent, but you’ve got to compete. For others, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to be willing to do the things that are not fun to do but are going to help your hockey club. It’s too bad because I think the players we expect a lot out of every night are certainly battling every night, but we need more than that . . .

“When you’ve lost three, now four in a row, it sets in. We’ve got to find a way to turn this around and start going back to the drawing board with our guys respecting what they need to do and be patient enough to give it time to turn around. When I say patience I don’t mean we need to do it in the next week. We need to do it next game but we need to respect what we’ve done well and when we’re in our game and within our structure we’ve had success but in order to be within the structure, you’ve got to be willing to want to do those things. Right now, we don’t have everybody and it just takes one guy not to want to do his job and it throws everybody else off. We have to look at personnel that way, and say that if we need to replace some guys, and we need to be patient with others, I want guys that care and want guys that want to come in and give it their all every night. We need more of that, and we don’t have enough right now.”

It remains to be seen what, or who, Julien is referring to when he mentioned personnel during his postgame comments, but it’s clear he's well aware the effort hasn’t been consistently good enough over the last two months.
 
The Bruins have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division, with the Maple Leafs just a point behind them while holding a whopping six games in hand. Even struggling teams like the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes have caught up to the B’s in the playoff race, while holding games in hand.

The B’s are in big, big trouble at this point in the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with games against an improving Red Wings club and the dominant Penguins prior to a much-needed break recess for the All-Star break.