NHL lockout is a go

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NHL lockout is a go

The midnight hour passed without fanfare or much of a fight, and the NHL is officially in lockout mode.

The current CBA expired on Sept. 15, and both the NHL and NHLPA are nowhere near agreement on a new labor deal that would allow the business of hockey to continue. About the only thing the two sides can agree on is that its something approaching the Grand Canyon that separates the league and the players association.

The season looks like its going to be delayed, said Tyler Seguin, after Fridays final informal skate at Ristuccia Arena before the padlocks were up on the doors. I dont think you can really put a label on this is the day were locked out or this is the day when things are cancelledbut if it happens then it happens. Hopefully things work out and get done sooner rather than later.

Well, things have definitely happened on Sunday.

At least the NHL and NHLPA acknowledged that informal discussions will continue between both parties, but judging by their words it appears things are going exactly as the NHL wants them to at this point.

The main point of contention is the owners' desire to reduce the players' share of revenue down from its current 57 percent level. In their latest proposal, owners have offered a six-year deal with the players share hovering somewhere between 47-49 percent over the course of the deal.

Players have offered to give up some of their anticipated salary growth over the next 3-5 years, and they believe it would drop their share from 54.3 to 52.3 if the sport continues to grow at its current level of 7.1 percent. With each percentage point reduction meaning at least 33 million per year, there is a huge chasm between the two positions that could add up to a billion dollars over the course of a potential CBA.

Most believe that the NHL and NHLPA will eventually agree on a 5050 split of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR), but that the players will continue to balk at the leagues demands for either an escrow or rollback program in the new CBA.

Theres a belief that a team like the Bruins wont be paying the full freight for contracts signed to Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic et al because the league is counting on a rollback similar to the 24 percent subtraction in the previous CBA.

Instead the NHLPA is attempting to rework hockeys current fiscal landscape, and add a revenue sharing program that would make the NHL system similar to Major League Baseball a league thats had CBA harmony since 1994 when NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was heading that union.

We want a deal that stabilizes the industry and gets us out of this cycle, said Fehr. You get up every day and want to reach an agreement. If the lockout is the way it's going to be then unfortunately that's the way its going to be... but maybe that can be reconsidered."

The NHL refused to meet with the NHLPA negotiating team on Saturday afternoon because they saw no purpose to discussions prior to the lockout, and is taking a very hard line stance toward the players. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unapologetically began reeling off random things like the high cost of jet fuel and massage therapists that are raising the cost of doing business for the NHL teams. Those kinds of inflationary costs, according to Bettman, are driving the NHLs need for a greater piece of the pie, but it goes deeper than that.

The NHL broke records with 3.3 billion in revenue last season, and teams like the Blackhawks, Rangers, Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Flyers are making unprecedented gobs of money. Instead its the folly of pushing teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers into non-traditional hockey markets that are at the heart of the NHLs efforts and, of course, the owners unending love of as many profits as they can possibly scarf down at one sitting.

But rather than share the burden of subsidizing the 8-10 teams losing big money, the NHL currently believes that they can force the players into footing their bills by surrendering profits at the bargaining table. To be fair to the NHL, they put up the money to get things started and are 100 percent entitled to turn a profit within the business of hockey.

We've had seven years of incredible competitive balance," Bettman said. "The game on the ice has never been better. That is a function of this system. The system as originally negotiated needs some adjustments. It turned out to be too rich a deal for the first seven years. We lived with it, but I'm not going to apologize for saying we need to adjust it.

"The thought was somehow they got slammed in the negotiations last time. They didn't. We made at the time what we thought was a fair deal. It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been."

But theres a fine line between a professional sports business venture and a shiny grown-up toy for the Billionaire Boys Club.

So the NHL and NHLPA currently sit roughly 1 billion apart from each other over the life of a new CBA lasting in the six-year range, and Bettman has pulled the NHLs latest offer from the table. Most of the Bruins players believed that talks will get much more serious and substantial now that NHL regular season activities will begin getting cancelled over the next two weeks and it wont be long before games set to start on Oct. 11 will be erased as well.

The Sept. 15 deadline really doesnt mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things aside from forcing the players to practice on their own away from their NHL practice rinks and barring them from their own dressing rooms. But its meaningful symbolically for those that love and cherish NHL hockey, and those are the true victims being left for road kill as the NHL and NHLPA tear off in opposite directions away from the 2012-13 season.

Its not too late for either side to turn the car around at this point, but its difficult to see things getting going before December at the earliest. That worked out okay for the NBA during their strike-shortened season last year, but nothing seems to come quite as easy for the NHL.

Thats a sobering, scary thought indeed for anybody that loves the game.

Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for the fifth time

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for the fifth time

It was assumed that Patrice Bergeron will be finalist for the Selke Trophy again this season, and it became official on Thursday when it was announced that Bergeron, Ryan Kesler and Anze Kopitar were the three finalists for the award given to the best defensive forward.

It would be the third straight Selke Trophy and fourth overall for Bergeron if he can take the hardware home again during the NHL Awards in June, and the ever-humble No. 37 said he was just honored to once again be nominated.

“Being named a finalist for the Selke Trophy is a tremendous honor and one I am very grateful for,” said Bergeron in a press release. “While it is an individual award, my teammates and coaches deserve a lot of credit as well. Ryan and Anze are two elite players who both had great seasons and it is a privilege to be a finalist alongside them. Thanks to all of those who voted and I look forward to the NHL Awards Show on June 22.”

The Bruins center has won the Selke Trophy three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) and has now been a Selke finalist in each of the last five seasons. His three wins are tied for the second-most in NHL history, one behind Hall of Fame Canadiens forward Bob Gainey, who is the all-time leader with four Selke Trophies. Bergeron was the Bruins’ lone representative at the All-Star Game this winter for the second straight season, and was a no-brainer as a finalist given all of his defensive qualifications.

Bergeron finished the 2015-16 regular season leading the NHL in faceoffs taken (1,978) and for the second straight season led the league in faceoffs won (1,130) while finishing a solid seventh overall with a 57.1% faceoff win rate among players taking a minimum of 500 draws.

Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

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Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving a thumbs up to “The Good Dinosaur” as quality family viewing.

*TSN Hockey Buddha Bob McKenzie breaks down the players available in the NHL draft lottery and what kind of names teams like the Boston Bruins should expect to be available with the first 14 picks.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski talks about the World of Cup ads with the ESPN creative people that made them happen. They used the word jarring in something of a positive fashion to describe them. I would use the word “not funny” for Reg Carling, the fictional character created for the ads. If they were trying to feature the personality of NHL players in those ads, I think they missed the mark. It’s not really a big deal in the final scheme of things, but it doesn’t make for a good first step in drawing hockey fans back to the four letter network.  

*Good luck to Cam Tucker, a hockey writer based out of Vancouver that appears to have been one of the latest to be downsized in our industry.

*Dennis Bernstein has some thoughts, facts, analysis and theories surrounding the Los Angeles Kings, who have a long time to think about their first-round exit from the playoffs.

*Bruce Garrioch has some info on Ottawa’s long range plan to move to a needed downtown arena and that being the blueprint for most other Canadian cities.

*Tracey Myers has a dilemma for the Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw wants to stay, but the question is whether the Blackhawks can afford him?

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Bruce Boudreau lamenting the tough Game 7 loss for the Anaheim Ducks to the Nashville Predators. The loss may cost Boudreau his job, and will see a lot of new blood in the West with Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim now all out of the postseason.

*For something completely different: how can you say “no” to a tour of the world’s most magnificent treehouses.

Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

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Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

The Bruins will know a great deal more in a couple of days about their prospects for NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo this June.

The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery in Toronto on Saturday night for those teams outside the playoffs that hold first-round picks or those shrewd enough to have secured a first-rounder and still have reached the playoffs. 

The Bruins will have two first-round picks regardless of what happens: they hold their own lottery-eligible selection along with the first-round pick from the San Jose Sharks sent to Boston last summer in the trade for goaltender Martin Jones. The Sharks are still alive in the postseason, so the B’s second selection will be a late first-rounder.

The Bruins were the last NHL team eliminated from playoff contention, so they hold the slimmest odds of securing the first overall pick with a 1 percent chance in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

It’s too bad because the kind of game-breaking talent available at the top of the draft is exactly what the Black and Gold franchise needs after trading away top-10 first-round picks in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton the past three years.

The Bruins will have roughly the same odds for the second (1.1 percent chance) and third overall picks (1.3 percent chance) should they miss out on No. 1, but the chances are still slim at they will pick anywhere but the same exact 14th overall pick where they selected Jake DeBrusk last season. Should they get a selection in the top three, the Bruins would be looking at big-time center Matthews, and a pair of Finnish wingers in Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, along with Matthew Tkachuk (son of Keith Tkachuk and cousin to Jimmy Hayes).

The highest rated D-man on the board is Sarnia Sting blueliner Jakob Chycrun, who is a player the Bruins would need to trade up for, a la their attempt at Noah Hanifin last year. The Bruins will have assets to potentially make that happen, but we all know how that worked out last season for Don Sweeney when a big part of “the plan” was moving up to nab one of last year’s blue chip D-men in the draft.   

Hopeful Bruins fans can try their luck with the NHL Draft Lottery Simulator online, but fair warning that you won’t see the Spoked ‘B’ come up very much while hashing out the order of the top three overall picks for late June at the First Niagara Center.