Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week


Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

The good news is that the NHL is going to start up talks again this week. The bad news is that both the NHL and NHLPA dont appear to be in any major hurry.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHL Exec Director Donald Fehr and lead counsel Steve Fehr will firm up plans to meet this week with early indications the meeting will take place on Wednesday in New York City, four days after the regular season was supposed to begin.

The delay might be partially caused by the Monday observation of Thanksgiving in Canada, but the inability of the two sides to get together until midweek is a little frustrating for hockey fans that want something done now. This weeks round of meetings were set up by a surprise meeting at the NHLPA offices in Toronto last week that emboldened some to think progress was being made.

It didnt appear that any new ground was broken during last weeks CBA discussion, and some of the same issues remain.

Theres a clear dislike for the NHL litigators among the NHL players that has begun to affect the tenor of the negotiations between the two sides, and thats degenerated into a very real lack of trust given the leagues long history of locking out its players.

The NHLPA has submitted progressive, thoughtful proposals that have the long term health of the league in mind, and taper the Hockey Related Revenue share down to 5050 over the length of the deal. But the NHL hasnt responded favorably to those deals, and continues to push for salary rollbacksescrow that would drop the players share under last years 1.87 billion piece of the revenue pie.

Dropping the players share below last years total is something thats a non-starter for the NHLPA, and that might be whats stalled talks over the last few weeks over core economic issues. Theres a very real aggravation among the players that theyre being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut on their salaries when the NHL is generating revenue at record-breaking totals.

Meanwhile, on the NHL side, several sources have indicated to that theres plenty of wariness about Fehrs leadership of the players union. The Board of Governors are very hesitant to adopt anything significant that the NHLPA leader proposes for fear it will eventually turn out to be a deal thats more advantageous to the players. They know his reputation as a brilliant, tough negotiator from his days in the Major League Baseball Players Association, and many NHL owners are afraid to allow him too much slack during the negotiations.

Theres also a wide-held belief among the league owners and officers that Fehr got involved in the NHLPA for kicks, and that he is the only person that has nothing to lose if the NHL loses an entire season to a work stoppage. The belief here is that Fehr has already made his reputation leading the baseball players union, and nothing that happens during this labor negotiation will significantly help or hurt his legacy. That feeling isnt unanimous among the NHL owners, of course, as the idea of locking the players out doesnt appear to be the favored course of action for each of the 30 members of the Board of Governors despite a much-hyped "unanimous vote" to institute the work stoppage.

One of the keys to real hardball negotiations is to make the other side feel a little pain, and that discomfort will prompt more willingness to compromise from each sides stance. The pain and agony will start this week with hockey revenue and NHL pay checks gathering cobwebs while the best hockey league in the world keeps its doors shuttered rather than opening the regular season on Oct. 11.

There is no hope of an NHL return this week during Canadian Thanksgiving, but perhaps there is still a shred of hope that things will be looking better by the time of U.S. Thanksgiving more than a month from now. That should give both sides ample time to find some middle ground if they continue inching along at the current snails pace of CBA negotiations.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.