Bruins players afraid NHL 'almost becoming a joke'

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Bruins players afraid NHL 'almost becoming a joke'

CAMBRIDGE There are a few different things that the NHL owners have always preyed on while handing out work stoppages like Halloween candy under the leadership of Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Theyve always been able to break the backs of the players association at a critical juncture of the negotiations, and then take advantage of an NHLPA that couldnt remain unified. Theyve always been able to count on the hockey diehards forgiving, forgetting and returning as ticket-buying consumers no matter how much the NHL plays the role of the drunken, abusive spouse.

In the end the NHL has also always taken full advantage of the individual hockey players, and their deep-rooted concern for the health and well-being of the league that they love. That aforementioned concern about damaging the game was front-and-center while chatting with the players after their second lockout practice at Harvards Bright Hockey Center on Tuesday afternoon.

We hoped it wouldnt be as confrontational as the last time around, but obviously that wasnt the same sentiment on the other side, said Andrew Ference. Were getting into this rut where were almost a joke. Every few years weve got to revisit the same thing. One year its explained one way, and one year its explained another way.

The bottom line is were missing hockey games with these lockouts, and its just the cycle of nonsense where you have to say enough is enough. Lets have some long term stability in the sport. If the game is gaining in popularity then we dont have to halt it and do this to ourselves again.

The NHL wants a rollback or escrow to scale back as much as 20 percent from the more than 1 billion with a b contracts that the fiscally strapped owners agreed to this summer. They dont seem to have much concern over anything beyond a major reduction in player payroll costs while the players are looking for a more permanent solution that will avoid another work stoppage when this new CBA is finished.

Meanwhile the players are wondering when the two sides will begin substantial talks again, and left to wonder if theyre once again about to play a part in putting a permanent black mark on the NHL.

Our proposal addresses some of these teams at the bottom of the hockey markets, said Ference. The other one from the NHL just doesnt. Besides the percentage of hockey related revenue and the definition of it, thats a huge issue. We just dont want to get back into the same thing four or five years ago. A lockout hurts us, it hurts the fans and it hurts a lot of things.

At least as players we can find other places to play and guys are going overseas . . . we have options. At the end of the day we care about the league doing well and continuing on the path of whats been some very successful years. The term partnership was thrown a lot during the last lockout, and thrown around pretty loosely. Youre building something together. Its not just marketing that builds the game. Its the players and its the hard work, and its the marketing. To have it interrupted again and again and again kills the momentum. It all comes back to the same thing: putting an end to all this.

The players are also wildly cognizant of the uphill climb out of the 2004-05 lockout after missing an entire season of hockey the first major professional sport to miss an entire year due to labor strife and how quickly the NHLs momentum can be slowed or even worse, stalled.

The hockey calendar is only just now creeping into what would have been the first few days of training camp. Things will get a lot more real for both sides when regular season games start getting cancelled starting October 11, and the negative reaction from loyal, ardent hockey fans should be unmerciful and angry for all those involved.

Every time theres a work stoppage and theres no media coverage out there, then people lose interest in the game, said Seidenberg. Hockey isnt a sport like football or baseball where a large group of people live for it. We need the coverage to be out there to keep it going and to keep the game popular.

Far be it for this humble hockey writer to extol the virtues of the hockey media helping to market the NHL in its time of need, but Seidenbergs point is very well-taken. Despite its stunning growth over the last five years, the NHL is still the fourth most popular pro sport among the four major leagues. The NBA recovered from their work stoppage last season, but they dont have the checkered past of Bettman and the NHL when it comes to labor issues.

Its also a much shorter drop for the NHL to plummet into oblivion if Bettman and the NHLPA both lose this game of labor chicken that has the players so concerned about the state of their game.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.