Haggerty: NFL ref agreement means NHL is on the clock

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Haggerty: NFL ref agreement means NHL is on the clock

So now the NHL is officially on the clock.

It clearly wont really be a catastrophic event for the league until Oct. 11 hits and the NHL wont have anything but cancelled regular season games on their schedule. It also truly wont be a suicide mission until the NHL officially cancels the Winter Classic and 247 HBO series that have become marketing gold for pro hockey and that isnt expected to happen until sometime in November at the earliest.

But the NHL is now also the only major pro sports league that officially cant get its crap together.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the 30 owners or 29 if you consider the Phoenix Coyotes situation were handed a beautiful disaster of a diversion when the NFL was locking out their referees. The most successful sports league in the land had turned laughingstock as the replacement refs were botching calls and compromising the integrity of the sport.

Meanwhile nobody was paying attention to the staring contest going on between Bettman and Donald Fehr.

All of that NFL sound and fury was also before they ruined the sacred Monday Night Football by handing an undeserved win to Golden Tate and the Seattle Seahawks on a horrendous touchdown call. But Roger Goodell and the NHL finally heeded the public outcry to spend a little extra money, find some middle ground and get Ed Hochuli and his band of merry striped men back into the fold.

The NFL finally showed some respect for their paying customers rather than continuing to insult their intelligence while allowing their great sport to decay. Its time for the NHL to do the exact same before they become a year-long running joke on a slap shot into oblivion.

Clearly they are different situations.

The NFL is a 10 billion plus industry that was foolishly squabbling with the refs over a few million dollars. The two sides of the NHL CBA negotiations are about a billion dollars apart over the lifetime of the contract, and nobody is denying that money is the key issue.

But the scrutiny and the microscope is now expertly trained on Bettman and the NHL, and the lighting will only get more unforgiving as time marches on.

Much like the NFL, the commissioner and their owners were criticized for their tight purse philosophy, the NHL ownership is wearing the full brunt of the blame for the NHL lockout right now.

The NHL owners are losing the PR battle by a country mile with fans and media alike siding almost exclusively with a group of hockey players that are being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut by an industry thats never been more robust. The NHL lockout is about unloved franchises like the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes and the New York Islanders that few people care about at the end of the day.

Its a 3.3 billion industry where business of hockey has been booming, and it appears that both the NHL and the NHLPA feel theyre just scratching the surface of their popularity and revenue streams.

It makes zero sense that the NHL and NHLPA cant find a suitable middle ground to truly commence negotiations. There will obviously be no watershed Green BaySeattle moment for the NHL as long as theyre locked out and unable to play games, but it will be just as sobering if the NHL somehow turns away the 100,000 fans looking forward to a Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

That would be the kind of act that Detroit and Toronto hockey fans would never forgive, and would leave the same kind of stain caused by a band of misfit referees.

Goodells leadership abilities and management style came into question as the NFL became a runaway train with players, coaches, analysts, media and fans openly mocking the leagues willingness to place money over integrity.

Its the same tone of exasperation that NHL fans have been feeling all summer toward Bettman and the Board of Governors as theyve watched things slowly deteriorate into a bad, bad place. The two sides are unwilling to discuss the core economic issues when they get together this weekend, and clearly are stuck in an area where the NHL simply refuses to budge.

The NHL thankfully still has time to avoid their own personal abyss if both sides can give a little to create something that will keep hockey in business for the foreseeable future. Lets hope Bettman has learned from Goodells folly and doesnt need to be shamed into making a decision thats best for both the league and the hard-working, loyal customers that have made them so successful.

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.