Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'

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Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'

The NHLPA response over the next two days will tell the complete tale of exactly what the NHL is facing in the next few months.

Labor strife and regular season time missed are moving closer to certainties rather than idle threats. The tea are there for all to see.

The NHL took a preposterous first proposal that players association executives determined would slash the players percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) from its current 57 percent level to 43 percent of the 3.3 billion money pie.

After a painstakingly crafted counter-offer from the NHLPA sought to solve the NHLs problems with a plan linked heavily to revenue sharing that would bail out the teams regularly losing money, the NHL returned on Tuesday with a proposal similar to the first offer that was barely worth its weight in pucks.

This time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors have upped the players share to 46 percent of the HRR a drop of 11 percent for the players and a cutback of roughly 330 million in earnable wages. For a group of players that have helped lift the NHL to unforeseen heights and agreed to a wage-limiting salary cap the last time around, that is whats commonly referred to as a dope slap.

Instead Bettman interestingly labeled it a meaningful, significant offer to reporters camped out in New York City over the last few days. The league has leverage and financial muscle, and theyre attempting to flex it simply because they can. Meanwhile NHL agents are preparing their clients for the worst with one hockey representative telling his players to prepare for there to be no NHL hockey until Christmas at the earliest.

Essentially this is what the NHL did with their latest offer: They improved on kicking the NHL players in the teeth by instead opting to kick them in the stomach.

Or perhaps the analogy should be more like how one hockey source with knowledge of the negotiations portrayed it to CSNNE.com: You took a really expletive proposal and made it a little less expletive. But that still makes it pretty expletive.

So that about sums it up, doesnt it?

Bettman is underscoring that the leagues offer is a meaningful and significant move, but thats pretty misleading, said the same source. The league hasnt moved one dollar. They moved off their own ridiculous offer that turned back player rights to years into the past, but they havent moved one dollar.

The players made an offer to partner with the big revenue clubs to help the smaller revenue clubs. They offered to give back some of their future growth in player compensation. The NHL isnt acknowledging at all the role that the players have played in growing the game.

The good news is that the NHL and the NHLPA are still negotiating and discussing things while sending offer volleys back and forth to each other. The bad news is that the NHL and NHLPA are speaking difference languages. It doesnt appear the league feels compelled to get on the same page as the players until after they start missing games in October.

Its a shame, but it shows how seriously committed the league is to getting exactly what it wants.

Why else would the straight-faced NHL present a proposal to the players that would turn back the clock three years on the salary cap ceiling to 58 million, and allow 16 out of 30 teams to already be in cap trouble before the season has even begun?

Theres no rush to action by a group of owners thats proven theyre willing to miss a season to achieve their goals, and theres no hesitation by an NHL commission fully prepared for a third work stoppage under his watch.

All of this will be happening while they take full advantage of two vital things that have made the NHL a golden goose during a time of economic recession: invested players that care intensely about protecting the game they love and diehard fans that returned after the NHL wiped away the entire 2004-05 season.

Bettman and the league know they can let their Gordon Gecko-style greed flag fly high, and those two things will always help insulate the NHL when things take a turn for the nasty.

Rookie preseason games and the beginning of training camp is already very much in danger as it appears both sides will blow past the Sept. 15 date when the current CBA expires. At that point the NHL owners will officially lock out the players and the NHL regular season will probably start cancelling games if both sides dont have something hammered out by Sept. 25 a date that would give teams a 10-14 day training camp to get ready for the NHL schedule.

Most expect that the NHL season will get underway prior to New Years Day to preserve the advertisingtelevision jewel that is the Winter Classic, but the two sides dont seem very close right now.

Forget about years until free agency, salary arbitration, entry level contracts and everything else that was wrapped up in that first draconian proposal from the NHL.

The negotiations will stall or turn in the arena of HRR, and the ever-changing definition and percentages divvied up by the players and the league will dominate negotiations until theres a breakthrough or a breakdown.

The players seem to understand that it will eventually become something closer to a 5050 split with the league as the NBA and NFL both agreed to in the last year leading up to hockeys summer of the CBA. Instead of creating their own ridiculous wish list proposal that asked for 59 percent of the hockey related revenue, players took the high road and negotiated with an adversary that doesnt seem to want to give them a fair shake.

Perhaps the NHL will get serious once they start to miss games, or once they realize that the NHLPA isnt going to break under the unprecedented solidarity Donald Fehr has fostered with the hockey rank-and-file.

But none of that is going to matter until both sides invest in a translator that has them speaking the same language.

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.