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.

Bruins know they 'have to go all in' vs. Islanders to control playoff fate

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Bruins know they 'have to go all in' vs. Islanders to control playoff fate

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins woke up on Saturday morning and found themselves out of the playoff picture for the first time in months by virtue of the one game in hand the New York Islanders have over the Black and Gold.

That makes Saturday night’s tilt against the Isles at the Barclays Center all the more important. A win will put the Bruins back into the lead for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and a loss would further drop them out of the playoff picture. It’s the biggest game of the season for the Bruins made that much grander in scale because Tuukka Rask is suddenly out with a lower body injury, and the Bruins will need a superior effort to snap a four game losing streak that has them teetering on the brink of playoff oblivion.

With all this swirling around, the Bruins know they can seize control of their playoff destiny with a win that will send them spinning off in the right direction. A loss will…well, that’s something the B’s don’t even want to entertain at this point after collapsing down the stretch in each of the last two seasons.

“With where we’re at right now, we can’t have any moral victories. Now it’s about doing the job and bearing down. We have to go all in tonight and have a big game. Hopefully the guys understand how important of a game it is and we have a big night,” said Brad Marchand. “I think we’re all excited. This is when we love to play when the game means so much, and it has a playoff feel. We’re fighting for our lives right now. It’s a great mood in the room, so hopefully we have a big bounce back.”

While the big picture can’t possibly be ignored given what’s happened with the Bruins this week, Bruce Cassidy also cautioned that simply viewing Saturday night as a two-point game was the best technique for success. Otherwise things could become overwhelming and packed with too much pressure when it should be something the Bruins are embracing rather than dreading.

“I hope our guys are creating some positive energy out there. This time of year you just need to have that mindset that it’s one game at a time,” said Cassidy. “You don’t look back, and you stay in the moment. That’s the message that gets conveyed to the group and for the most part they’ve done a good job with that. We just need to play our game and play it well.

“I truly believe they’ll bounce back. They didn’t have their best on Thursday and I think we’ve addressed that game. I believe they’ll take a lot of pride in their game tonight. Your leaders need to lead and your followers need to follow, and that’s a recipe for success for most teams. We’re no different and I expect that to be the case [against the Islanders].”

On the other side of the coin, it will be look out below if the Bruins drop a fifth straight game and continue a downward spiral as the Leafs, Lightning and Islanders are seem to be hitting their late season stride at the same time. 

Khudobin happy to step in for Rask in an 'important game'

Khudobin happy to step in for Rask in an 'important game'

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Bruins' original plan was for Anton Khudobin to get one out of the four big games with playoff implications this week, so the fact he’s starting Saturday night vs. the Islanders in a do-or-die game is in keeping with that plan. 

But the 30-year-old Khudobin couldn’t have been planning on making the start vs. the Isles after the Bruins lost the first three games this week vs. Toronto, Ottawa and Tampa Bay, and have lost four in a row in regulation overall.

All of that changed on Friday when Tuukka Rask determined he couldn’t play due to a lower body issue. That leaves the Bruins backup goaltender preparing to start in the biggest game of the regular season. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy said there would still have been a discussion about going with Khudobin tonight based on the way things had gone for Rask over the past four games, but it would have been bold going with the backup over a theoretically healthy No. 1 goalie.

“It would have been a conversation to have with [Rask] based on his physical well-being. He’s not used to the workload, but at this time of year that’s just what happens sometimes,” said Cassidy of Rask, who had started three games in four days before tonight’s DNP. “It would have been a conversation. We were considering Anton for a game this week, and it just so happens that it worked out to be [against the Islanders].”

It’s a good thing that Khudobin has won his past four games  and is playing his best hockey of the season. He said he's determined to be at his best despite his last start coming 10 days ago in Calgary.

“We don’t know what’s going on there [with Tuukka], so I’m just taking it day-by-day,” said Khudobin, who has a solid .916 save percentage in his past five appearances for the Black and Gold. “I’m not thinking too far ahead. It’s always great to play. It’s a really important game, and it’s the time of year where every point is really important.

“I’ve played pretty good and the guys have played really well in front of me. We’ve gotten the wins, so that’s the most important thing. When you get the wins, of course, it always feels really good.”

The Bruins showed a lot of faith in Khudobin signing him to a two-year deal on July 1 to be Rask’s backup. For most of this season he struggled badly in that role while going back and forth to Providence. Still, all of that will be forgotten if Khudobin can battle and compete his way to winning against the Islanders and help stabilize a Bruins team that looks headed for another late-season fall amid a four-game losing streak.