Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

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Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

Kevin Westgarth's summer has gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Los Angeles Kings, the forward is now spending his time in labor meetings trying to help negotiate a new CBA for the NHL. If it doesn't happen by September 15, there will be an NHL lockout.

As you're aware, it's not going well, and Westgarth, a Princeton graduate, seems pretty fed up with the negotiating process thus far.

On Wednesday, he was a guest on Danny Picard's radio show, "I'm Just Sayin'", where he was highly critical of NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman.

"As you said, the fans are frustrated, and I think the players are frustrated as well," Westgarth said. "It's something that we do want to take care of. I think the owners and the NHL got essentially everything they wanted last time, and for them to come with the variety of proposals they've brought so far just strictly isn't fair. We're looking for a fair deal just so we can get back to playing hockey."

Westgarth says he attends as many meetings as possible enough that he couldn't remember the number. Last week's meeting that he attended wasn't a good one.

"Obviously the week didn't end well and it sounded like the NHL was essentially cutting off talks. And we're obviously looking to get back into the negotiating room as everybody wants to figure this thing out before any hockey is lost like the tragedy that happened last time.

There's only a certain amount of money to go around, and neither side is happy with what each proposal dishes out.

"Inevitably it's - I think in any industry it's money," Westgarth said. "Gary Bettman has said it himself, he said he feels that the owners should be paying us less. That obviously- I tend to disagree with that. It's a league that has had record revenue the last few years. The game is just growing. The last time they locked us out they got as I said basically everything they wanted including a slurry cap which controls their cost automatically for players. They got all that and they basically said that the players will share in the growth of the game, and when you have as salary cap that's tied to revenues it automatically does that and now they're trying to take that away and tell us that essentially that we had nothing to do with the game growing, and the fans supporting it more and more."

Westgarth thinks the players' proposal is fair, centering around "a huge piece of revenue sharing". That's something the players don't look to budge on.

"Our proposal is based on the players giving up a number of concessions. We're going to give back hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years so that the owners can get themselves out of their own problems, and with that is a piece of revenue sharing, that is what we're asking for them to help us out to essentially fix whatever problems they may have and to help out these teams that may be struggling. We're willing to take some cutbacks over the next few years to limit the amount that we will be growing league-wide and obviously that was not accepted very well by the owners, but moving forward that has to be the way that we go with it with a huge piece of revenue sharing.

"As I said, we were willing to make some concessions over the next years and it's just unfortunate because for us any type of work stoppage would be an absolute last resort but I think as we're seeing with a lot of the leagues now but especially the NHL it seems like the lockout tends to be essentially one of their negotiating tactics and kind of first course of action to try to put pressure on the players. As a player it sucks because we want to play hockey, we know the fans want hockey and we love watching it as much as anybody else."

But it appears as though the two sides are very far apart at this point, and with the owner-imposed September 15 deadline looming, hockey in October looks grim. Westgarth even went as far as saying the ownership "believes in a different reality".

"Well we're definitely willing to work and to keep talking so that we can figure it out. But it's tough when you're negotiating against someone that believes in a different reality," he said. "They basically just want to have money grabbed from the players as opposed to trying to fix the actual problems and that's what we're trying to do here. As I said, it would be wonderful to get it done by the September 15 deadline and we'll do everything that we can to do it. That being said the September 15 deadline is only important because the owners have said that they will lock us out. We'd be more than willing to play under the current CBA and to continue negotiating in good faith and to get ready and to play hockey this season but the owners won't let us do that and it's something I guess we'll see coming up in the next week."

The next week is obviously a crucial one. If a lockout happens it will shorten or eliminate NHL training camps, and threaten the October 11 start to the regular season. Westgarth is still hoping for the best for the players' sake and the fans' sake.

"I am extremely hopeful that, yeah, we will be having hockey," Westgarth said. "As I said, I know the fans want it. I know that the NHL sometimes might - the league and the commissioner might think that they can do anything to the hockey fans because they're the best fans in the world but I think that's just being incredibly obtuse and taking them for granted. It's not something that we're willing to do as players. We're on the fans side. We want to get this done and make sure we're playing as soon as possible and make sure that no games are lost in the greatest sport in the world."

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

BOSTON – Having lost three games in a row for the first time under Bruce Cassidy at time of year when you can’t drop into losing streaks, Bruins fans clearly want some sense of surety when it comes to the B’s making the playoffs.

Well, they got an ironclad guarantee from Torey Krug after he was the best B’s player on the ice in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Krug has been a part of the teams that collapsed in each of the past two seasons and the puck-moving defenseman said things are going to be different this time around with nine games to go.

“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it. It’s a different feeling this year. [A collapse] is not going to happen this year. I know we’ve got a lot of pride in this room,” said Krug, who elevated his game and scored on a nifty, Bobby Orr-esque one-man rush up the ice in the third period. He also had a team-high seven shots on net and led the B’s in ice time in the loss. “The guys that have been through it. There’s no other option except making sure we stay on course and take care and do our jobs.

“You feel like you played pretty well and things didn’t go your way. You make a big mistake and it cost you. You got to realize what’s done is done, and we have an important task on Thursday [vs. the Lightning]. We’ve got to come to the rink with no other option except winning that game. That’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”

The Black and Gold are still in a pretty good position when it comes to the playoffs, even if their lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division is precarious right now. But it ultimately comes down to Boston summoning against Tampa Bay and the Islanders what they didn’t, or couldn’t, against Toronto and Ottawa, and making good on Krug’s defiant words following a bitter defeat. 


 

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

BOSTON – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Bruins outshot an opponent, lost and then lamented their lack of finish on a bevy of scoring plays while begrudgingly tipping their hats to a hot goaltender.

It was the scenario for many disappointing losses in the first 55 games of the season under Claude Julien, and it was a little too eerily reminiscent in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday night. 

Certainly it’s just one game and there has been far too much good as of late to believe the Bruins are cannon-balling into a pool of previous bad habits. But giving up a goal in the second period while watching Craig Anderson make 18 second-period saves at the other end of the ice was a stark reminder of the bad old days.

“We struggled up in Ottawa getting through [the neutral zone], tonight I thought we did a better job,” said Torey Krug. “A win against that system is just getting the puck behind them and going in on the fore-check. We’ll take that every time. We did well, but we’ve got to find a way to get more goals on the scoreboard.”

Certainly there some stellar saves: A flashy glove hand on a Noel Acciari backhander from the slot and a couple of stops on Frank Vatrano in tight around the net come to mind. But there were also some light, perimeter play kind of nights from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak where the turnovers (a combined eight giveaways between the two forwards) and loose play were coming fast and furious.

That’s the stuff that needs to improve after watching Ottawa score on three redirections with bodies camped in front of the net.

“There are some,” admitted Bruce Cassidy when asked about parallels to some darker days earlier in the season. “Some of it you have to give credit to the goaltender you’re playing. Look at his numbers, he’s been very good. I’m not going to look too far back. I think we had good looks off the rush – he [Craig Anderson] made saves. We did have our D come late, get a couple of good looks, and that’s something we’ve really worked on. We had a D join and score. That was actually a nice individual score. So, those parts of our game, I think, it just ebbs and flows over the course of the year where you run into hot goaltending and you have to stay with it.

“That’s when you have to keep the puck out of your net. [In Toronto], we were right there until two minutes to go where even though we weren’t scoring, we were in a position to get points. [Against the Senators] it was a breakdown right after we scored, so I think the focus has to be when you’re having tough luck around the net, you need to get points. And maybe these games end up 1-1, 2-2, they’re going into shootouts or overtime and you accumulate your points that way. I think that’s where the last two games have been disappointing. You know, we should have had points. It may not have been wins, but we should have been there at the end and playing 65 minutes, or whatever it took to finish it.”

The silver lining, of course, is that the Bruins didn't get bogged down in Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 trap and were able to dictate play a bit more while never actually leading in the game. But that does little good when won-loss results and points in the coffers are all that matters in the final weeks. 

Perhaps some of the offensive scale-back in the past few games has been by design after letting up seven goals to Edmonton in the Western Canada road finale, but it’s also about being tougher and more determined around the net.

Ottawa won that net-front battle on Tuesday night and subsequently won the hockey game, so it’s time for the Bruins to do that exact thing if they want better results vs. the Lightning and Islanders later this week.