Boston Bruins

NHL lockout is a go

883129.jpg

NHL lockout is a go

The midnight hour passed without fanfare or much of a fight, and the NHL is officially in lockout mode.

The current CBA expired on Sept. 15, and both the NHL and NHLPA are nowhere near agreement on a new labor deal that would allow the business of hockey to continue. About the only thing the two sides can agree on is that its something approaching the Grand Canyon that separates the league and the players association.

The season looks like its going to be delayed, said Tyler Seguin, after Fridays final informal skate at Ristuccia Arena before the padlocks were up on the doors. I dont think you can really put a label on this is the day were locked out or this is the day when things are cancelledbut if it happens then it happens. Hopefully things work out and get done sooner rather than later.

Well, things have definitely happened on Sunday.

At least the NHL and NHLPA acknowledged that informal discussions will continue between both parties, but judging by their words it appears things are going exactly as the NHL wants them to at this point.

The main point of contention is the owners' desire to reduce the players' share of revenue down from its current 57 percent level. In their latest proposal, owners have offered a six-year deal with the players share hovering somewhere between 47-49 percent over the course of the deal.

Players have offered to give up some of their anticipated salary growth over the next 3-5 years, and they believe it would drop their share from 54.3 to 52.3 if the sport continues to grow at its current level of 7.1 percent. With each percentage point reduction meaning at least 33 million per year, there is a huge chasm between the two positions that could add up to a billion dollars over the course of a potential CBA.

Most believe that the NHL and NHLPA will eventually agree on a 5050 split of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR), but that the players will continue to balk at the leagues demands for either an escrow or rollback program in the new CBA.

Theres a belief that a team like the Bruins wont be paying the full freight for contracts signed to Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic et al because the league is counting on a rollback similar to the 24 percent subtraction in the previous CBA.

Instead the NHLPA is attempting to rework hockeys current fiscal landscape, and add a revenue sharing program that would make the NHL system similar to Major League Baseball a league thats had CBA harmony since 1994 when NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was heading that union.

We want a deal that stabilizes the industry and gets us out of this cycle, said Fehr. You get up every day and want to reach an agreement. If the lockout is the way it's going to be then unfortunately that's the way its going to be... but maybe that can be reconsidered."

The NHL refused to meet with the NHLPA negotiating team on Saturday afternoon because they saw no purpose to discussions prior to the lockout, and is taking a very hard line stance toward the players. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unapologetically began reeling off random things like the high cost of jet fuel and massage therapists that are raising the cost of doing business for the NHL teams. Those kinds of inflationary costs, according to Bettman, are driving the NHLs need for a greater piece of the pie, but it goes deeper than that.

The NHL broke records with 3.3 billion in revenue last season, and teams like the Blackhawks, Rangers, Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Flyers are making unprecedented gobs of money. Instead its the folly of pushing teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers into non-traditional hockey markets that are at the heart of the NHLs efforts and, of course, the owners unending love of as many profits as they can possibly scarf down at one sitting.

But rather than share the burden of subsidizing the 8-10 teams losing big money, the NHL currently believes that they can force the players into footing their bills by surrendering profits at the bargaining table. To be fair to the NHL, they put up the money to get things started and are 100 percent entitled to turn a profit within the business of hockey.

We've had seven years of incredible competitive balance," Bettman said. "The game on the ice has never been better. That is a function of this system. The system as originally negotiated needs some adjustments. It turned out to be too rich a deal for the first seven years. We lived with it, but I'm not going to apologize for saying we need to adjust it.

"The thought was somehow they got slammed in the negotiations last time. They didn't. We made at the time what we thought was a fair deal. It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been."

But theres a fine line between a professional sports business venture and a shiny grown-up toy for the Billionaire Boys Club.

So the NHL and NHLPA currently sit roughly 1 billion apart from each other over the life of a new CBA lasting in the six-year range, and Bettman has pulled the NHLs latest offer from the table. Most of the Bruins players believed that talks will get much more serious and substantial now that NHL regular season activities will begin getting cancelled over the next two weeks and it wont be long before games set to start on Oct. 11 will be erased as well.

The Sept. 15 deadline really doesnt mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things aside from forcing the players to practice on their own away from their NHL practice rinks and barring them from their own dressing rooms. But its meaningful symbolically for those that love and cherish NHL hockey, and those are the true victims being left for road kill as the NHL and NHLPA tear off in opposite directions away from the 2012-13 season.

Its not too late for either side to turn the car around at this point, but its difficult to see things getting going before December at the earliest. That worked out okay for the NBA during their strike-shortened season last year, but nothing seems to come quite as easy for the NHL.

Thats a sobering, scary thought indeed for anybody that loves the game.

Czarnik trying not to be 'the forgotten man' in Bruins camp

bruins_austin_czarnik_082716.jpg

Czarnik trying not to be 'the forgotten man' in Bruins camp

BOSTON – With all of the talk about young forward prospects Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk, it would seem that Austin Czarnik wants to serve a reminder that he can play a little hockey too.

For the second year in a row, the 24-year-old diminutive forward is putting together a strong start to his training camp with a multi-point performance in a 4-2 exhibition victory over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Czarnik finished with a penalty-shot goal, two points and tied for the team-lead with four shots on net while playing with the energy, skating aggressiveness and in-your-face attitude that he’s going to need for NHL success. He also made his point that there are more than just a couple of young forwards in camp who can potentially help in Boston this winter.

“He was very good. I think the forgotten man, maybe, he was thinking [a bit] because we’ve talked about a lot of young guys. He’s still a young guy, and wants to make his mark and push for a job on the team,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of Czarnik, who posted five goals and 13 points in 49 games for the Bruins last season. “I thought he looked real good tonight. He won a lot of pucks. He’s always going to make plays in space, that’s his game. He won a lot of pucks and did a lot of little things well.”

It was Czarnik who really helped put the game away in the second period when he sped past a pair of defenders and forced them into hauling him down for a penalty shot with the B’s already up, 2-0. Czarnik patiently slowed his penalty-shot attempt before ripping one past Petr Mrazek’s glove hand in what ended up being the game-winning goal. Czarnik was in the middle of things again in the third on the insurance marker as he engineered a 3-on-1 rush before expertly feeding to Teddy Purcell for the sizzled one-timer.

Czarnik was downplaying the idea that he’s been overlooked in camp but show there was a strong need to remind the B’s organization how he can potentially help them as a fast, aggressive, pesky little center that can also make some plays.

“I’m not going to worry about [getting overlooked]. It’s part of life, you know it’s happened a lot? I’m not going to worry about that,” said Czarnik, who similarly won a job with the Bruins after a strong initial training camp last season. I’m just going to worry about myself and just try to do the right thing every single time and show them what I can do.

“I need to be an energy guy. There’s a lot of young talent now, you know, on the power play and everything now, so I need to try to create energy on the penalty kill and the fore-check. So that’s what my main focus is going to be.”

The energy really is the key to Czarnik’s long-term hopes with the Bruins and, consequently, the rest of the NHL. If he can play with the same skating legs, high energy and rapid pace that he’s consistently shown in preseasons, then there’s no reason to think he can’t help the Bruins. But there were far too many lulls in Czarnik’s rookie NHL season where the skating game wasn’t good enough, there wasn’t enough bite to his fore-check and there just weren’t enough plays being made on the ice.

Clearly, Czarnik is trying to change that impression in this camp with the B’s, but that could prove to be a much more difficult task with so many more quality forwards now battling for a few jobs on the roster in Boston. 

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

boston-bruins-charlie-mcavoy-2-90917.jpg

Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating that Brad Marchand is willing to say something is “an absolute joke.” There are not enough candid players in the NHL like good, ol' No. 63.

*So FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy writes that the Bruins are “a lowly number four nowadays” in the power rankings of the big four Boston sports teams. Certainly, Danny is technically correct in saying that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics are ahead of the Bruins in terms of the Boston pro sports zeitgeist and that they dominate the sports conversation.

But Shaughnessy points to the Bruins doing nothing to improve themselves last summer as some kind of reason behind their low position among the other Boston sports franchises, and that’s not really a factor. The problem right now is that the Bruins are extremely young and still a couple of years away from returning to true Stanley Cup contention as a result. 
Once Charlie McAvoy is a few years into his career, some of the other Bruins prospects are in the NHL for good and Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask are still at the back end of their prime, the Bruins will once again be a Cup contender that’s pushing their way back into the championship conversation that commands the attention of the Boston fan.

Would Shaughnessy have been more satisfied with the Bruins if they spent bad money on a big free-agent contract as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in back-to-back years, or if they traded premium prospect Brandon Carlo for hired gun Matt Duchene? That would be the kind of “big splash” move that a bad management group would make to appease the casual fans that don’t truly understand what the B’s are going with their draft-and-development plan.

This Bruins outfit is still a playoff team while they’re building back to that Cup-worthy level. They were playing a much more exciting, entertaining brand of hockey once Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien last winter. This isn’t a lowly team unworthy of the fans’ attention, or more importantly their sports dollar. This is much more about the all-time greatness of the New England Patriots, the deserved excitement for a Celtics team that is truly going for it after being in the Bruins current “building it back up” phase for the past few years and a playoff-level Red Sox team that really has no competition in the summertime.

This isn’t about what the Bruins aren’t doing right now. This is about what the Patriots and Celtics, and to a lesser degree the Red Sox, are doing right now. It's as simple as that in a local sports landscape that’s cyclical and constantly in motion.  

*What a great Facetime hit here from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro with Jay and Dan now that they’re thankfully back to their rightful home in Canada. The technical difficulties really make the whole thing come together.  

*Congrats to Jonathan Drouin for making a commitment to the city of Montreal that goes well beyond being a player for the Canadiens.

*Lots of prayers and well-wishes to Hingham, Mass., native and New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle after his stunning cancer diagnosis. Anybody that knows the Boyle family knows how courageous they are, and how much love and support that Brian will have at a time when he’s going to need every bit of it. I also included a link to a New York Post Q&A with Boyle where he talks a bit about his father’s miraculous battle with cancer as well.   

 *John Chayka is trying to bring with him a new chapter to the history of the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s seemingly always an uphill battle there.

*Nobody should have any problems with the contract extension handed out to Mikko Koivu by the Minnesota Wild.

*For something completely different: Are we seriously living in a world where the Juggalos are marching for their rights?

CSNNE SCHEDULE