Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

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Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

The good news is that the NHL is going to start up talks again this week. The bad news is that both the NHL and NHLPA dont appear to be in any major hurry.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHL Exec Director Donald Fehr and lead counsel Steve Fehr will firm up plans to meet this week with early indications the meeting will take place on Wednesday in New York City, four days after the regular season was supposed to begin.

The delay might be partially caused by the Monday observation of Thanksgiving in Canada, but the inability of the two sides to get together until midweek is a little frustrating for hockey fans that want something done now. This weeks round of meetings were set up by a surprise meeting at the NHLPA offices in Toronto last week that emboldened some to think progress was being made.

It didnt appear that any new ground was broken during last weeks CBA discussion, and some of the same issues remain.

Theres a clear dislike for the NHL litigators among the NHL players that has begun to affect the tenor of the negotiations between the two sides, and thats degenerated into a very real lack of trust given the leagues long history of locking out its players.

The NHLPA has submitted progressive, thoughtful proposals that have the long term health of the league in mind, and taper the Hockey Related Revenue share down to 5050 over the length of the deal. But the NHL hasnt responded favorably to those deals, and continues to push for salary rollbacksescrow that would drop the players share under last years 1.87 billion piece of the revenue pie.

Dropping the players share below last years total is something thats a non-starter for the NHLPA, and that might be whats stalled talks over the last few weeks over core economic issues. Theres a very real aggravation among the players that theyre being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut on their salaries when the NHL is generating revenue at record-breaking totals.

Meanwhile, on the NHL side, several sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that theres plenty of wariness about Fehrs leadership of the players union. The Board of Governors are very hesitant to adopt anything significant that the NHLPA leader proposes for fear it will eventually turn out to be a deal thats more advantageous to the players. They know his reputation as a brilliant, tough negotiator from his days in the Major League Baseball Players Association, and many NHL owners are afraid to allow him too much slack during the negotiations.

Theres also a wide-held belief among the league owners and officers that Fehr got involved in the NHLPA for kicks, and that he is the only person that has nothing to lose if the NHL loses an entire season to a work stoppage. The belief here is that Fehr has already made his reputation leading the baseball players union, and nothing that happens during this labor negotiation will significantly help or hurt his legacy. That feeling isnt unanimous among the NHL owners, of course, as the idea of locking the players out doesnt appear to be the favored course of action for each of the 30 members of the Board of Governors despite a much-hyped "unanimous vote" to institute the work stoppage.

One of the keys to real hardball negotiations is to make the other side feel a little pain, and that discomfort will prompt more willingness to compromise from each sides stance. The pain and agony will start this week with hockey revenue and NHL pay checks gathering cobwebs while the best hockey league in the world keeps its doors shuttered rather than opening the regular season on Oct. 11.

There is no hope of an NHL return this week during Canadian Thanksgiving, but perhaps there is still a shred of hope that things will be looking better by the time of U.S. Thanksgiving more than a month from now. That should give both sides ample time to find some middle ground if they continue inching along at the current snails pace of CBA negotiations.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.