Haggerty: Perhaps it's time for Bettman and Fehr to step away

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Haggerty: Perhaps it's time for Bettman and Fehr to step away

So now the NHL and NHLPA sit and wait to see who lost more pints of blood after the entire month of November was wiped clean from the hockey slate.

Or erased from existence as Doc Brown once said.

Its pretty clear at least one side of the negotiating table wanted things to play out this way, and that the tenor of negotiations have gotten a little well personal. Thats the only explanation for the fervent, uncomfortable staring contest going on between NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman one that might just rival the unblinking stare-down between Will Ferrells Robert Goulet and a mountain ram in a hilariously unforgettable SNL skit.

Unfortunately its not nearly as funny.

The New York Posts Larry Brooks relayed a story second-hand of an exchange between Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Fehr that is pretty revealing.

According to Brooks, Jacobs said in front of 19 NHL players, Fehr and three of his fellow owners along with Bettman and Bill Daly that Gary Bettman has the hardest job because he represents both the players and the owners.

Without missing a beat Fehr fired back Does that mean we can fire him?

That kind of board room bravado will win Fehr major points with the players, but both sides havent met face-to-face since with the league essentially refusing to sit down with the NHLPA.

Thats probably not a coincidence.

Several sources within the CBA negotiations with varying degrees of involvement have basically said the same thing to CSNNE.com in recent weeks: the players want Bettmans head in these negotiations.

One hockey source uttered that exact sentence last week in describing the current tenor of negotiations, and there are few players ready to hop on the railroad tracks to save the commissioner given how things have gone.

The problem with all this: Bettmans head is going to stay attached to the rest of his governing body and he still has the ear of the most powerful, influential owners on the Board of Governors. The hostility and antipathy from each side isnt doing any good, and the big personalities at the top of the NHL and NHLPA food chain dont seem to be meshing very well even as they move closer to agreement on a 5050 split of revenues and some kind ofcontract guarantee for the players.

If the players really want to take Bettman down then the work stoppage is going to last for a long, long, long time, and some of these players could be surrendering millions of dollars and perhaps enough missed time that it could adversely affect their careers -- to make it happen. If that is Fehr and the players end game then the 2012-13 season truly is in peril.

But the expectation is that much of it is lockout tough talk and the kind of vitriol that can spill out when a lockout turns costly for both sides.

Heres one suggestion that might just work, however: remove both Bettman and Fehr from the process and leave everything to the No. 2 men in each organization at this point in the negotiations. Bill Daly has been doing much of the heavy lifting for the NHL during these CBA discussions, and showed with the make whole provision that the league is willing to extend toward the middle ground.

Steve Fehr clearly has the trust of his brother, and some have said he is the heir apparent as the Exec Director of the NHLPA once this current CBA has been put to bed.

So why not have Daly and Fehr meet to hammer out the middle ground and find some amenable solution that meets the leagues 5050 requirement and satisfies the players call for the owners to live up the contracts theyve already signed? It certainly cant get any worse than the current state of CBA talks.

Some in the past few months have already called for Bettman to step back from these negotiations given the blood thats already on his hands from the 2004-05 missed season, and the three NHL work stoppages on his resume as commissioner. From a players point of view, hes looked at as the Darth Vader of CBA negotiations.

Fehr was brought in as the perfect combatant against Bettman in the conference room given his experience leading the Major League Baseball players union, and hes proven to be that while standing up to the NHL without flinching. That hes been able to do that while keeping the disparate factions of the NHLPA together in a ring of solidarity has been nothing short of remarkable.

For a group that has always splintered and fractured in the past when things got tough, the players arent budging this time around while feeling full well they are in the right.

So both men clearly have plenty invested and healthy egos at play as well. Maybe its time for both Bettman and Fehr to take a knee and sit out a few plays while seeing what might be possible to save a 65-game hockey season that could start in early December along with the Winter Classic and NHL All-Star game.

The alternative would be disastrous for all parties involved, and might mean that none of them escape with unscathed reputations if the NHL once again falls into the dumpster due to its own greed and hubris. If that happens then NHL and the players will both get exactly what they deserve, and the puck-loving fans will once again be the equations biggest losers.

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

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Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick may not be speaking with the media here this week, but there will be plenty for us to examine at the annual league meetings. 

Reporters were informed via a team spokesperson that the Patriots coach would not be in attendance at the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning -- where in the past orange juice has been sipped and tape recorders have been bulldozed -- due to a scouting conflict. 

The breakfast is not mandatory for coaches so for Belichick to use his time at a college pro day (Florida, Texas and Iowa State all have theirs scheduled for Tuesday) or a private workout comes as little surprise. He's been busy on the Trail of Due Diligence in recent weeks, making visits to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Michigan in order to get a closer look at prospects.

Five weeks behind, remember? No days off. 

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is planning to meet with reporters on Monday so we'll have an opportunity to hear from him on a variety of topics when that comes to pass. 

Here are some of the other Patriots-related stories we'll be doing some digging on this week as we keep you updated with blog posts, occasional television hits, tweets (@PhilAPerry), Instagram shots (@PhilAPerry), and maybe even a podcast or two.

* What does the rest of the league think when it sees the way the Patriots have attacked this offseason? How will the new pieces fit? Do other coaches and executives see it as Belichick going all in on 2017? Or is this just a case of a team adhering to its motto of doing "what's best for the football team" -- both in the short and long-term?

* What's next for the Patriots? They're not done building the roster so where might they turn next? Will they add other lower-level free agents? Will they be looking to trade back into the first and second rounds? Which positions seem to be of interest to them in the draft, and how might that signal the direction this roster is headed?

* What is the feeling on the future at the quarterback position in New England? We know the Patriots aren't looking to give away Jimmy Garoppolo, but do people around the league really feel as though a haul of draft picks really won't get the Patriots to think twice about trading him? Is it possible that in this rare scenario -- where the franchise quarterback is playing at an MVP-level but headed into his 40-year-old season -- people could see the Patriots paying two passers a starter's salary?

* Will anything happen with Malcolm Butler before the meetings are out? Some have speculated that if his status as a restricted free agent (with an unsigned first-round tender) is to change anytime soon, it could happen here, where presumably his agent will be able to hear offers from one or more clubs in person. Will Butler find a team willing to give him an offer sheet and relinquish its first-round pick to the Patriots? Or will he sign his tender -- whether it's with the intent to play for the Patriots in 2017, or to be traded?

* Rules changes are coming. We just don't know which ones. Will the linebacker leap (executed by Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin under Belichick) be eliminated? Will Stephen Gostkowski soon be looking to blast kickoffs through the uprights due to the passing of a rule that would place the ball at the 20 as opposed to the 25 for such a feat? Will real-time replay decisions suddenly shift from the officials on the field to the NFL offices at 345 Park Avenue? We'll let you know which proposals are held up, which fall flat, and how the Patriots might be impacted. Belichick and his staff did not submit any proposals for the second consecutive year.

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.