Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

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Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

With everybody and their puck-loving uncle believing that an 82-game NHL regular season hangs in the balance over the next 48 hours, the NHL and NHLPA arent going to meet because they essentially cant agree on who will cater the negotiating session.

Its more complicated than that, obviously, but it doesnt appear either side is taking seriously the Thursday deadline for a Nov. 2 start to the regular season at this point.

The NHLPA held a Tuesday conference call with over 100 players, and concluded that discussion by formally asking to meet with NHL officials on Wednesday as an extension of negotiations. They were rebuffed by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who essentially said theres nothing to discuss after last weeks breakdown in negotiations.

The league put out a straight 5050 offer with the players that included a make whole provision and a slight easement on the contract rights limitations proposed this summer. They also announced it was essentially a take-it-or-leave-it offer with only slight tweaks allowed to the proposal. In the leagues eyes there isnt much ground for discussion if the players arent ready to embrace that deal fully, and the NHL side contends that some hard line owners are displeased with the amount theyve already conceded.

They suggested they were willing to meet. But they also told us they werent interested in the proposal made last Tuesday and that they werent prepared to make their own proposal, said Daly in a statement to reporters. Not sure what we would be meeting about.

Daly's statement elicited a response from NHLPA lead counsel Steve Fehr outlining a group of NHL players looking to talk. This despite the fact there isnt a single actual concession from the owners in their latest proposal, and the NHL players would be in a worse position at every imaginable turn from the last CBA.

Have the 700-plus NHLPA members finally decided to further discuss the make whole provision and perhaps find a way to take deferred payments out of the owners profits rather than the players?

Have the players decided they can live with a small amount of escrow in the five percent neighborhood to help make a 5050 split possible at the start of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Its difficult to tell whats afoot if theres not actual dialogue between the power quartet of Daly, Gary Bettman and the Fehr brothers.

"The league is apparently unwilling to meet, said Steve Fehr in a statement. That is unfortunate as it is hard to make progress without talking."

Thats solid logic from Fehr, of course.

But its also reached the point in these negotiations where nobody can differentiate between the PR spin battle and legitimate attempts to bridge the gap between each side. Theres no trust on either side, and that situation was exacerbated by the NHL owners, presidents and GMs secretly getting into contact with the players during a 48-hour period last week.

Bruins President Cam Neely gave a no comment when asked by CSNNE.com if hed been in contact with Bruins players during that 48-hour amnesty period last week. According to sources within the NHLPA, the union expected the hawk owners to be more proactive in reaching out the players during the lockout amnesty period. Bruins management would clearly qualify under that description.

The league contends there were specific controls in place for the ownerplayer conversations to keep proper good-faith bargaining in place, but its impossible to police those kinds of chats with so much at stake. A much more believable scenario is the NHL was doing its level best to get the players to strike out against Fehrs NHLPA leadership. But that kind of thing -- so common in the past for an NHLPA thats always been in a constant state of fracture -- just isnt going to happen this time around.

The clandestine operations to undermine each other and verbal volleys back and forth have come to characterize these negotiations, and theres real damage being done to the NHLs reputation and the fans' interest.

Thats particularly disappointing when its clear both sides have moved closer to each other in the last week.

The NHL wants a 5050 split of Hockey Related Revenue and the NHLPA wants the league to guarantee the full value of all contracts signed before Sept. 15. Both are fair and reasonable requests. Its impossible to have both, though, without escrow or long-term deferment, however.

Common sense would say that there has to be a creative way to incorporate both to the satisfaction of the owners and the players given the brain power involved with these labor talks.

The NHL and NHLPA are hundreds of millions apart (rather than a billion dollars) after last weeks flurry of proposals, but neither side has indicated a legitimate willingness to budge off their last offers.

Perhaps that wont change in the next 48 hours, and both sides will cry uncle on the possibility of an 82-game season.

But there has to be some greater wiggle room left to save a full 82-game regular season if both the NHL and NHLPA are truly interested in a full hockey campaign that could run through the playoffs until June 30. One NHL player on last week's conference call indicated there's a belief that Nov. 2 isn't a drop dead date, and that a full season could be possible if started a week or two afterward.

Maybe there would be a little flexibility left if one side can finally step forward for the greater good of the game. But that seems an old-time hockey pipe dream right now.

The more likely scenario: Nov. 2 goes by the boards and the NHL and NHLPA agree on a new CBA at some point later in the month of November. That could lead to a shortened NHL season of 60-70 games and picturesque glove save to keep the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic intact. MLive.com indicated last week that the NHL wouldnt be forced to cancel the Winter Classic until around November 15-20 because it would need at least that amount of time to prepare for the Jan. 1 outdoor game.

So nobody needs to live in fear the entire NHL season -- and all of its tent-pole events -- will be cancelled if negotiations this week suddenly turn into the final bullet-riddled shootout scene from True Romance.

But it would be nice if both sides decided to show everybody else that they actually care, wouldnt it?

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.