Losses piling up for Fehr, NHLPA in losing battle from start


Losses piling up for Fehr, NHLPA in losing battle from start

Steve Burton should have been right. He was right about Phil Kessel having testicular cancer. He was right about Tim Thomas skipping his final season to hunker down at NORAD in preparation for the Mayan apocalypse.

And he should have been right about the NHL lockout being over. Its too bad that Steve Burton didnt take into account the fact that Donald Fehr is still very much involved in this negotiation process.

Donald Fehr clearly doesnt realize hes no longer toying with Bumbling Uncle Bud Selig, a commissioner so inept he couldnt negotiate his way out of an All Star Game tie, let alone a labor impasse.

Fehr, a players executive who has lead his charges into work stoppages in six of the eight labor disputes hes been involved in, is now trying put his mutually assured destruction negotiation tactics into a labor dispute with a league that just eight years ago used a scorched earth bargaining strategy to bring the NHL Players Union to its knees.

The National Hockey League is a niche sport that has over expanded into areas that are clearly not capable or wiling to consistently support the game. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is more than aware of this and has built support among the teams in those fringe markets that simply cannot afford to make a bad deal and are more than willing to sacrifice a season to get what they want.

Unlike wannabe tough guy NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, or the marginally competent Selig, Bettman wields real tangible power in these talks. All Bettman needs is the support of 8 teams to veto any proposed CBA agreement. It also means over three quarters of the league has to be in agreement to override Bettmans authority. And since the deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to Greg Jamison is still pending approval, NHL itself is the current owner of that team giving Bettman his own vote in any CBA matter. With the support of ownership hawks like Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, that care nothing about the game itself and are more than willing to subsist on other revenue while they crush the players, and teams like Florida and Columbus, whoare more willing tomiss the season to make the deal they want, Bettman has all the power he needs.And as long as Bettman has the support of what amounts to a doomsday cult of hard line owners, the best the players can hope for is to get the best deal they can manage as quickly as possible.

Now before anyone accuses me of being for the owners or looking at this from a fans perspective let me make the following clear: I blame Bettman and the owners completely and totally for this. They were the ones who were more than willing to line their pockets with expansion fees as teams cropped up in places that only see ice in their cocktails. They were the ones who began this negotiating process with an offer so draconian and lopsided you knew they had no intention of ever playing a full season. The owners are the ones that locked the players out and are more than willing to put the entire sport of hockey at risk to line their coffers just a bit more.

And even with the deck clearly stacked against the players, after eighty plus days of seemingly fruitless back and forth Fehr had a chance to get the players making money again, with a 5050 split and the make whole provision. All they needed was a yes or no answer. The time to negotiate was over and someone as experienced as Fehr should have known this.

But Fehr countered, and as Fred Toucher on 98.5 the Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich Show said, he thought Donald Fehrs biggest failing was not being able to read the room during the negotiating process and he was exactly right. There was a deal to be made yesterday. Yes the players would have had to acquiesce to more of the owners demands, but an option for getting the people he represented working again was there for the taking. Not making that deal was risking a repeat of 2004 where the players ended up with a salary cap AND losing a year's salary AND getting their paychecks cut by 24. Fehr should have understood he was not going to win this negotiation when this process started. He needed to make the best deal he could while getting the players back to work to keep their actual losses this season to a minimum and that chance came and went yesterday.

Unfortunately, the owners will win any long protracted battle and by dragging this process out, all Donald Fehris doing is costing the players more and more money while he represents the only thing he really cares about: Donald Fehr.

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while it’s all happening around the NHL world ahead of tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eric Engels says that a torturous February shows that nothing will come easy for the Montreal Canadiens.

*Some raw locker room video from the Florida Panthers with local D-man Keith Yandle holding court with reporters.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has some early thoughts, and some praise, for the Washington Capitals landing puck-moving D-man and big ticket rental player Kevin Shattenkirk.

*The Toronto Maple Leafs up their playoff cred by landing gritty, big third-line center Brian Boyle ahead of the trade deadline.

*Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the city of Chicago’s longest-tenured teammates having spent the last 12 years together with the Blackhawks.

*Patrice Bergeron and Toucher and Rich are getting together for their 10th annual Cuts for a Cause, which will be on March 27.


*For something completely different: Jimmy Kimmel gives his perspective of the debacle that went down at the end of the Academy Awards on Sunday night.