Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

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Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

"Decertification" become a buzzword for the NHLNHLPA labor battle, and theres little wonder why: A move to bust up the players union in the NBA directly preceded an agreement during its lockout last year.

But decertification could have uncertain consequences.

The NBA Players Association decertified quickly, filed two lawsuits, and the league settled within a couple of weeks. The NFL players had to wait four months for a settlement after decertifying, but they opted for it at the beginning of negotiations rather than toward the tail end.

A move by the NHLPA to decertify could drop the league into turmoil. Stripping the NHL of its anti-trust immunity would wipe out the entry draft, blow up all the rules governing free agency, arbitration and the salary cap and create a Wild West atmosphere where players could go to the highest bidder. Understandably its an option the NHL claims would wipe out the rest of this season while throwing the league into chaos, but its also the kind of leverage point the NHLPA hasnt enjoyed during these one-sided negotiations.

The mere threat of NHL control being wrested from the 30 owners and put into the court rooms is a viable weapon in negotiations. There is much more bite to a potential union decertification than to what's gone on this week between federal mediators and the two sides.

Bruins players polled after their Monday morning voluntary skate indicated that union decertification has definitely been mentioned in discussion, but all of them were waiting to hear it explained to them more fully. Sounds like grounds for an NHLPA conference call.

Im not really educated enough on decertification to make a comment either way, said Shawn Thornton. Its an option we are aware of, but nobody has really been educated on it.

But if the specter of decertification leads the NHL to back off some of their player contract right demands or pushes them to raise the make-whole number, then its something the players will view as a positive.

"We want to play," Thornton said. "But there hasnt been one bone thrown our way by the owners to where guys would say if it went to a vote right now we could live with it. There are things that have to be addressed. If there were a couple of bones thrown in there then thered be enough moderates to voice their opinions to Don Fehr. But it hasnt been that way at all. We keep giving and they keep saying Thanks . . . what else have you guys got? Until that changes, nothing is going to change."

In essence the players are looking at potential decertification as one of the only possible ways to bring the lockout conflict to an end. That end game is what intrigues out-of-work players, or those in Europe.

"Ive tried to read a couple of articles on it and talked with my sister, who is a lawyer, about it," Gregory Campbell said. "It seems like something like its an awfully serious decision. I dont know what the ramifications would be if we went down that road. I dont know if a lot people understand what would happen if we decertified. I think everybody just wants a solution to this.

"In searching the other lockouts it looks like it might be an option. It may come to that. But I dont understand enough about it to make a statement of whether we should do it or not."

Here are the basics of decertification:

First the NHLPA would sign a petition to decertify. If at least 30 percent of the members sign, the process begins.

The petition goes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If 30 to 49 percent of the membership signed the petition, the board sets a decertification election date, usually about 60 days after approving the player membership petition.

If 50 percent or more signed, the employer may immediately withdraw recognition of the union. But the NHL would be unlikely to do so because it would allow the players to immediately begin filing antitrust lawsuits against them.

Once the labor relations board sets an election date, the union holds a decertification vote on that date. If a majority votes in favor, the union is decertified and its status changes to a trade association.

The trade association can file antitrust lawsuits against the employer and sue for damages on wages lost with triple the damages if the NHL is found to be guilty of bad bargaining practices.

It would likely take at least two months for the NHL Players Association to decertify, so the filing of antitrust lawsuits couldnt begin until the beginning of February. Even if the NHL buckled immediately, that would probably be too late to save the season. But even the submission of a qualifying petition could pose enough of a threat to push the NHL into action. Both sides can continue to negotiate while the decertification process is taking place.

Thats essentially what happened with the NBA last year, and what might be the NHLPA's only weapon to get the league back to the bargaining table.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.