My Two Cents for August 20th:
Here We Go Again- Stop me if you haven’t heard this before or at least not in the last eight years. It seems the new CBA that the NHLPA and owners were supposed to hammer out has hit a snag, or maybe a few of them. Neither side seems all that anxious to meet the other halfway, and they are within four and a half weeks of the current CBA expiring without a new agreement. The last time the NHL traveled down this road, it was a highway to nowhere that ended up costing the league and the fans who buy the season tickets an entire season back in 2004-05. The league did come back after the unfortunate one season hiatus with a new seven year deal, but it took awhile for many of the fans to forgive though ultimately most did. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who is about as good at his job as the Captain of the Titanic was at his, is heading towards another iceberg that will once again have the fans racing for the lifeboats as another season appears to be heading for jeopardy. There is no way to tell just how the upcoming season will be impacted if the current CBA agreement expires, but it is unlikely barring some agreed upon extension that you will see a season starting on time and the fears of a second lost season will loom. The NBA had a similar scenario last year though it was able to salvage about three quarters of the season. Though I’m not a huge NBA fan myself people whom I know who are told me it wasn’t the same. And let’s not forget Bettman never has even so much as apologized for the first lost season, and probably is not too worried about a second season being lost either. If Bettman were cast in the movie Titanic, at the end he would have kicked both Jack and Rose off of the floating door and saved himself. This is what he thinks of us fans.
The Issues- What the owners want is a proposal where the players’ share in revenue would be cut from 57 per cent to 46 per cent and would include a change to the way the salary cap is calculated. Instead of being set at $8 million above the midpoint, the upper limit would be reduced to $4 million above resulting in the salary cap dropping to $50.8 million next season, or well below where it is presently set at. Additionally, the league also wants to get rid of salary arbitration and limit contracts to a maximum of five years with the salary being equal throughout the duration of each contact (i.e. the elimination of signing bonuses and ending Ryan Suter and Zach Parise type deals). Also, the league wants players to agree to 10 years of service in the league before they can qualify for free agency. The NHLPA on the other hand really wants nothing to do with this proposal. NHLPA leader Donald Fehr wants instead a revenue sharing plan that would allow for struggling franchises to get some financial relief while allowing current players to not give up much of what they already are enjoying.
Truthfully, it’s really hard to tell exactly where the negotiations are at this point though one would have to think that neither side has budged or given in to the other on anything. There is still plenty of time to hammer out an agreement and maybe get everything ready to go before the September 15th deadline. If that happens, great! If it does not happen, I would not be too optimistic given who sits atop of the NHL’s mountain. The players have a lot to lose, as do the owners and even the season ticket holders. The commissioner here however does not have as much to lose here given that his reputation with the fans is already mud anyways. Bettman would probably just as soon that a deal does get done and that the season starts on time. I’m just concerned that the sense of urgency is not as big with him as it is with the paying customers since he gets paid either way. Somehow if someone was the commissioner and was more of a “hockey person” than the man who presides over this sport now, I have a good sense that a deal would have already been worked out. The salary cap will not drop to $50.8 million next year simply because it can’t the way things are structured now. The salary cap can be reduced, but to cut it down to just under $51 would have to be a very gradual process that would not be achieved for at least a few seasons. It’s as if you are closing the barn door after the horses escape, what would be the point?
The good news here is that the two sides are planning on renewing talks in Toronto Wednesday (Aug. 22nd). Hopefully the discussions will become more positive and that headway will be made towards a new agreement that can become effective September 16th. Time is still on the side of the NHLPA and even the owners, but they cannot afford to blow this. In the eight years since the “lost season”, the NHL has gotten the lions share of it’s fans and audience back. However, for most fringe fans who did come back after the last lockout, the attitude will certainly be “Fool Us Once, Shame On You…Fool Us Twice, Shame On Us”. You can’t blame them for having that mindset. With Bettman at the helm, it’s just too tough to trust someone who’s already allowed for one season to disappear. Ultimately, that was on his watch. So is this one as well.
Signings Around the NHL- The Philadelphia Flyers re-signed forward Scott Hartnell to a six year contract extension worth $28.5 million. This deal extension becomes effective with the 2013-14 season. Hartnell played all 82 games for the Flyers last season scoring 30 goals and gathering 37 assists. Additionally, he scored three goals and had five assists in 11 post season games for Philly’s orange and black. Hartnell, entering his 12th professional season, has 222 career goals and 252 assist while compiling over 1200 career minutes in the penalty box for the Flyers and before that Nashville.
Speaking of Nashville, Predators signed Mike Fisher to a two-year contract extension worth $8.4 million. Fisher, a veteran of 12 NHL seasons, has played in 774 career games with both Ottawa and Nashville. In his career, Fisher scored 196 goals and has 215 assists and in between all of that married Country Singer Carrie Underwood (not too many of us have had a 12 year run quite like he has). Fisher, 32, is one of the Predators core players and is looked upon alongside Shea Weber as one of the team’s leaders.
Meanwhile, former San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Scott Hannan has signed a one year deal with the Nashville Predators worth a cool one million. Hannan, who is joining his fifth NHL team, has scored 33 goals in his career while adding 164 assist. Hannan, who was originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1997, has played more games at his position than any other active NHL player over the last 10 seasons, having played in a total 798 games in that span.
Meanwhile, former Los Angeles King and Anaheim Duck Lubomir Visnovsky was uninjured following an automobile accident in Slovakia. Visnovsky was traded by the Ducks to the New York Islanders June 22nd prior to this years’ NHL draft. Visnovsky has played in 771 career NHL games, scoring 117 goals while gathering 333 assist and over 1300 penalty minutes in 11 NHL seasons. In addition, Visnovsky has played for the Slovakian Olympic Team as well.
Nash/Thornton Not Going to HC Davos In Event of a Lockout- Rick Nash, who recently was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers in a blockbuster deal that spared the Sharks of having to part with either Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski, has denied a Swiss Television report that he along with Sharks Captain Joe Thornton would report to HC Davos in the event a lockout once the current CBA expires.* According to the Swiss television reports, HC Davos Team President Gaudenz Domenigs told them that both Nash and Thornton would report to his team in the event of another NHL work stoppage. Both Nash and Thornton played for HC Davos in 2004-05 as the NHL season was cancelled due to a lockout from a labor dispute that could not be solved until prior to the 2005-06 NHL season. Thornton played 40 games for HC Davos scoring 10 goals while Nash had 27 to lead the club that season.
I have a better idea. Instead of going to Switzerland, just go to San Francisco and suit up for the Bulls inaugural season. The pay would be a lot less, but so would be the travel too. And those bus trips to Stockton and Bakersfield, why not? It’s for the love of the game. Hey, it worked for Michael Jordan while playing baseball for the Birmingham Bulls (though he actually bought the team a new bus). Maybe Nash and Thornton can put their funds together and buy a bus (or even a charter plane) for the SF Bulls. Why not? Who says hockey doesn’t give back, here’s a golden idea right here in the event of a player lockout.
Non-Hockey Item: “Got Melk? Or Got Melked?” - In this column’s non hockey item, this brings us to someone who as it turns out may make Barry Bonds look almost look like a saint by comparison. Melky Cabrera, the soon to be former San Francisco Giants outfielder (once a buyout of his contract can be reached), was suspended 50 games for the use of testosterone in the form of a performance enhancing drug. Now, to be fair, you cannot really be critical of a male for use of testosterone though for you and I it would probably have to be prescribed by a doctor or medical professional. To me, it’s not that Cabrera used testosterone as so much as that he was dishonest about it, apparently from the get go. In effect, Cabrera not only lied to the Giants players, coaches and manager Bruce Bochy, but also to the organization and most importantly their fans.
The Giants could not have been hit with this at a worse time, fighting the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL West Title while also battling the Atlanta Braves, St Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates for a possible wild card spot in the post season. This could be a psychological blow to the Giants who seemingly had enough problems scoring runs despite getting decent pitching on the staff (even with the struggles of Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum). I went to the Giants game here in San Diego versus the Padres this past Friday Night with some good friends from Northern California. The Giants won 10-1 and seemed to not miss a beat despite the absence of Cabrera. Matt Cain was on his game that night and the rest of the team seemed to have the attitude of “next man up” which is what they will need to have if they have any aspirations of making the post season. This was probably also the reason the Giants acquired Hunter Pence as Cabrera appealed the suspension before it became news a few weeks later.
As I told my friend, my first thought was just imagine the Sharks without Logan Couture or Joe Thornton. This is NOT to even dare to lump them in the same category as Cabrera, but just to make a point that the Giants lost a key player with that kind of an impact. However, Couture and Thornton are not foolish enough to do this where Cabrera not only did it and lied about it, but now is being possibly investigated by the feds for scheming to cover it up. Look for Cabrera’s suspension to be extended or even a possible ban or blackball from the game. If I were Cabrera, instead of just offering the “peace out” type of apology, I would just be hoping that the Giants would just nice enough to release him gracefully with a decent contract buyout. The Giants should never take him back, period. He could have brought down their entire organization along with him. Keep the All-Star Game awards, just go away otherwise…and not just from the Giants, but from MLB. If Cabrera does play again, it will likely either be in Japan, or perhaps Mexico’s version of Major League Baseball (where Ruben “wrong way” Rivera went).
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
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PS: *The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect on any other staff member’s opinions with Blades Of Teal, Fansided or their websites themselves… The King Shark…