Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Card Monte

That was quite the performance that the NHLPA put on Tuesday afternoon after presenting the NHL with their offer towards a new collective bargaining agreement. It was media friendly, designed to be nonconfrontational but what it really is was dead on arrival before the offer made its way across the table.

The NHLPA showed what great guys they were wanting to make a deal in order to make sure that there's hockey this year. But once you start to break down the offer then you know that it totally ignored the majority of what the NHL considers to be their key areas of concern.

The NHLPA is willing to take a smaller share of the hockey related revenue (HHR), they are willing to keep the salary cap in place. About the only thing they did not do was give Gary Bettman and the NHL owners a big warm hug.

The offer was designed that way because almost instantly the hockey media nodded in approval saluting the NHLPA for not being confrontational and for showing a willingness to work with the NHL to solve the leagues financial woes.

But what the media missed was that the NHLPA also tossed a couple of hand grenades right in the middle of the NHL owners bunker. For starters increasing the amount of revenue sharing to $240 million (NHL offer is $190 million) is going to anger the top four revenue-producing teams in the NHL (Toronto, the Rangers, Montréal, and Detroit) because they know who's going to be asked to pony up the extra revenue.

Of course small-market teams would love that part of the offer, increasing revenue sharing guarantees they will make some money without having to work at it. But then again those same small-market teams are not going to be happy with a hard salary cap that also has exceptions allowing teams to spend above the cap limit.

The NHLPA also wants this new CBA to be for only three years but also wants a player's option for a fourth year that would be back under the current CBA rules already in place. I want to see labor peace just as much as the next NHL fan but at the same time if I'm going to trash the NHL for making a horribly bad offer to the NHLPA then I need to call out the NHLPA when they try to sucker people in with the game of three card monte.

The NHLPA totally ignores the NHL's demands for limits on the length of contracts, the demand to eliminate altogether salary arbitration, and the NHL's offer to require 10 years of service before a player can be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Yes those are very bad ideas from the NHL owners but to in turn act as if the NHL never even proposed it was just another way to ensure that this offer will be rejected. There really does need to be limits regarding the length of contracts but I don't think what the owners want regarding free agency and salary arbitration is fair either.

But what you can't do is blatantly ignore those issues either as this is a labor negotiation not a beauty contest. The NHLPA offer looks good but in terms of substance there is no actual movement towards a new labor agreement.

It's almost as if the NHLPA with this offer was more interested in making sure they win the battle of public opinion than they were coming to the table with a real offer for the owners to work with. It worked as 95% of the hockey media reporting on this thought it was a fair offer.

It's almost as if the players themselves realize that unless they totally surrender that there will not be an on-time start to this year's NHL season. That is really disappointing to see as if we the fans are going to see the NHL play this year there really needs to be some serious movement by both sides towards a new labor deal.

Snap your fingers and realize that in exactly one month the current CBA expires and when it does there will go any hope of a full NHL season. There won't be a shell game at that point in time.

There won't be any games period.

(New York Islanders)
Last week it was the New York Rangers who's prospects put on quite a show at the Team USA Summer Evaluation Camp so this week it was the New York Islander's turn. They had four prospects taking part in the 2012 Canada-Russia challenge and the Islanders have reason to feel good about the performances from their four prospects who played in this four-game series,

The biggest winner was Ryan Strome (2011 1st) as Strome did something that his critics (including me) say he doesn't do which is score the big goal in the big game. Strome's goal at 3:20 of overtime gave Team Canada the win over Team Russia in the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge.

This was a game that should have been televised to all of North America because if you needed a reminder about why we love the sport of hockey; this was the game you wanted to watch. Canada came into game four having lost two straight to Russia and badly needed the win just to force the opportunity at winning the series in overtime.

It wasn't just any exhibition game, this was Canada/Russia going head to head, toe to toe like the fierce rivalry this has been over the last 40 years. Just like the 1972 Canadian team had to come from behind to win their series so did these young men.

As much as I have been critical of Ryan Strome for his play in key games, this was exactly the kind of player I've been waiting to show up. Just like the Rangers most likely will not let J.T. Miller play for Team USA, the Islanders will be putting Ryan Strome to use in their lineup and he will not be available for Team Canada.

2012 first-round pick Griffin Reinhart did nothing to embarrass himself but while I don't believe he will play for the Islanders this year, if he progresses like he has that it will be next year for Long Island. What you didn't see on the scoreboard was a prospect who was very much deserving of being at this level.

Andrey Pedan (2011 3rd) if he ever decides to mature will be an excellent addition to the Islander blue line. Pedan clearly has a lot of talent as well as skill to go with his size but he really needs to set a goal this year of cutting the number of minor penalties he takes down at least half.

Somebody has got to find a way to reach him and get Pedan to understand that he doesn't help his team by taking so many penalties. If Pedan can cut the number of penalties he takes then he will have a very good season and will be one of the top defensemen in the OHL.

Adam Pelech (2012 3rd) did not stand out but he didn't look lost out of place when he got to play. Come December I do expect Pelech to be playing for Team Canada in the World Under-20 championships.

He needs some work but he is going to help Erie rebuild their franchise this year.

Some friendly advice to people who think the Portland Winterhawks are not going to be as good as they have been in the last few years; don't tell Ty Rattie that. Rattie scored two huge power-play goals including the one that gave Canada their first lead since game one.

Ty Rattie is going to be one of the top players in the WHL this year as if he doesn't lead the WHL in goals or points than I expect him to be in the top three. Rattie has not gotten the publicity that some of the other Winterhawks have but trust me this kid is more than for real.

He just might be the best of the recent lot and that says a lot considering we are talking Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi. Put Rattie down for 50 goals and 100+ points easy.

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