Hello all. Not in New York this week. At least not yet. So, where were we?
How about having the captain from the defending champion present the Cup to the new winner? How great would that be if it was a rematch from the previous year?
Nick; I love that idea. And it's got to be better than having Commissioner Gary Bettman booed like crazy every June. Can't imagine what the response would be if there is a Cup presentation next June. Yikes. Get your hard hats out.
Hey Scott, I ask this every live chat... Hockey or No Hockey
Justin; I'll answer as I do every week (and will until the lights go dark completely on the season); Yes. I still think I'm in an NHL rink New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
Hi Scott, I've read some conflicting reports today about some players leaving, some staying. They're having more meetings; they're not having meetings. Can you give us an update on what we know and what we don't at this point? Thanks!
Joe; I think you've covered it all (sorry, small joke). I believe some players did go home after mediation in New Jersey yesterday but that the PA did have a follow-up with mediators Thursday. No talks scheduled yet, though, between the league and the players. My guess is they will get back together in the next day or so.
We hear all the time that Fehr did something to anger the league, or that the players are mad at Bettman or Jacobs, or that some media report hurt the process. Is this negotiation really beholden to such emotions and worry over public and private slights? REALLY?? I hate the idea of a lockout over trying to get the last penny, but the thought that it is extended as a result of ego and feelings is 100x worse. Where are the rational owners/player here? That's the biggest story, no? Tell me this is all business.
Dave; Sadly I think you have identified the one area that can't be negotiated around; the egos and the feelings of slight and anger and the fact the owners and players have taken turns pointing fingers and trying dirty tricks. That's why so many people I've spoken to on both sides of the fence in the last week are so frustrated. It's no longer really about the money and the issues that remain while important are not insurmountable. But Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr have to find a way to take the emotion out of the equation to get a deal done. Seems simple but it hasn't proven to be as of yet.
WHEN we finally play hockey again, will the Penguins be able to sign to Evgeni Malkin due to the 50/50 split and lower salary cap?
Patrick; I think they will. And I assume Malkin will want to stay and will be looking at Crosby-like deal pending the caps on contract lengths. The issue will be for teams like the Pens and others how to keep the middle class of their squad together, the Orpiks and Neals and Sutters.
For weeks, I've heard experts say they can't imagine the season being punted. Is this sentiment starting to change?
Alex; Not sure the sentiment has changed but the worry factor is up. I think a lot of us have assumed a kind of brinksmanship at play here; Fehr waiting for the very final reel to close a deal. Question is whether he knows when that reel is playing. I'd say it's on now.
I am really sick of talking about the lockout. Can we talk some AHL. What are your thoughts on the Houston Aeros and the stack of prospects the Wild have waiting. Also, in the EA simulated season, the Wild are 9th in the West with a 13-13-4 record. I would have figured that with all the prospects coming up and the 2 new acquisitions they made in the off season their would have been some improvement. Where do you think the Wild will end up if we have a season this year?
Kyle; While Zach Parise and Ryan Suter nabbed all the headlines in the off-season and with good reason if there is reason to believe the Wild are building a contender for years to come it's in the kids like Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund and Matthew Dumba. Chuck Fletcher has done a terrific job especially given how bare the cupboard was when he took over. Good times ahead is my guess.
There is a report on yahoo that some agents are telling their players in Europe to be ready to come back next week. Why do they keep filling us hockey fans with false hopes? What could they possibly know that nobody else knows? Doesn't look like the league is going to move on their proposal just like it doesn't look like the players are going to move on their proposal. Looks like a long game of a staring contest. Who will blink first?
Mike; A report where? Ha, ha. Most of the European leagues are on or will soon be on holiday breaks so there's been a lot of travel back and forth. And the agents don't know any more than anyone else outside the key players on both sides. I still think the owners have to move a bit more but we're close.
Since you think Geno will stay and get paid, what about me?
Kris; You get to stay too.
If the season does get cancelled can I at least look forward to an impassioned Sportscenter rant where you bring the hammer down on the idiots who caused this to get out of hand, lay blame at their feet, and sternly tell them to apologize to the fans they abused?
Steven; I've been in pretty much full rant mode since mid-September. If they cancel the season, oy. And I know it's a bit of a cliche at this point but I don't think the fans' concerns factor into this for either side at all. Sad.
Do you think the lockout and a possible shortened 48-game schedule hurts or helps teams with an aging older core of players, e.g., the Sharks?
Kevin; I talked to a scout who was a player coming out of the 1994-95 lockout and he said it was like coming out of retirement. So I think especially if a lot of veteran players on a team haven't been playing it could be a real drawback. And if we're talking 48 to 55 games those three or four game winless streaks will be potential killers.
I have heard talks about expansion. The league is already to big. Wouldn't that make things even worse then they are now?
Lonny; No way the NHL expands anytime soon. In fact if the season goes kaput I think it's fair to ask how many teams will be around next fall or what kind of financial chaos greets the league and its players after another failed season.
Have the chances for realignment been ruined with the way the CBA talks are going now? I was really looking forward to it.
Andrew; No, I think you'll see the realignment plan introduced just over a year ago at the board of governors' meetings in California take effect next fall (assuming as always a deal to get hockey back this year or at the very least the start of next season).Interesting sidebar on realignment though is that if a short season how does that hurt Winnipeg locked into the Southeast Division for one more year?
Did the owners really expect the players to bow down and kiss their feet?
Marc; Uhm. Pretty much. Didn't work out so well did it?
I am an RFA this year... Do you think I deserve Mark Staal money and will Slats show me some love?
MDZ; Big fan. Not sure it'll quite be Marc Staal money but I think you'll get the love. The issue for the Rangers is that they have one of if not the best young defense corps in the NHL and question is how to keep all locked up in a way that works with the cap.
Although it seems like the owners are winning this battle. Do you think they have underestimated Fehr?
Brian; I'm not so sure it's about underestimating him but maybe failing to understand how he was going to approach the negotiations. In the end I think the owners' strategy was flawed from the outset when they produced their first proposal back in the summer. I think they failed to see how angry it would make players and it allowed Fehr to have an easier time of galvanizing his troops. Owners should have seen that coming a mile away and they didn't.
how does the league intend to say "sorry, our bad" to the fans and win them back. id be completely for free center ice for a shortend season
Justin; I have no doubt COO John Collins has been staying up nights trying to figure out how to start mending the fences with fans and sponsors and it won't be with a lame 'thank you' on NHL ice surfaces. But I'm okay with free Center Ice.
What would a shortened season look like? As a Stars fan, I sure hope it's not 8 games against divisional opponents and 2 against the rest of the conference... Those 9:30pm divisional game start times are brutal to fans who have to get up early the next morning.
Dave; Not sure of the exact breakdown in '95 but teams played only in conference games and I'm assuming the same would be the case this season unless they found a way to get 60 or so games in which might allow for a limited out-of-conference schedule. Get used to more Anaheim, San Jose, L.A. and Phoenix for one more year I'm afraid.
If and when this lockout is resolved, what free agents are still available that I need to sign? It's been so long that I forgot who's looking for a new home.
Ken; I looked at the list recently and there are a few interesting names. Former Red Wing Mike Knuble, Jason Arnott, Kristian Huselius, Mike Mottau, Matt Bradley, Mathieu Darche. Mostly journeymen or aging veterans those kinds of guys.
We have been hearing calls for moderate owners to take the forefront. Where is Mike Ilitch?
James; I think you saw what happened when there were more moderate voices introduced to the process last week with Ron Burkle from Pittsburgh, Mark Chipman from Winnipeg and Larry Tanenbaum from Toronto. During owner/player only meetings we saw the first real traction of the process. It fell apart but if a deal gets done it'll be as a result of that group I think.
Do you think the flyers or the pens have a brighter future going forward? I know the pens have the big stars but the flyers seem to have a good core group of solid young players. Your thoughts?
Hockey; Tough one. The Flyers' young guys are more NHL ready I think when you look at Read and Couturier, Wellwood and Bourdon. But the Penguins have a lot of top-end defensive prospects that are going to be interesting to watch evolve. Sorry going to take easy way out; dead heat. I just hope we get to see another edition of Flyers/Pens come playoff time next spring.
Do you think the owners plan from the start was to apply maximum pressure on the players by waiting until the final week before the season is cancelled before making a deal.
Ben; I don't know that there was a master plan like that. I'm sure the owners would have been happy getting concessions from the players on HRR split and other elements and had a full season.
Scott,The longer the lockout drags on, is Donald Fehr becoming more or less popular with the players? We all know how the owners feel, but I'm wondering what his constituency thinks about him. Thanks!
Greg; I don't know that there's an easy answer to that. Is there a group of players that would have liked to vote on the owners' last proposal? Definitely. Is there a weakening of the players' resolve? Don't see it. The owners continue to make it easy for the players to stay together and if there is frustration it's aimed more at the process than at their own leadership. Now, if the season gets canned then I think it's a huge failure on both sides' part, Bettman, Fehr, take your pick and I think a lot of players will wonder how it came to this - again - and question Fehr's leadership. But now, he's the players' man as far as I can tell.
Stepping away from the lockout for a moment, any word/rumor on Jonathan Quick's recovery? Any concerns/issues?
Chris; I've heard nothing to suggest Quick won't be ready to roll when the NHL is.
Is it just a coincidence that talks went "great" between just the players and owners, then once Fehr and co. return to the table, everything falls apart? Any thoughts?
Eli; I don't think it was a coincidence but I also don't think it's practical to think a deal is going to get done without Fehr and Bettman having a role in this. For the owners to suggest, as one did, that bringing Fehr back into the room migth be a deal-breaker only reinforced the players' feelings of mistrust with the owners. Should have kept his mouth shut and maybe a deal would have been done.
To help fix the scoring system and perhaps get a better sense of the 8 teams that should make the playoffs, any chance we go to 3-2-1 system (3 being regulation win, 2 OT win and 1 OT loss)
Mitch; I wouldn't be surprised at some point to see that kind of system. A lot of disatisfaction with the current system that gives a point for a loss of any kind. Might be more likely to see three points for a regulation win and then two for overtime or shootout. Something like that. Guess maybe a year or two away though.
At this point I'm beyond caring about the lockout, if they play fine, if not fine let me know when. What really pisses me off is these idiots will be back at this in another five years or so. Goes to show, you can't fix stupid.
John; That's the issue with the term of the new CBA. Players want it shorter and I understand the logic; a 10-year deal means a couple of generations of players will play under a deal they never voted for. But have to make it as long as possible for sponsors and fans given how the two sides cannot get along.
What do you think matters more to the owners in terms of the contract issue, the length or that they don't vary more than 5% from year to year? And do you think if the players were to give in on the varying amounts they would get a little more for the length of the contracts and vice versa?
Justin; I think they're all connected and I'm told that there is room to move on one element as long as there is a reciprocal move on another. I think the variance is more important than the term of contract and I am guessing league will end up going to six years from five to keep variance in tact. My guess anyway.
Any thoughts on which teams suffer the most financial damage from this lockout? Following the last lockout, the Canes had the good fortune to win it all, but the recovery in this market could be far worse this time around.
Mac; I think it's going to be a tough road in a lot of places especially if a team struggles on the ice. Anaheim, St. Louis, Florida, Dallas are all markets that needed to be playing this fall and will need strong starts to enhance their profile in their own markets. Carolina made such strong moves this past off-season not playing has been a killer for them. A bad start undoes a lot of that good buzz because of the lockout.
Who do you blame for the lockout?
Ben; I think you have to go back to the beginning and the owners' inability to understand how important it was to take a more conciliatory approach to begin with set the process off on the wrong tack so I would say the bulk of the blame lies with the owners. It goes without saying, though, that both sides share in the shame of not being able to get a deal done and with flirting with a second lost season in seven years.
Make it stop! It is sickening.
Davis; I feel your pain. This process has been one non-stop migraine. Such a waste.
Scott: At what point does the season get so short that it really becomes a joke, 48 games or so?
John; I think the middle of January is the absolute last point to start a season without losing every shred of integrity. You can argue they should cancel now but I think the bare minimum is the historic precedent of the 48 games in '95. That means the clock is ticking double time now.
Scott: Why does this feel like the ultimate game of chicken? At some point one side needs to give.
Tony; That is exactly what it is. Cars are going faster and getting closer every second.
Has there been any talk about any type of amnesty rule or player buyouts if there is a season?
Caps; Yes, players introduced the idea of a buyout last week (which annoyed the owners as it hadn't been discussed before). The league is prepared to allow the current cap to stand for one year but are against buyouts that are outside the hockey revenue pie.
Let's say there's a deal to start the season January 1. What does the schedule look like? Keep exisitng one or switch to all conference/divisional games? Thanks.
Brian; Likely all in conference with an emphasis on divisional games.
Scott.. Rumor around here is that they will be starting on Dec. 31st. Which is why they cancelled up till the 30th of December. Any idea is this could be any way true?
Jason; Agreed that the league would like to target an end of year/New Year's Day kick-off and it was no coincidence they clipped games only through Dec. 30. Now all they need is a deal to make it happen.
Okay folks. Hoping that when we reconvene we are talking, finally, of training camps and schedules and rosters and coaching strategies. What are the chances? Until next time.