Greetings all. Okay, likely the last chat of '12 and if there's anything resembling a hockey deity the last chat of the '12 lockout. Okay, now where were we?
Scott, the only winning move in this lockout is not to play? Are you ripping me off with that quote? This lockout is a strange game. Maybe Fehr and Bettman should just play a nice game of chess...
Josh; I don't write the headlines although that's a good catch. I'd be okay with chess, Risk, Star Wars Monopoly, euchre (for all the rural folks including everyone I knew growing up), craps. You name it anything would be better than the stare-off that this dispute has now become.
Optimism! Who wins the SE division in a 50-or-so game season? Carolina would be at a disadvantage due to the time it may take them to gel with their new top-6 parts, right?
Mike; Love the optimism. I still share it. With all due respect to the Jets I think this is a four-team toss-up including the 'Canes. I think Kirk Muller's work late last season will put them in good stead even though he'll have to integrate A. Semin and J. Staal into the top six group. Love the way this blue line is looking. If Anders Lindback is a) healthy and b) the real deal Tampa will be back, love the Adam Oates hiring in Washington and the Panthers are for real and may be even more for real if Roberto Luongo ends up wearing a 'Cats jersey. Think the Southeast may provide the most drama of any division in a short season.
If the season starts in Mid January, what are the odds the Tim Thomas plays? My understanding was that he wanted to spend time with his family. Because of all the time off, do you think he could possibly play for the Bruins this year? Personally, I'd rather see Rask play as I'm not sure about how committed to Hockey Thomas is anymore.
Dan; Interesting issue to be sure. Have to think the Bruins would be happy to have Thomas back in the flesh as they'll be on the hook for his contract regardless (he has a $5 million cap hit this season) and who doesn't want a multiple Vezina Trophy winner in the house? Compressed schedule will mean having two quality netminders will be crucial to piling up points. Obviously Thomas's head space will be a factor and there is the big picture for the Bs; is Rask the kind of netminder who can carry the load? If I had to guess I would say Thomas stays away regardless but that's just a guess based on his sentiment at the end of last season to step away for a full season. Maybe the lure of half a season will be enought to change his mind. Also changes how the Bruins' are viewed vis a vis Cup contender status.
Scott, the NHL needs to set a final date now that there must be a deal or the season is cancelled. I am tired of the uncertainty. Make a deal or end the season.
Tim; I'm with you. Would like to know. I think we all know the basic time elements; if there's no hockey being played by the 20th of January give or take the season is kaput. That means a framework for a deal by Jan. 10 at the latest and even that pushes it given ratification and a week-long training camp. Still, would nice to know the line in the sand for sure.
Assuming the decertification vote passes, does this mean that Don Fehr leaves the stage since the NHLPA won't negotiate on behalf of the players? Also, is a deal and season more likely or less likely once the union is decertified?
Jim; In theory Fehr is no longer the leader of the union since the union has announced its function is no longer valid given how the league has handled negotiations (that's the PA's rationale for filing a disclaimer of interest) but no way Fehr isn't a major factor going forward. I think the league is waiting to see how the vote to give the union executive committee the power to file the disclaimer before things rev back up for one last-ditch effort at saving the season.
If you we're starting a team, name the one forward, one D, and one goalie you would want to build around.
Drew; Hmmm. Tough one. Okay. Factoring in age and future up-side I would go with Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber and Jonathan Quick.
And for fun, my B Team would be; Steven Stamkos, Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist.
I the Union disbands, could the Hawks lose their current lineup? Worse yet, could we end up with Burrows or the Sedins?
Daniel; That's the crazy thing if this goes all-in via the courts there are a myriad of potential outcomes including the league's asking of the courts to strike down all existing contracts if the union is successful in having the union dissolved. The league would argue that all contracts are negotiated under the umbrella of a CBA with the union and if that umbrella is gone then the contracts are null and void which would, in theory make all players free agents. Lawyers I've spoken to say that's a tough case to make and that courts would be reluctant to rule in the league's favor but that shows you the kind of chaotic landscape that could ensure if the courts end up determining the outcome of the current dispute.
Scott, nice euchre reference. Have you followed AHL games/teams at all, and if so, anything/anyone catch your eye?
Alex; I have been trying to keep an eye on the AHL as much as possible during the lockout. Had a chance to chat with Curtis McElhinney who is a great story with the Blue Jackets' affiliate in Springfield (Brad Larsen the former Thrasher is the new head coach there). Talked to Stephen Gionta after he signed to return to Albany where he was captain before joining the Devils full-time late last season. Interesting, of course, to see guys like Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle of the Oilers tearing it up in Oklahoma City for the Baby Oil. And I'm a big fan of Jon Cooper and the work he's done for the Bolts' farm team which, as you know, is now in Syracuse. Also had a chance to catch up with Adam Oates in Hershey where the Caps are involved in an interesting experiment having Oates coach alongside regular Bears coach Mark French.
If hockey does return this season, how do the Philadelphia Flyers hold up in the powerful Atlantic Division?
Eric; I think the big issue for the Flyers will be on the defensive side of the puck. They are used to life without Chris Pronger but guys like Kimmo Timonen are getting a little older. Do players like Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson represent enough of a changing of the guard to keep them in the hunt with Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers? And what of the goaltending? Have to wonder if there is an amnesty buyout does last spring's debacle with Bryzgalov prompt them to wave goodbye. If so what are the options? Do they go after Luongo? Interesting times to be sure. As for the forwards, love the makeup of this team in terms of skill, grit, leadership.
Is there any scenario you can see where the NHL would turn to "replacement" players and bring in AHL, juniors and other players to get some form of a game on the ice? Can that even happen, or does the CBA and lack of a CBA make that impossible from a legal perspective??
Paul; Don't see that ever happening in part because of the legalities given that you would be talking about labor laws in different provinces and states. Plus, not sure there would ever be enough replacement workers to fill rosters not to mention the fact hard to imagine fans would pay to see that kind of product.
What kind of detriment do you think this lockout has had on the fan-base, even if they were to get a deal done and start the ball rolling asap?
Zach; That's the great unknown and for me the greatest risk the players and the owners are taking here. I believe the impact will be much more severe than eight years ago and will be exponentially higher if there is no season. I think it's crucial to begin the process of putting the lockout in the rearview mirror as soon as possible. That said I still think wooing fans and sponsors is going to take a lot of hard work on both sides of the fence regardless of when the dispute ends. In a word, ugly.
Am I being a homer for picking Pietrangelo over Weber and Karlsson?
Dan; I don't think you could go wrong with Pietrangelo regardless of whether you're from St. Louis or not. One of the great storylines when (if?) the NHL returns will be his evolution and the evolution of a team I think many expect should be top three in the conference again.
who do you think will stand out more in this years World Jrs. Galchenyuk for Team USA, Grigorenko for Russia, Forsberg for Sweeden?
Justin; All are great storylines and have the potential to be impact players in the NHL. Let's go with Galchenyuk who straddles the cultural divide.
One thing that's not been made clear to me in all of the court battle discussion: What is the advantage to the owners if all contracts are voided? Is that just a way for them to protect themselves from having to pay the triple wages should the players win any individual lawsuits?
Joe; I think it has the potential to be effective on a number of fronts. If you're one of the dozens of players that signed long-term deals last summer and you're faced with the prospect of having that security taken away perhaps you think twice about supporting that strategy. And if there is going to be a redrawing of the landscape the assumption would be that top players would receive top dollars but that the important middle class and lower middle class of player, those players that make up the bulk of the PA's membership what would be left for them? A sobering thought. Of course if it gets that far there might only be 24 teams left so that adds another wrinkle to the imaginings.
Hi Scott. Do you believe it is possible that the 2 sides are negotiating quietly behind the media to work out a deal?
Mark; I think it's possible there are more extensive discussions behind the scenes between Steve Fehr and Bill Daly but in terms of moving the two sides closer to a deal I think what we're seeing/hearing is what is real. In other words, wait til we get closer to the cliff and then see what happens.
If the players vote over 66% to decertify, this does not necessarily give Don Fehr the authorization to go ahead with decertifying does it. will not the PA use it to the last minute as a another toy.
Tony; The vote is merely to give the executive committee (and Donald Fehr) the mandate to file a disclaimer of interest should they believe that's in the union's best interests. I've heard it suggested they will file the moment the vote is complete (assuming support which I think is a given) but others say having that in their pocket may be enough to get the two sides together for one more go-round. I assume the league is also waiting to see the results on the off chance there isn't support for the strategy.
What's your thoughts on Tarasenko and his future play with the St. Louis Blues?
Michael; I think Tarasenko is another one of those players outside the NHL that has the chance to make an immediate impact. Talked to GM Doug Armstrong about him early in the lockout and he envisions a top nine spot with presumably some power play time thrown in. He's the kind of talent that could push the Blues that next step towards a Cup assuming the scouting reports on his skill and maturity are accurate.
Where can I get a number roster for WJR's?
Daniel; USAHockey.com should have all the U.S. stuff but for overall tournament info try iihf.com and it should be there.
If the lockout ever does end, I feel the Sabres need a veteran leader, like a Chris Drury or Stu Barnes they have had in years past to ever be a real Cup contender again. Any suggestions for who you think would be a good guy to pick up that would be similar?
Bryan; I have long espoused that view of the Sabres. I like the modifications to the line-up with the addition of Steve Ott. And there's no way a team with that much talent and experience should miss the playoffs again. But I agree that missing ingredient in terms of dressing room presence is hard to find. The team has never been the same since the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Is it somewhere in that room now? Let's hope we get to find out sooner than later.
What chance do you give realistically that they get this resolved this season. I mean, with the NHL taking this to court, the talk of disolving the union, it all seems to be a means of dragging this out even longer. Even if they do play this season, can they repair the damage they have done?
Greg; Here's my take on this. Agreed, it looks bleak now. But in my heart of hearts I believe neither the league nor the players can afford to can another season. Both sides know that. Donald Fehr is trying to get one more give from the league and the league is trying to avoid that at least til the last minute. Brinksmanship at it's best but I still say they get a deal done because the alternative is simply too devastating to consider regardless of how much the two sides despise one another.
what steps do you think the NHL will take to win back fans (if that's even possible at this point) once the lockout ends?
tom; I've spoken to a few league folks who think the best thing will be to get out of the way and let the players play. No stupid slogans on the ice, no stupid gimmicks just let them play and hope the fans will come back. In the off-season maybe there are things you can do to try and encourage fans, sponsors and the like whether it's a stadium series of outdoor games or some sort of tournament style events to jazz things up. Am certain returning HBO to the NHL mix will be a priority, too.
What's the deal with Evander Kane? Immature, bad apple or both?
CC; Certainly interesting to see the youngster continue to get bad press for what appears to be a simple case of immaturity. (For those who missed it a pic of Kane with wads of cash appeared on Twitter recently.) In a small community like Winnipeg that stuff doesn't fly. He needs better advice but I think it's too early declare him a 'bad apple'. Best way for him to erase that is to score 40.
If the lockout is ever resolved, how soon before Luongo is dealt from the Canucks?
Neal; I think it depends on the rules put in to punish teams that signed the so-called cheat deals like the one Luongo signed; heavily front-loaded with small amounts paid out at the end of the deal. If teams that signed players to those deals are on the hook if a player retires before the end of such deals I think it actually helps Vancouver in terms of what they can ask for in return for Luongo's services. I would expect that would be a top priority for GM Mike Gillis. Maybe not before puck drops given the short timeline we're talking for a shortened season but pretty darned quickly given that he'll be looking for an asset to help his team right away and presumably the acquiring team (Chicago? Florida? Toronto?) will want Luongo for as much of a shortened season as possible.
Okay folks, time to close out this chat session. Let me leave you with good wishes for a happy and safe holiday period. And here is hoping that fans who have put up with so much in the past three months are rewarded with some real hockey in the New Year. Until then.