Thursday, December 09, 2004


Surfing the State of the NHL

Here’s the latest and greatest on the state of the NHL these days...

1. Brendan Shanahan and some of his gangsters had a summit to come up with ideas to improve today’s moribund NHL product. On The Wings Blog has a great summary of the ideas generated by this conference.

There isn’t a lot of anything new here, but as Eric points out: "I'm just relieved to hear somebody talking about the actual game instead of salary caps, arbitration, paltry television contracts and failed marketing strategies"

Looking over the suggestions, the most interesting rule suggestion, to me, was this one.

-- Reducing minor penalties from two minutes to one minute during overtime. They want to take the away responsibility the referee of essentially deciding the game in overtime by making it 4-on-3 for two minutes, even if their call was right. This way the refs will not feel so pressed to not make the call.

As you may be aware of, one of my pet peeves is that the refs and players feel that calling a penalty means ‘deciding the game’. Since when does enforcing the rules decide a game? It’s up to the players not to commit the fouls in the first place.

Still, this suggestion does have some merit and I wonder if it would actually correspond with an increase amount of penalty calls in OT. 4 on 3 PP’s are the most devastating, if you ask coaches and players.

As a final word, I am totally opposed to shootouts in any form. Always have been and always will be. Do NFL games decide overtimes with a field goal contest? How about deciding a baseball game with a Home Run Derby? Hockey is a team game, and it should always be decided within the normal rules of the game.

2. "I don’t think they want a Salary Cap, eh?" - Tom at Canucks Corner pointed out this interesting survey conducted by The Hockey News regarding the Salary Cap issue. (Defined as a $40/mil cap)

Out of 121 players polled, here are the results...
No: 105 (87%)
Yes: 9 (7%)
Maybe: 3 (3%)
No comment: 4 (3%)

So much for cracks in the union! Of course, it should be noted that many of the players quoted were established regulars and not the Juraj Kolnik’s of the world.

All 3 of the YES quotes printed are all anonymous, which shows players fear retribution from their guild buddies for having the gall to break from the Borg Collective.

Some interesting quotes:

Anonymous (From New Jersey): Yes. (Would not comment on the record, but is already on record as being willing to negotiate a cap.)

[As if we couldn’t figure out that this is John Madden]

Bobby Holik: “I will put my word to it-the proposals we already have made to the league contain significant concessions that address every one of their issues. It is very clear to me that the owners expect us to bear the burden alone of solving the problems they have brought on themselves by showing a lack of control. We are willing to negotiate. We are willing to work with the owners to fix the problems they have identified. They refuse. They want to dictate. They have one solution and one solution only. They demand a cap-and that isn't even a solution. They don’t acknowledge what a cap would do to the game. It would drive the game to mediocrity."

[Well said, Robert. I wish more fans would see it this way.]

Bill Guerin: “Would Gary Bettman accept a market place system if it would save the season?"

[Obviously, Bettman has already said the NHL would rather lose a season than have the current system continue. I wouldn’t mind Guerin’s attempt at humour, except for the fact he’s on the NHLPA’s executive committee, grossly overpaid for his production, and a jerk]

3. Jamie Fitzpatrick lays down the details of the NHLPA’s coming proposal to the NHL which offers concessions and room to start some real negotiations.

Either one of two things will happen with the NHL.

1. Bettman and his cronies simply reject the proposal because it doesn’t have a hard-cap/cost-certainty/costs-tied-to-revenues etc etc etc. If this happens, then we truly know the NHL is not prepared to negotiate! If the NHL had any hopes for breaking the union through the courts, the NHL would lose because the NHLPA is the only party negotiating in good faith.

2. Bettman and the NHL could realize that the NHL could be fixed without a hard cap and BS costs-tied-to-revenues plan (Which the players will and never should accept). The NHLPA, it seems, has given some decent concessions and is willing to make room in order for the owners to have a more ‘economically realistic’ system. Why should the NHLPA be responsible for idiot-proofing the system? It’s up to the owners and the teams themselves to run their businesses effectively. Stop signing overpriced veterans and go with cheaper and younger talent than can play just as effectively.

If the NHL was smart, they would go and get the UFA age reduced to 28 or 29. The flood of players in the market every year would drive down free-agent prices and allow teams to rebuild/reload without breaking the bank for every Dallas Drake.

Jes.. Do people who are familiar with the European or international game style more prone to be against shootout in the NHL? Do you think people here that don't watch European leagues interested in the allure of something new in shootout overtime?

In European leagues (Czechia and Slovakia), there are no shootouts...just OT like the NHL. It used to be that games tied after regulation were just OT, and no shootout...I'm glad they got rid of that.

The Europeans I talk to are just as mixed about shootouts as North Americans. Even though soccer fans are used to them, and the IIHF uses them in tournaments, many of my contacts seem to favour the 'golden goal' rather than a shootout.

As a fan, I feel cheated that a team game gets decided on a skills competition event.
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