Bruins

Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'

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Haggerty: Sides still far apart after 'expletive deal'

The NHLPA response over the next two days will tell the complete tale of exactly what the NHL is facing in the next few months.

Labor strife and regular season time missed are moving closer to certainties rather than idle threats. The tea are there for all to see.

The NHL took a preposterous first proposal that players association executives determined would slash the players percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) from its current 57 percent level to 43 percent of the 3.3 billion money pie.

After a painstakingly crafted counter-offer from the NHLPA sought to solve the NHLs problems with a plan linked heavily to revenue sharing that would bail out the teams regularly losing money, the NHL returned on Tuesday with a proposal similar to the first offer that was barely worth its weight in pucks.

This time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors have upped the players share to 46 percent of the HRR a drop of 11 percent for the players and a cutback of roughly 330 million in earnable wages. For a group of players that have helped lift the NHL to unforeseen heights and agreed to a wage-limiting salary cap the last time around, that is whats commonly referred to as a dope slap.

Instead Bettman interestingly labeled it a meaningful, significant offer to reporters camped out in New York City over the last few days. The league has leverage and financial muscle, and theyre attempting to flex it simply because they can. Meanwhile NHL agents are preparing their clients for the worst with one hockey representative telling his players to prepare for there to be no NHL hockey until Christmas at the earliest.

Essentially this is what the NHL did with their latest offer: They improved on kicking the NHL players in the teeth by instead opting to kick them in the stomach.

Or perhaps the analogy should be more like how one hockey source with knowledge of the negotiations portrayed it to CSNNE.com: You took a really expletive proposal and made it a little less expletive. But that still makes it pretty expletive.

So that about sums it up, doesnt it?

Bettman is underscoring that the leagues offer is a meaningful and significant move, but thats pretty misleading, said the same source. The league hasnt moved one dollar. They moved off their own ridiculous offer that turned back player rights to years into the past, but they havent moved one dollar.

The players made an offer to partner with the big revenue clubs to help the smaller revenue clubs. They offered to give back some of their future growth in player compensation. The NHL isnt acknowledging at all the role that the players have played in growing the game.

The good news is that the NHL and the NHLPA are still negotiating and discussing things while sending offer volleys back and forth to each other. The bad news is that the NHL and NHLPA are speaking difference languages. It doesnt appear the league feels compelled to get on the same page as the players until after they start missing games in October.

Its a shame, but it shows how seriously committed the league is to getting exactly what it wants.

Why else would the straight-faced NHL present a proposal to the players that would turn back the clock three years on the salary cap ceiling to 58 million, and allow 16 out of 30 teams to already be in cap trouble before the season has even begun?

Theres no rush to action by a group of owners thats proven theyre willing to miss a season to achieve their goals, and theres no hesitation by an NHL commission fully prepared for a third work stoppage under his watch.

All of this will be happening while they take full advantage of two vital things that have made the NHL a golden goose during a time of economic recession: invested players that care intensely about protecting the game they love and diehard fans that returned after the NHL wiped away the entire 2004-05 season.

Bettman and the league know they can let their Gordon Gecko-style greed flag fly high, and those two things will always help insulate the NHL when things take a turn for the nasty.

Rookie preseason games and the beginning of training camp is already very much in danger as it appears both sides will blow past the Sept. 15 date when the current CBA expires. At that point the NHL owners will officially lock out the players and the NHL regular season will probably start cancelling games if both sides dont have something hammered out by Sept. 25 a date that would give teams a 10-14 day training camp to get ready for the NHL schedule.

Most expect that the NHL season will get underway prior to New Years Day to preserve the advertisingtelevision jewel that is the Winter Classic, but the two sides dont seem very close right now.

Forget about years until free agency, salary arbitration, entry level contracts and everything else that was wrapped up in that first draconian proposal from the NHL.

The negotiations will stall or turn in the arena of HRR, and the ever-changing definition and percentages divvied up by the players and the league will dominate negotiations until theres a breakthrough or a breakdown.

The players seem to understand that it will eventually become something closer to a 5050 split with the league as the NBA and NFL both agreed to in the last year leading up to hockeys summer of the CBA. Instead of creating their own ridiculous wish list proposal that asked for 59 percent of the hockey related revenue, players took the high road and negotiated with an adversary that doesnt seem to want to give them a fair shake.

Perhaps the NHL will get serious once they start to miss games, or once they realize that the NHLPA isnt going to break under the unprecedented solidarity Donald Fehr has fostered with the hockey rank-and-file.

But none of that is going to matter until both sides invest in a translator that has them speaking the same language.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

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