Blackhawks

NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

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NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

After months of not agreeing on much, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to have a third party come in and help these languishing negotiations.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation service director George H. Cohen said in a statement on Monday that hes had separate, informal discussions with the league and PAs top representatives during these negotiations.

Blackhawks player representative Steve Montador hopes this leads to something.

I think its important to move the process along, Montador said via email. If theres merit in this, that's great. While the mediators have no decision making powers to enforce anyone to do anything, I hope the process is taken seriously and a deal can be struck.

Cohen has assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and director of mediation services John Sweeney to be part of the negotiations. Commissioner Guy Serota was also slated to be one of the mediators, but after a mid-afternoon flap regarding Serota's Twitter feed -- most of which has been deleted -- Cohen removed him from the process.

Cohen said in a statement that "it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota, one of the mediators I assigned. Accordingly, in order to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations, I have determined to take immediate action, namely to remove Commissioner Serota from this assignment.

As for the FMCS' part in any upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, Cohen released this statement:

At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices, Cohens statement continued. Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCSs long-standing practice, the agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule andor the status of negotiations until further notice.

The subject of mediation has come up a few times during these negotiations, which havent yielded much progress over several months.

Could it help? It certainly couldnt hurt. The league and players association last met before Thanksgiving, when the PA came with its latest proposal. But the league rejected it, and on Friday canceled the 2012-13 All-Star game and regular-season games through Dec. 14.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, when asked recently if a mediator would be a good idea, said this:

That was suggested by (NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr) maybe a month ago. Dons focus all along has been getting a fair deal. Its not about saving face, looking good in the media. Its more about the present and getting a deal done thats fair, he said. If it means mediation to get to that, both sides should seriously consider it.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.