No Trade Idea

Here is a quick idea on the no-trade clause.  Rather than eliminating the no-trade completely, limit the term of any no-trade to five years, or 2/3 of the contract length.  This could also help to reduce the length of contracts organically, without putting in specific language about this.  It could actually wind up being beneficial to both sides.

Just a thought.

The Doom and Gloom that Sells

I don’t know if you heard about this, but the My Little Pony cartoon is very popular these days. They have a following of men called Bronies, and even their own convention called BronyCon. No kidding.

I thought about this when I saw the headline ‘Industry insider: “We will not play next year”‘ over at NBC PHT today. Because we don’t want to believe in something positive, we want to see the entire thing fall apart. There isn’t a Dazzleglow or Twilight Sparkle among us. No Bronies or whatever the female equivalent of Bronies are as hockey fans.

Why think the two sides can come together? Why believe that Donald Fehr can pull off what Bob Goodenow couldn’t? Why think that the owners aren’t going to budge, or that the counter offer from the players might be compelling enough to start a legitimate discussion on the actual points of the CBA?

From that post:

“Last time around, the NHL made its salary cap proposal and barely moved off it,” the source, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told PHT. “This is not an initial proposal. The league is shutting down and it’s ‘come back when you’re ready to accept.’

“This is exactly what happened last time. You heard it here first, we will not play next year.”

Yes, last time around. And any ‘source’ can say what happened last time around. Hell, we were all there for it. I could have told you what happened last time. Look, Ma, I’m a source now.

(this video isn’t embedding like I want it to, but it’s supposed to start at the 17 second mark. It makes more sense that way).

Remember, when it comes time to publish the news, and especially news that sells, no matter if it’s selling gold, slap chops, or clicks and page views, sensationalism sells. Gloom and doom is a sure way to get the fearful to read. And just because a source says something, doesn’t make it magically happen. Unless their name is Harry Potter. Then, maybe you should worry.

Still Think There Won’t Be a Lockout?

Last week, I wrote a post saying that I didn’t believe the NHL would see another lockout this year (with the caveat that they might lose the preseason, which wouldn’t be a loss in my books).  That was before the media reported on what the owners initial proposal was.  From Puck Daddy:

Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Montreal has reported five major points from the NHL’s first CBA proposal, and you may want to sit down, because I’m gonna give it to you straight. If the owners aren’t going to budge from these five points, we are most definitely headed for a lockout:

1. Reduce players’ hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57 %.

2. 10 seasons in the NHL before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.

3. Contracts limited to 5 years.

4. No more salary arbitration.

5. Entry-level contract are 5 years long instead of 3.

Add to that some other revelations by Larry Brooks:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/NYP_Brooksie/statuses/223977981146693632″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/NYP_Brooksie/statuses/223978134452715520″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/NYP_Brooksie/statuses/223978473151143937″]

So, how do I feel about a potential lockout, now that a preposterous offer like this is what the owners are leading off with?

Still not seeing a lockout.  Because the owners are going to budge a lot.

Let’s take these points one by one:

1) Of course the NHL is going to ask for this kind of percentage reduction. Both the NBA and NFL got significantly modified caps, and the NHL owners would be irresponsible not to ask for even more.  If you don’t test the waters, you aren’t going to find out what the market (in this case, the cap) can handle.  Look at the roughly halfway point.  They will get their 50-52%, and be happy with it.  This is just a test.

2) The players got a reduction in free agency age in the last CBA.  The owners want it back.  I see this being a split.

3) Five years is pretty low.  Seven or eight year contract limits?  I can see that.  But I expect the players will fight this one.  Instead, I would be looking for a percentage based rise and fall in salaries over the term of the contract.  That sounds like a more reasonable way to limit contract lengths organically, take out the funny business in CBA circumventing like the Kovalchuk contract, and still allow for a market driven by value.  This seems pretty win – win overall.  See below in the Larry Brooks evaluation for a little more on this.

4)  This won’t happen.  Take it or leave it is not good faith bargaining.  This will go.

5) 5 year rookie contracts?  So half of your restricted career is on a rookie contract?  Look for this to be negotiated to a halfway mark of four years.

And as far as the Larry Brooks tweets:

– Redefining hockey related revenues is a fairly crafty move, but I don’t think Donald Fehr is going to fall for this one.

– If the percentages of the cap change, expect the floor and ceiling percentages to change as well.  This is an issue for the smaller market and smaller budget teams, and they actually need a change in the way the floor works.  But the numbers here will be tied to the cap percentage.  It’s very negotiable.

– As for the signing bonuses, I think bonuses are a scourge of the league, and should be significantly reduced, and rookie contract bonuses should be reduced a little bit.  But I don’t see them going away.  Nor the same salary in each season for the life of the contract.  The owners are shooting themselves in the foot with this aspect, and since they won’t get five-year term limits, they will likely ditch this proposal for something a little more reasonable (see point three above).  Keeping the salary the same over the length of the contract makes it less trade-able.  If you have a sliding salary, you can ditch that onto a budget market if needed.  Handcuffing yourself doesn’t make sense, even if the old system in this regard is broken.  This is why the salary cap hit was averaged over the length of the player’s contract in the first place.

OK, so what next?

Next, the players counter-offer.  And it’s going to be slightly less ridiculous than the one the owners put forth.  But only slightly.  The players would term this CBA into next season if they could.  We will hear that the players aren’t going to fix the system for the owners.  We will hear the words “non-starter’ many times.

This is just how it works.  This proposal was a show of strength, and the owners are going to see what happens next.  There is plenty of time until October.

Thin Air – July 11, 2012

New Nash-ville: Breaking!!!11OMG1!!1ONE!!! – Rick Nash has six teams he is willing to be traded to.  The 2011-12 LA Kings, the 2010-11 Bruins, and the 2010 Canadian Olympic team are the top three.  If those don’t work, he is willing to go to the NY Giants.  He has dropped the Lakers, as they already have a guy named Nash on their team.  He had the Predators on his list, but he saw their mascot’s name and got confused.

That said, if Nash wants out of Columbus, then get the hell out of Columbus.  Don’t tie the hands of your GM, who is asking for everything in the world, and will not get it.  If you go to that Puck Daddy post, you will see that Nash wants to go to teams with a good center to set him up.  Or, you know, Columbus could try to get a solid center, which they could use anyways.  Just saying.

Better Dead than Red: The Winter Classic Alumni Game rosters were partially unveiled today.  My guess is they did it this early in advance so they could get a count of walkers and wheelchairs needed for the players.  If I wanted to watch a bunch of old guys skating around in Red Wings jerseys, I would go to a regular season game.

Shane Doan Doobie Do Doan Doan, Comma Comma: What is with Shane Doan?  Thanks for showing loyalty or some strange version of it, but either get out of town or resign with the Coyotes.  He has to know what he wants by now, and should be willing to act on it.  If he doens’t, sign a one year deal (because he can dictate terms with the Phoenix at this point) and see what happens with ownership.  

Ownership issues didn’t derail the team going into the playoffs.  They lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, after a solid run that turned into a loss of composure.  If you blame the ownership situation for that, you need to rethink what accountability is. 

But Doan’s value has to be going down with every passing day.  The big spending period of free agency is over.  Now it’s about making salary fit into a budget, and making chemistry work.  And if you still need to plug holes, doing it cheaply.  Doan, sign with Phoenix for a year.  Get it over with.

URLs Gone Wild: Ever since Parise and Suter signed with the Wild, I wanted to use that headline.  After seeing what the Wild spent on two players, I haven’t seen much anger or frustration from fans that their teams didn’t make similar offers.  Spending Kovalbucks on two players isn’t any kind of guarantee you will win a Cup, and handing out CBA protected bonuses like this isn’t the smartest spending.  Even Avs fans, who thought getting Parise would be the end-all, be-all solution to the team’s woes have been fairly quiet.  Perhaps going into the next season, less is more. 

The Ongoing Break: I’ve been taking a break from Twitter and Facebook lately, and I won’t lie, it’s been nice.  I feel like there is less drama in my life, and I don’t get invested in the silly arguments that used to waste my time.  Now I waste my time in other ways.  Social media can be great, but it can also get out of hand, and I would spend way too much time seeing what other people said.  And twitter kills my blogging.  It really does.  

Still, I’m happy to pop on and reply to @s and DMs, or messages on facebook.  I just have given up on the timeline for a while.  Try it, you might like it.

Housekeeping: A few things I wanted to mention here.  I know I’ve mentioned it on twitter, but I have officially moved back to Denver, after being on tour for the last several years.  I even got an apartment in Capitol Hill with a one year lease.  That means I will get to watch more Avalanche hockey, and might even write about them more often.  It’s been a weird transition, and I’m not sure how life will look by the time the season starts.

It also means that Jay and I will be able to do a few more episodes of the Avs Hockey Podcast next season, and most of them will be face to face, which is always a better podcast.  It’s one of the bright spots for me, and I’m honored that Jay wants me around for the show.  I don’t post about it here often, but that will change.

You probably didn’t notice, but I changed my byline here from Tapeleg to James.  Because that is my name.  Which isn’t really a secret or anything.  When I started hockey blogging, I was anonymous for reasons.  But when I started The Rink (which has languished to the point that I need to make a decision on it), I felt it was silly not to use my real name.  That was almost four years ago, and for some reason, I never got around to changing it here.  I still like the Tapeleg moniker (and if you ever wanted to know what the deal was with that, you can listen here), and will still be using it, but I did want to make the change, and so there you go.  Hi, I’m James.  I hope you like it here.

The L Word: Why I don’t think we will see another lockout

Cold Hard Cash, bitches

Cold hard cash, bitches

The big fear for hockey fans is another lockout on the scale of the one we saw in 2004. The secret hope is a lockout on the scale of the NBA this year, or the NHL in 1995, or even better yet, the NFL before this previous season. The fans are practically salivating for the loss of a few games.

Sounds insane, right? Who would want something like that? Oh, you know, the cynics, and they are everywhere. They think the system is doomed, that the two sides will never come together. They keep a number in their heads, and if that number isn’t brought up in every report, they scream to the heavens that we won’t see hockey in October.

Color me an optimist, but I don’t think there will be a lockout. I will concede that there may be a loss of preseason, but I would hardly consider that a loss. Losing the preseason is like losing a limp. Sure, you technically lose something, but really, you get something in return.  We don’t need the preseason as it stands, but that’s for another post some day.

The two sides are meeting, and they are saying the right things, such as (via NHL.com):

“They’ve been positive,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the meetings. “They’ve been constructive. They’ve been cordial.”

and (via NHLPA.com):

“We had a meeting for the better part of three hours. A lot of different issues were discussed,” said NHLPA Executive Director, Don Fehr. “The meeting was business-like and appropriate and we’ve got another one scheduled for Friday.”

Which is pretty much what you would expect. Neither side will be saying much, and leaks will be few and far between. With every word being scrutinized, don’t expect a lot of news while things are still friendly. This isn’t the Bob Goodenow-led NHLPA either. I don’t see this being played out in the court of the press and public the way the last CBA was. I’m not sure either side would come away unscathed in that situation.

What other people see as the end times for the 2012-13 season, I see as simple negotiating. There are things that needed to happen to legally start the negotiation, and when those actions were taken, the emo hockey fans among us danced the lockout dance, which looks nothing like the safety dance, but is very similar to posting “First!” in a comment thread while swaying back and forth in the middle of the club, wondering why no one understands you..

Myself? If I’m going to dance, I’ll be doing the fishstick. I don’t see anything that is going to completely derail the talks, regardless of the teeth gnashing. Simply put, there isn’t enough there to make the prospect of losing another season worth it to either side.

Philosophical Differences Aside

The 2004-05 lockout happened for one simple reason: the player market, and where either side thought it should go. The players didn’t want a salary cap, the owners did. In fact, without a cap, the owners claimed they would be out of business and quickly. They needed cost certainty. We can debate the need for cost certainty when nearly every business in the world operates without one, but I agree that without a salary cap, the NHL would look different than it does today (and I believe for the worse).  It was a fundamental difference that wasn’t going to go away.

Of course, the cap is now in place, and still the owners spend and spend, but they do have their cost certainty, and that’s the point really. We, the fans, see the owners and GMs doing things like paying $196 over 13 years for two free agents and say the owners need saving from themselves, but that isn’t the right way to look at it. The owners didn’t ask for the guarantee of profit (even if they kind of were). They wanted cost certainty, which is different. Now, years later, they need to adjust the numbers.

The players have made out well. They have plenty of advantages that you never hear about when it’s time to talk about contracts. The players have the advantage of using agents, who can play one side against the other until the ink on a contract is dry. If the owners talk about players with each other, it’s collusion. Fair? Sure, that is just the way it works.

While we keep thinking the owners need saving, they know what they are getting into. They understand that sports is a business where you can lose money, and probably will. They know how much they have to play with, and are smart enough (most of the time) to stick to a budget of some sort. It may not look like it from the outside, but that’s what you get when you are on the outside – a murky picture at best.

The Value of a Lockout

The 2004-05 lockout was worth it in the end to the owners. It’s easy to see why, when you look at the numbers. According to The Player, the anonymous NHL player who writes occasionally for Puck Daddy:

In 2003-2004, the final season before the lockout, players’ salaries ate up about 74 percent of all the revenue generated by the NHL. In that year, the business was worth about $2 billion.

Now, I’m no fancy math doctor, but that works out to around $1,480,000,000, which in technical terms is a f!$@#load of money. A league of thirty teams isn’t going to last long on $520 million dollars (and no, I can’t believe I just typed that either). Now the salary floor in the NHL is higher than the first salary cap, and not by a small amount. Simply put, what was good for the goose turned out good for the gander.

This current CBA negotiation isn’t about rolling salaries back 24%. This isn’t about not closing the doors on a few franchises without massive changes. This isn’t a grand new experiment at the possible expense of the players. This is only about a few percentage points.

What I would ask for

So while everything is on the table, what should be included in the new CBA. What should the players and owners be looking for?

For the owners:

Roll back salaries 10%.
Get the cap to a 50/50 split.
Take a few more dollars away from rookie contracts (because rookies, who can’t defend themselves in negotiations, are easy targets, and will always lose to the rest of the players).
Term limits on contracts (8 years max).
Maximum and minimum of how much a contract can go up or down from year to year (no more massively front loaded contracts).
A lower cap floor.

For the players:

Lose as few percentage points as possible (they will lose a few percent, but in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t going to be such a terrible thing).
More participation in league decisions, like realignment, playoff format, and rules (remember the “partnership of the last CBA?).
A more workable revenue sharing model.
Reduced escrow.
Better post-retirement benefits (because why not).

OK, two things there. First, it wouldn’t seem within in the realm of the players to deal with revenue sharing. But a more even or larger amount of revenue sharing would allow other poorer teams to spend a little more on salaries, which is in the interest of the players. And it helps the teams stay in business, which means more jobs for more players.  Losing two to four teams may make sense in some circles, but that’s a lot of players out of work (especially when you start looking at minor league systems), and that is of concern to the NHLPA.

Second, the owners need the maximum and minimum contract fluctuations more than they need contract term limits. Keeping players and agents from exploiting the CBA to get a team to pony up more Kovalbucks will keep teams from signing super long-term deals anyways. This contract style may or may not have started in a GMs office, but once it got out, it was a tool for agents. Keep this at bay, and you have a more viable solution for reasonable contracts than even getting a few percentage points back. I would be gunning for this more than anything, were I an owner.

Keep in Mind:

This is a negotiation. No one is going to get everything they want out of it. Even though the owners got a lot in the last CBA, they didn’t get everything. That’s just how it goes.

And I will bank on my optimism any day of the week before blindly expecting the next lockout. It’s more fun to look forward to more hockey than to sing another goth song about it.

Maybe Don’t Trade Nash

Here’s a wacky thought.  Don’t trade Rick Nash.  There, I said it.

A few years ago, I was in Columbus at the same time as their training camp.  Columbus had made a few interesting roster moves, and it looked like they were finally doing something that could have a positive impact one their team.  And lo and behold, they finally made it to the playoffs.

And yet, things still haven’t worked out for the team.  Get a young goalie who looks (albeit briefly) like a stud?  Watch him crumble before your eyes.  Get a coach who has won a Cup and has a solid defensive system?  Watch young players revolt and fire him.  Get some forwards and stay at home defensemen with a little experience?  Watch them fall apart.  

Through it all, you have Rick Nash.  The one ray of sunshine for the franchise.  The one player who has talent to lead the team for a long time.  And of course, he wants out.  

So do the one thing he doesn’t want.  Don’t trade him.  At least, not yet.  Tell him he is going to be central to the franchise next season.  Tell him you have a plan, and you are going to execute it with him in the spotlight.  Tell him you gave him what he wanted when he signed the contract, it’s time for him to put his money where his mouth is.  And for the team to do the same thing.  Tell him you didn’t spend all this time and fan equity to watch the man the franchise is centered around, and the guy the people in the seats love the most, simply walk away.  

And then you fire every one else you can.  You get your crap together in a way that proves you are doing the right things for the team, and by extension, Rick Nash.  

Because no matter what the Blue Jackets get back, they are still going to wreck the team with the same old attitude.  They will destroy whatever comes into their roster, just like they have so many times in the past.  Last season, they made the big trade for Jeff Carter, then secretly replaced him with Gabe Kotter.  Do you think they won’t do the same damn thing with whomever they get for Nash?  Of course they will. 

Just my two cents.

Avs Before Free Agency

We’re about five minutes away from another free agent frenzy, and I just wanted to pop in with a few quick thoughts on the Avalanche and what they might or might not do.

You will notice I used the word might, and not the word will. The reason is that no one really knows. The Avs are infamously tight lipped, and don’t tend to show their hand before they do anything. While the Leafs are the most obvious team in the league when it comes to telegraphing their moves, the Avs are always in stealth mode. Anyone who says they know what the Avs will do is just joshing. Anyone.

OK, so here are my thoughts.

– Parise and Suter: If the Avs even bother making an offer for either of these players, I would be surprised they tried at all. These guys want to win a Cup, especially after the playoff runs both experienced this postseason. The Avs don’t show the kind of opportunity other teams like the Penguins and Red Wings display year after year. Yes, the Avs have a lot of cap space, and they might even spend some of it, but that doesn’t mean a big time free agent is going to want to take it here. Both of these players are going to be paid handsomely wherever they go, or if they aren’t payed as much as they could command, it’s going to be for their own personal reasons. The Avs might not even bother.

– Staying the course: Every signing this off season points to one thing: there is enough faith in the direction the Avalanche are taking that they want to stick with it for a few more years. I tend to agree, so long as needs start being addressed in a realistic way. I don’t think overspending on a single free agent is going to get those needs addressed. There are about four or five things the Avs need, and all of them should start with the word ‘mean’ or the word ‘tough.’ More than one decent 25 goal scorer wouldn’t hurt, either.

– The Hejda factor: Let’s be honest, would you want to take a big dip in the free agent waters if you had the kind of success the Avalanche have had the last few times they have ponied up? If Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth aren’t cautionary tales, Jan Hejda certainly is. This doesn’t seem like an organization being blinded by the shiny stars. Free agency can be pretty on the outside, but nasty on the inside.

– Duchene’s deal: I didn’t think of this until a few days ago, but Duchene’s deal will run out when it’s time for Landeskog to get paid. Good timing, like when the Islander’s lease runs out about the same time the arena in Quebec should be ready to open.

– Wait it out: I think the needs of the Avs would be better addressed when the dust settles on the first few days of free agency. I would rather see them make a smart move then throw cash at a one dimensional solution that probably isn’t much of a solution in the first place. Signing a big free agent to a lot of long term cash isn’t going to put a lot more butts in the seats at the Pepsi Center. And in the free agency period before a new CBA could clamp down on the salary cap, there is not sense in spending everything you have available. It’s disappointing to the fans to see the first day of free agency go untouched, but that’s what I think the Avs should do.

But hey, that’s just me. I’ve been wrong many times before.