Optimism abounds, but NHL lockout far from over


Optimism abounds, but NHL lockout far from over

For those of you who havent been paying attention to the NHLs collective bargaining process:

First of all, I envy you.

Secondly, I figured now was as good a time as any to try and figure out when and how this thing will end, now that that the league seems ready to actually negotiate a fair deal with its players.

RELATED: NHL owners propose 50-50 split

So, here are five somewhat random thoughts on the 31st day of the NHL lockout, but perhaps the first day of real progress towards starting the 2012-13 season.

1 On there being a season

First things first there will be NHL hockey this season.

Whenever people have asked me in recent weeks if there would be a season, my response was something along the lines of yes, they cant be that dumb, followed by, at least I dont think so, anyway Hopefully they will prove me right, as its hard to think the NHL and NHLPA dont realize they would be the laughing stock of professional sports if they suffered a second cancelled season in eight years. Not to mention, the damage theyd be doing to the league and money theyd be surrendering.

It also looks to me like the NHL had a clear plan all along. With their most recent offer, and with it being the middle of October already, the league knows theres a small window for the players to get a deal done in which they wont have to sacrifice a single paycheck (although just how the NHL plans to get to 50 percent of revenue from 57 percent without a large escrow sacrifice by the players, has yet to be fully explained).

Still, there is work to be done on a number of issues, and no one knows every little detail of the NHLs proposal except the two parties involved (the NHLPA is reviewing it now). A season beginning on Nov. 2 is far from a sure thing at this point. In fact, a Thanksgiving or early December start date might still be more likely than Nov. 2.

2 On the 5050 split

Even before the lockout began, one NHL source told me that the leagues goal would be to get hockey related revenue down to a 50-50 split from the 57 percent that players received at the end of the last CBA. Even the players surely knew that this was coming, especially on the heels of recent deals in the NBA (51 percent to the players) and NFL (47-48.5 percent to the players).

Well, now its finally on the table.

Of course, that doesnt mean the players are just going to roll over and accept it. The biggest single concern the players have had since the lockout began is that they want their current contracts honored in full. The league finally recognized they were serious about this, and according to what Gary Bettman said on Tuesday, there are no salary rollbacks included in their latest proposal. In fact, according to reports, there are clauses in the deal that ensure the players wont have to give back a large percentage of their salaries in the first year, despite the reduction in hockey-related revenue.

My guess is that the players will agree to a 5050 revenue split, although not necessarily right away. I think theyll push for something along the lines of 53 percent next season with a gradual reduction to 5050 within a few years. As revenues (hopefully) increase, current contracts wont be subject to an escrow reduction.

The two parties, obviously, will talk about this again.

3 On contract lengths

This issue is nearly as important as money to the owners, who need some sort of a clause in future contracts to protect them from themselves. That means teams like Philadelphia (Chris Pronger and the Shea Weber offer sheet) and New Jersey (Ilya Kovalchuk) wont be able to circumvent the salary cap with lifetime deals in order to ink the most sought-after free agents.

It also means contracts like those signed by Ryan Suter and Zach Parise with Minnesota this summer will be a thing of the past.

Owners have requested a five-year cap on all contracts, and its hard to imagine the NHLPA will go for that. Still, I would expect that this is something that the owners will take a hard stance on. In the end, I think we can expect something along the lines of a six or seven year maximum on future deals, perhaps with a rule that salaries be the same every season, and a teams cap number will be measured in real dollars rather than the average salary for the life of the deal as it is now.

4 On minor league reassignments counting against the cap

Our friends at ProHockeyTalk.com have already dubbed this the Wade Redden Rule, and its another potential roadblock to getting a deal done.

As it stands now, NHL teams like the New York Rangers are allowed to send players that have cleared waivers to their minor league clubs in order to have them not count against the cap, such as they did with Redden, who signed a six-year, 39 million deal in 2008 but now suits up for the Connecticut Whale in the AHL.

The league wants to put an end to that practice, as it gives the higher revenue clubs an unfair advantage. For example, if the Flyers wanted to jettison goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who already looks like a colossal mistake and has eight years and 45 million remaining on his deal, to their minor league affiliate, his salary would still be counted against the cap.

Again, this is something the NHLPA will not be so sanguine on, as it takes money directly from its coffers. At the same time, in my opinion (and likely the opinion shared by many mid-to-low revenue clubs), teams like New York and Philadelphia ought to be penalized for making ill-advised personnel decisions.

Its hard to predict how this will end up.

5 On the PR battle

The NHL suffered an embarrassment on Monday when Deadspin revealed that it had hired a Republican Party strategist to help minimize damage in terms of public opinion. Theres no question the league was losing the PR battle, as many fans viewed the owners as a bunch of greedy billionaires who were looking to line their pockets with money that was already promised to the players.

Well, if the players reject todays NHL proposal outright, theyll risk losing that majority support from the fan base.

Its hard to argue a 5050 split is anything but fair, especially if the league is promising to honor current signed deals in full. Although it was their decision to lock the players out, the owners and Bettman have helped to oversee a league that has grown to 3.3 billion in revenues thereby making the players richer in the process. They assume all the risk, and have run the league on just 43 percent of revenues. Lockout aside, its hard to argue that theyve been successful in doing just that.

Several players, including the Sharks' Dan Boyle, have said in recent weeks that they knew there would have to be certain givebacks to the owners. We'll find out now if they were serious.

NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks


NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks

Programming note – Sharks-Ducks coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. on NBCSN


Sharks: 3-3-0, 6 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Ducks: 2-3-1, 5 points, 4th Pacific Division


***The Sharks will be playing just their second home game. They beat the Kings at SAP Center on Oct. 12, 2-1, and promptly went on a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, going 2-3-0. Tuesday’s game against Anaheim is the first of a three-game homestand, and the Sharks have five of their next six at home overall.

San Jose notoriously struggled in its first home game after a multiple-game road trip last season, going 1-8-1. Their lone win was in a shootout over Edmonton.

The coach welcomes a heated rivalry game.

“I’m actually excited and glad we’re having this type of game coming off the way we played last game,” Pete DeBoer said. “There are no speeches that need to be made, you have to be emotionally invested here tonight in order to win. I think we will be.”

Under new/old head coach Randy Carlyle, Anaheim dropped its first four games (0-3-1, all on the road), but brings a two-game winning streak into tonight. Carlyle led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, and replaces Bruce Boudreau, who was fired after last season.

Both the Sharks and Ducks have scored exactly 14 goals through their first six games, and both are just 3-for-20 on the power play.

***The Sharks are last in the NHL in faceoff percentage (42.9 percent). That’s not typical, as San Jose finished seventh last season, which was actually its lowest overall finish in the Joe Thornton era.

Tomas Hertl (47.6 percent) will replace Chris Tierney (31.9 percent) as the third line center, while Tierney gets bumped to the fourth line.

“Hopefully I’ll be strong and win a lot of faceoffs for guys, and everybody will be better,” Hertl said. “If you’re losing it’s hard, because you’re chasing the puck all game.”

DeBoer pointed out that faceoffs are harder to win on the road, where the Sharks have played five of their first six games, but “it’s definitely a concern.”

“It mimics our five-on-five game a little bit,” DeBoer said. “It’s a compete area for me, and we’ve got to get better at it.”

***Micheal Haley will return to the Sharks’ lineup in place of Matt Nieto on the fourth line. In the final preseason game on Oct. 9, the Sharks and Ducks combined for 86 penalty minutes, including four fights – two involving Haley. 

“They obviously have a few guys that can play a physical style, so we'll be ready,” Haley said. “I don't think it will be like that game (preseason) necessarily, but we're a heavy team, too, so we'll match them.”


Sharks: Mikkel Boedker. The offseason addition is off to a slow start with just one goal, no assists and four shots through six games, but will get a look on the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. San Jose will go with four all new lines after getting shut out in Detroit on Saturday, 3-0.

Ducks: Nick Ritchie. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ritchie scored the game-winning goal on Sunday in a 4-2 Ducks win over Vancouver at home. He’s playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and has two points (1g, 1a) through the first six games.


Mikkel Boedker – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Patrick Marleau – Tomas Hertl – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Nick Ritchie – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Ryan Garbutt – Antoine Vermette – Chris Wagner
Joe Cramarossa – Michael Sgarbossa – Jared Boll

Cam Fowler – Josh Manson
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Shea Theodore – Kevin Bieksa

John Gibson
Jonathan Bernier


Sharks: None.

Ducks: Nate Thompson (Achilles surgery) and Simon Despres (concussion) are out.


“I don’t know if speed is the biggest thing we’re missing right now. With us it’s compete and battle and playing the right way that we need to worry about. We didn’t play well in Detroit, there’s no way around that. … We just didn’t compete. That’s a frustrating thing, but it’s an easy thing to fix.” – Logan Couture

Notes: DeMelo will play for Sharks soon; Couture battling illness

Notes: DeMelo will play for Sharks soon; Couture battling illness

SAN JOSE – Dylan DeMelo may finally be coming to a San Jose Sharks game near you.

The 23-year-old defenseman, who has yet to play in any of the first six games, will likely make his season debut shortly, coach Pete DeBoer indicated on Monday.

“That’s something we discuss every day,” DeBoer said. “We like him, we’re very comfortable with him. We’d have no problem putting him in. I know Bob [Boughner] has no problem playing him, and not worrying about playing him against anybody out there. It’s a nice luxury to have. 

“We can get to the point where it’s too many games where he’s sitting out. We’re getting close to that. We’re going to have to get him in soon here.”

DeMelo has not played for the Sharks since the final game of the 2015-16 regular season on April 9. He served as the seventh defenseman in the playoffs, but the Sharks dressed the same six blueliners throughout their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the preseason, DeMelo – who would have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned to the Barracuda – beat out Mirco Mueller for the seventh job on the Sharks. He signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason.

A former sixth round pick of the club in 2011, DeMelo had a breakthrough season in 2015-16, playing in 45 games and establishing himself as an NHL defenseman. He finished the season with two goals and two assists for four points and an even rating.

* * *

While the Sharks shook up their forward lines at Monday’s skate, the top power play unit remained the same. Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are still together and will try to work out the kinks to their game.

The Sharks are 3-for-20 on the power play, with just one of those coming on a five-on-four.

“We’re not shooting the puck enough, that’s the big thing,” Couture said. “We’ve got to shoot the puck, get traffic. We always have a guy in front of the net and we’ve been getting away from that.”

* * *

Couture has managed five points (2g, 3a) through the first six games, all while battling a persistent cold that he just can’t shake. It’s obvious he’s dealing with some sort of sinus issue when hearing him speak the past few days.

“It’s like a month, it won’t go away,” Couture said. “It’s crazy.”

* * *

Breaking with standard practice, the Sharks opted to stay in Detroit the night after Saturday’s game, rather than immediately flying home on the team charter.

The Sharks were a miserable 1-8-1 in their first home game after a multiple-game road trip last regular season, with their lone win coming against Edmonton in a shootout, so DeBoer figured he would try something different this year.

“When we sat down in the summer and looked at areas to improve, our record coming back from road trips was not good last year,” he said. “We looked at opponents when we came back, our travel schedule. We’re just looking for answers to fix some of the areas that maybe we weren’t real good at last year.”