Boyle worried about long-term NHL damage

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Boyle worried about long-term NHL damage

SAN JOSE There are few words in the English language as wonderful as the word "payday." In fact, a quick Twitter search of the word shows it's often accompanied by one of those a big yellow Emoji smiley faces that have become so common in text message conversations.

Paydays can be especially sweet if you're a professional hockey player. But not today. In fact, Nov. 16 marked the third missed check that players would have received had the season started on time.

Since the early days of the NHL lockout more two months ago, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle has stated more than once that he thought Gary Bettman and the league owners were going to wait until the players missed a few paydays before getting down to real, actual labor negotiations. The more money that players missed out on, Boyle surmised, the more likely they would be to take a collective bargaining agreement that was more favorable to ownership.

REWIND: Boyle bothered by NHL owners' tactics

So far, its hard to dispute that viewpoint, especially after the league proposed a much-publicized and decidedly wacky two-week moratorium on CBA talks on Thursday.

Boyle is in the middle of a six-year, 40 million contract that would have paid him 6.67 million this season. He has one year left on that deal, for the same amount, in 2013-14.

But, its not the lost wages hes concerned about, as the calendar hits mid-November with no NHL hockey. He's made plenty of money in his 14-year NHL career.

Its the potential long-term damage to the game that has been so kind to him since he signed with the Florida Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 1998, and the chance that many fans could tune out the league for good if this thing goes much longer.

Its not the checks that Im missing. My biggest concern is the fans, Boyle said. Im so grateful and thankful to be playing this game, but if theres nobody in the stands to play in front of, thats the worst part. And thats my biggest concern, is were hurting the game.

We had some good steam coming in here. Thats what I worry about every day, and thats what I talk to my wife about. I just dont want to damage the fans, and the game.

The 36-year-old Boyle realizes that not every NHL player in the same situation. The average career lasts less than six years at an annual salary somewhere in the 2.4 million range.

The lost pay might affect certain guys. Again, at this point in my career, thats not affecting me as much as a younger guy or a guy in a different position. Its not a paycheck thing, Boyle repeated.

There are 700-plus guys in the union and guys coming up, so you want to make sure its fair for everybody. Its a union for a reason. Its got to work for everybody.

Like just about everyone else who has been following this ill-advised and nonsensical debacle, Boyle was perplexed with the owners most recent tactic of shutting down negotiations until the end of the month, at the earliest.

I dont understand it, because time is of the essence. Id rather hammer away at it than waste another two weeks when time is so crucial, he said.

Talks appeared to be picking up steam last week when the sides met for four straight days, but the leagues insistence that the union accept its restrictive contract demands led to yet another breakdown. It was reported that Gary Bettman told the players association that were past the point of give-and-take." The league wants to cap contracts at five years maximum, along with a five-percent maximum variance from year-to-year, thereby eliminating the front-loaded deals that are designed to circumvent the salary cap.

Meanwhile, union head Donald Fehr has continually and publically repeated the question -- whats in this for the players?

Besides the obvious answer of a league open for business, Boyle was asked what Fehr might mean by that.

Theres got to be give-and-take. Thats my interpretation of it. Maybe we give up a right somewhere, and we gain a right somewhere else. Or, tot necessarily gain, but not lose.

Money has gone down. Every contract right is down, as well. Its kind of across the board. Thats what he means by that. Theres nothing they are willing to eat up on their side, so far.

Along with Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Thomas Greiss skated at Sharks Ice on Friday. Islanders goalie and former Shark Evgeni Nabokov is also among the participants, as is former Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo.

Michal Handzus became the ninth Sharks player to commit to playing overseas, when he joined his hometown club of HC Banska Bystrica in Slovakia on Wednesday. Handzus, 35, had been skating with the team in practice.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.