NHL labor talks to resume Wednesday morning

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NHL labor talks to resume Wednesday morning

NEW YORK (AP) This time, NHL owners and players are staying apart for just one day.Negotiations aimed at ended the league's lockout will resume Wednesday morning at the NHL office, the players' association said in a statement Tuesday. Before Monday night's 90-minute bargaining session, it had been eight days since the sides got together.Whether the players' association will bring a new complete proposal, as requested by the NHL on Monday, to the next round of talks remained uncertain. But the union huddled for internal conversations after negotiations ended, and continued talking on Tuesday - pushing further bargaining back a day."It looks like tomorrow," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday. "No other details at this point."The lockout entered its 66th day Tuesday and already has wiped out 327 games. More cancellations could be coming soon without a new deal.While neither side offered much insight following Monday night's talks, there didn't seem to be any of the anger that reportedly existed when the previous negotiations ended a week earlier. Both sides looked forward to when they would reconvene to try to reach the elusive deal that would end the lockout that has already shortened the season and threatens scrap it completely."We talked about various things," union executive director Donald Fehr said Monday. "No new proposals were made, they were not expected to be made. We had hoped to engage them in a discussion about the player-contracting issues that are so important to the players. At least (Monday) they were unwilling to do that."The prevailing question is when will one side say something the other really wants to hear. These negotiations have been going for a while, yet there hasn't been any kind of breakthrough to pave the way to a new collective bargaining agreement.Both sides know the lockout has inflicted a lot of damage on the sport that produced record revenues of over 3 billion last season. Every day of lost time is hurting everyone, and at some point owners and players will have to decide how much of the losses each side will have to absorb."I think every week is important in the process," Daly said Monday. "I don't attach a particular significance to this week over last week or next week. I want to play tomorrow."The league contends it is waiting for the players to present a full proposal on all the major issues - including core economics and player contracting, which deals with the entry-level system, arbitration and free agency. After the request was made, the players' association asked for a break and the meeting adjourned soon after."We've never heard a full proposal from them," Daly said. "They have given us a variation of the same proposal on economics a couple of times and there was no change in that position. They are still suggesting that they are moving in our direction on economics, but until we know exactly what their position is on economics now, we think it's all tied together and would like to hear it all together."Union representatives, along with 18 players who were in attendance, returned to the players' association office to have discussions among themselves. It is unclear if talks will continue through the Thanksgiving holiday if progress is made on Wednesday.The players tried to put the focus on player-contract issues on Monday night before returning to specific revenue and economic areas, but the NHL wasn't interested in that because the league considers everything to be intertwined.Neither side wants to agree to anything, or make concessions in one single area, without knowing how those will affect other parts of the CBA that still need to be negotiated."Our position all along has been on the player contracting issues that they become considerably more important to players as the cap becomes limited," Fehr said.After turning down a suggestion from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to take a two-week break from negotiations, the union requested another meeting with the league. That produced Monday's get-together."We could've taken a couple of weeks off, I suppose," Fehr said. "It's hard for me to see how you make an agreement if you aren't talking, so you talk. Sometimes it doesn't lead anywhere, and perhaps very often it doesn't lead anywhere, but if you aren't talking it's 100 percent sure it doesn't lead anywhere."They were willing to have the meeting if we said we wanted to meet. That is about as far as I can go."Daly said the NHL is always willing to listen if the players have something meaningful to say."We're never going to shut down the process," he said. "If they think there is a reason to meet and we can make progress, we're happy to meet. That's what we told them and that's what led to today's meeting."It was the first bargaining session since Nov. 11, when a busy week of negotiating wrapped up without results. All games through Nov. 30 and the New Year's Day Winter Classic have been called off. More games - including the All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio - could soon be axed, too.One area in which the NHL hasn't budged is in the area of guaranteed money to players. The league wants a percentage split of actual hockey-related revenue instead of a promised dollar amount to players based on projections of how the game will grow."If their proposal continues to be a guaranteed amount of player-share dollars, we have told them that that is not a proposal that is acceptable to us or would ever to be acceptable to our owners right now," Daly said. "If that continues to be where we are, we are a long way apart."

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

SAN JOSE – To borrow a phrase from Chuck Woolery, Todd McLellan was back in two and two.

Saturday’s Game 6 between the Sharks and Oilers marked exactly two years and two days since the Sharks-McLellan love connection was broken up, as the coach and his staff were all essentially fired on April 20, 2015. But McLellan and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft quickly resurfaced with the Oilers a few weeks later, and now they’re moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the expense of their former employer.

At what was his home for seven seasons, McLellan took the press conference podium at SAP Center as the victorious visiting coach after Edmonton’s 3-1 win clinched the series in six games. Asked what the moment meant to him, McLellan preferred not to focus on himself or his staff.

“It’s not about Todd, it’s not about Jay or Jimmy. It’s about the Oilers and the group of players there that are growing up in front of us,” McLellan said.

“We’re part of this team now. I obviously have a soft spot for a lot of the players that are here in San Jose. They gave us a hell of a series. They helped us grow up by pushing us, and we’re lucky to get through. That’s an important thing for us.”

Amazingly, the Oilers managed to prevail with just one even strength point from Connor McDavid, who led the league in scoring in the regular season. That point came with less than a second remaining on the clock on Sunday when McDavid converted on an empty net.

The focus from the outside, among many of the Edmonton and San Jose media, was that the Sharks were doing an admirable job of defending the 20-year-old, who had 30 goals and 100 points in the regular season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, in particular, were keeping McDavid frustrated.

While that may be the case, McLellan said after Game 6 that he had no problem with the McDavid vs. Vlasic showdown. In his view, the Oilers could win the series elsewhere.

“There was a lot of talk in this series about us trying to get Connor away from Vlasic and Braun. Obviously we don’t want to talk about it during the series, but we had an eye on [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] against [Joe Thornton’s] line, especially since they put them together. That was a match we were looking for.

“You can’t get everything. When you’re a coach, the media experts find something and they keep going to it. But coaches have different plans sometimes. Peter [DeBoer] had his plan, we had ours. Ours wasn’t about getting Connor away from Vlasic and Braun, ours was getting [Nugent-Hopkins] on the ice against [Joe] Pavelski and Jumbo and Patty Marleau. For the most part, it worked in our favor.”

It worked, because as the stars on both teams were essentially neutralized, the Oilers’ depth players contributed just a little bit more than the Sharks group did and at more opportune times.

Zack Kassian had a pair of game-winning goals in games two and three; David Desharnais was the Game 5 hero with a game-tying assist and game-winning goal; and Anton Slepyshev posted the game-winner with a breakaway in Game 6. Not exactly big names.

DeBoer was particularly disappointed with Game 3, a 1-0 loss on Kassian’s third period goal; and Game 5, in which the Sharks had a 3-1 lead that they couldn’t protect. That the Sharks only got one power play goal in 18 chances not counting the Game 4 blowout was also one of the reasons for their downfall.

“If you had told me before the series we would have held McDavid in check, we would have won the special teams battle on paper, I probably would have felt pretty good about our chances,” DeBoer said.

Instead, McLellan will take his up-and-coming team to the next round, where it will face off with the Anaheim Ducks.

“For our team, we’re watching them grow up right in front of us, which is a great thing,” he said.

 

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.