NHL, union continue to bicker

880481.jpg

NHL, union continue to bicker

Its been nearly a month since the beginning of NHL Lockout 2012, and despite more talks this week, the two sides appear no closer to a new collective bargaining agreement than they did at midnight on September 15.

In the latest development on Wednesday, the Alberta Labour Relations Board rejected the NHLPAs claim that the lockout was illegal in that Canadian province. The players association was hopeful that a ruling in their favor, which in essence would mean the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers would have to pay their players, would give them leverage in negotiations.

It wasnt to be, and each side released a statement about the ruling that only reinforced the fact that these sides havent budged from their respective positions.

We are pleased with the Alberta Labour Boards ruling today that the lockout of Players is effective on a League-wide basis, including in Alberta, and we are extremely appreciative of the decisive manner in which the matter was handled, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in the NHLs statement. We are hopeful that this ruling will enable both the League and the NHL Players Association to focus all of our efforts and energies on negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to get our game and our Players back on the ice.

The NHLPA responded with its own yawn-inducing proclamation.

The players are obviously disappointed with todays decision. Unfortunately, the Alberta Labour Relations Board decided not to exercise its discretion to determine whether the owners lockout violates Alberta law. We will consider our further options with regard to this case.

In the meantime, the players want to play, the fans want to watch the game, and the many workers and business owners who are dependent on NHL hockey for their livelihood want the season to start. We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement at the earliest possible time and hope that the NHL begins to show a willingness to do so.

Meanwhile, another day goes by without NHL hockey, as the league has cancelled all games through Oct. 24. Regular season game play was set to begin with a light schedule on Thursday, Oct. 11, while the Sharks would have boarded their charter to fly to Anaheim in preparation for a game on Oct. 12 with the rival Ducks.

Instead, the two sides reportedly discussed more secondary issues on Wednesday in Toronto, including get this ice conditions in buildings around the league.

Players are growing more frustrated, including the Sharks Ryane Clowe, who spoke with ESPNs Pierre LeBrun on Wednesday.

"The way I see it, if Shea Weber or Ryan Suter or Zach Parise signed those big deals in July and then arrived at training camp and said, 'Were not playing until we get 20 percent more on our contract,' there would be an uproar," Clowe told LeBrun. "The owners would say, 'No chance. Well, its the same thing. Contracts have been signed, both the owners and the players have signed these contracts. Now theyre trying to take whatever percentage off the top? Its all about principle. Its a handshake and an agreement. Why did all these owners rush to sign all these players before the lockout?"

Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson, one of the more respected players in the game today, also had some choice words for the NHL owners' strategy.

Like everybody else, Im disappointed that the owners chose to have this tactic from the very beginning, Alfredsson told the Ottawa Citizen. They chose to give a low-ball offer from the get-go. It was kind of clear what they wanted and I dont see anything changing anytime soon.

The players havent felt any financial losses in terms of real dollars just yet, but that will change on Oct. 15, when the first of what was supposed to be 13 paydays goes by the wayside. Quick math says thats approximately 7.7 percent of their annual pay that they will never get back.

According to Daly, the NHL, which raked in a record 3.3 billion in revenue last season, lost approximately 100 million when the preseason was wiped out.

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

braun-justin-sharks-teal.jpg
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.

* * *

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.