NEW YORK (AP) As quickly as NHL labor negotiations got going again, they came to a screeching halt. Now there is no telling when the league and the players will return to the bargaining table.After a one-day break following a series of formal discussions this week, the sides got back to business on Sunday. Less than 90 minutes after talks solely about player-contract issues started, they were over.The players contend the NHL has dug in on its position and is not willing to negotiate."The owners made it clear there is no give with respect to their proposals unless the players are willing to take them - this is my phrase, not theirs - down to the comma, then there is nothing to do, that we're past the point of give and take," players' association executive director Donald Fehr said.No new plans to talk were made, but Monday wasn't ruled out. The sides will be in touch, and if they do decide to meet then, those talks will take place in Toronto where leaders from the NHL and the players' association will be to attend Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies."The two sides will be talking," Fehr said. "I don't know when we will get back together again. I suspect it won't be too long, but I don't have any idea. We've indicated to them that when they resume, we'd like it to be in Toronto soon. We're meeting down here in large part because of the convenience, especially after the hurricane, for the families and staff of the NHL. Now we'd like to get some of our people back to their families, too."Getting together hasn't been a problem recently once tensions thawed a bit after both sides rejected proposals on Oct. 18.NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with union special counsel Steve Fehr last weekend, and that led to four straight days of talks this week in New York that ended on a sour note Friday night.Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also took part in Sunday's brief discussions.Daly, Steve Fehr and Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth got together for an informal lunch meeting on Saturday in New York, and the sides made plans Sunday morning to meet again at the NHL's Manhattan office.They just couldn't get any traction on the hotly contested issues involving player contract terms.The NHL wants to limit contracts to five years, make rules to prohibit back-diving contracts the league feels circumvents the salary cap, keep players ineligible for unrestricted free agency until they are 28 or have eight years of professional service time, cut entry-level deals to two years, and make salary arbitration after five years.Daly said Sunday that owners have conveyed the message to him that these issues are of vital importance in a new deal. While there could be room to negotiate within the framework, the bottom line on these issues remains the same."It's fair to say, while there was a candid discussion on those issues, and certainly each side explained their positions to the other, I don't think there was any progress on those issues," Daly said. "I would've hoped that during the course of the past week they would've shown some movement on those issues toward us, knowing what our fundamental concerns are. The message we basically got this week was, We know what your contracting proposals are, we're not prepared to agree to them.'"They are not issues that can be traded off. They are all important issues to us. That doesn't mean you can't talk about them and shake them. There is flexibility around the issues we need to achieve but they are not issues that we can walk away from."Despite reports that talks on Friday got heated before negotiations ended, Daly said Sunday he doesn't feel animosity has crept into the bargaining room. However, if the sides can't find common ground, there won't be a deal anytime soon to save the already delayed and shortened season.A few hours into Friday's session, negotiations broke down over the core economic differences that separate the sides and are threatening the season completely. The lockout already has caused the NHL to call off 327 regular-season games, including the New Year's Day Winter Classic. A lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season."I always like to look at the glass as half-full, not half-empty. I like to be optimistic," Daly said. "I don't know exactly where they are on economics. I hope we're getting closer in that regard. With respect to these issues, they are important issues."If we can find some way to address our concerns in these (player contract) issues, we can move this process forward. Right now, given their opposition to addressing some of these issues, I don't know where we go."
SAN JOSE – Like a handful of NHL goaltenders, Martin Jones prefers not to speak to the media on the morning of nights he’s playing. So when the 27-year-old Sharks netminder was named as an All-Star before a game in Edmonton on Tuesday, the media in attendance respected his typical game day routine.
His friends and family, though, may not have been aware of his preference for limited interaction. Congratulations were in order for Jones, who will be a part of the Pacific Division team in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend from Jan. 27-29.
“I was trying to push it to the next day, obviously we had a game that night,” Jones said. “Lots of texts from family and friends. Everyone was pretty excited.”
Jones knew it was a possibility that he might be named. In his second season as the Sharks’ primary starter, and coming off of a brilliant playoff run, he’s tied for fifth in the NHL with 21 wins and his 2.26 goals-against average is ninth. He’ll return to the venue where he started his NHL career as a backup to Jonathan Quick from 2013-15.
Asked for his reaction when he got the news Tuesday morning, which was also his birthday, he said: “I was excited, it’s going to be a fun event. Just going to be really cool to play with all those guys, and it’s kind of fun that it’s in L.A., as well.”
Other than Brent Burns, a case can be made that Jones’ is the Sharks’ most valuable player through the first half. The club hasn’t been scoring goals at its typical rate; rather, it’s been relying on its defensive structure to keep the other team from getting on the board.
That, of course, includes Jones. Although he doesn’t often see many shots, as the Sharks are give up the third-fewest at 27.0, he usually has to make a handful of difficult saves on a nightly basis. That’s a result of Pete DeBoer wanting his club to play an aggressive style, in which defensemen are encouraged to get involved in the offensive end.
“I’d like to think that we’re aggressive and we still don’t give up a lot of chances, but there’s no doubt we give up a handful of quality chances a night,” DeBoer said. “That’s the difference in the games, and [Jones] knows that. He might not get 40 or 50 shots, but he’s going to get 25 and a handful of quality chances. If he can make a couple big saves a night for us, that’s usually the difference.”
Paul Martin said: “I think he solidifies our team in general. When you have him back there to make the easy consistent saves, and stand on his head and make big saves – you need those in critical parts of the game. I think he’s continued just to get better, as well.”
Jones has been much more consistent than the start of last season, when he got off to a scorching start, cooled off in November and December, but was a rock over the second half and in the playoffs.
This season, he posted a 2.15 GAA and .916 SP in October, followed by a 1.96 GAA and .924 SP in November, followed by a 2.24 GAA and .916 SP in December.
That’s consistency, and it’s all an NHL team wants from it’s goaltender. The knowledge that he will be there to make the routine saves with some spectacular ones mixed in gives confidence to the group to just play its game. Jones is doing that.
DeBoer said: “The guys just want to know what to expect every night, and that he’s going to stop the ones that he should stop. That’s all anyone’s looking for, and I think he does that as well as anyone in the league.”
There’s another part of it, too, according to the coach. It’s something that can’t be measured on scoresheets.
“The guys like him,” DeBoer said. “That’s the other part about goaltending that you have to remember, is the guys have to want to play hard for you. He’s a great teammate, and a real popular guy, and the guys want to go the extra mile when he’s in there because of that.”
That’s why on that morning in Edmonton, while Jones was in game-prep mode, his teammates were happy to comment on their goaltender, who they will need to continue to play well over the next three months and beyond. The All-Star nod is the latest evidence that Jones is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the NHL’s best.
“This year with the year he’s had and getting the All-Star nod, it’s nice to see that he’s become a star in this league now,” Joe Thornton said on that chilly morning in Alberta, while Jones was sitting in the corner, unstrapping his pads.
SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ suffered one of their worst defeats of the season, getting shut out by a Blues club that had been having tremendous difficulty keeping the puck out of its own net lately. The three main takeaways from the ugly 4-0 loss…
1 – Thornton awaiting punishment?
It’s difficult to say whether the NHL will further punish Thornton for spearing Paul Stastny. Perhaps the five-minute major and game misconduct midway through regulation was plenty for the transgression. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was fined for a similar play in a December game Ottawa in on Erik Karlsson, though, and it wouldn’t completely shock me if Thornton gets Monday’s game off against Winnipeg as those kinds of stick infractions are frowned upon. We’ll see.
The bigger issue though is just how confused the Sharks looked without their top line center. They managed just 11 shots over the final 29 minutes when Thornton was kicked out, and never really looked like they were into the game after that. Perhaps that was partly due to St. Louis turning up the intensity, but signing Thornton to an extension only looks that much more important after witnessing how the team played without him – even if he is slowing down a bit, and looking for that first goal into a manned net.
2 – Still powerless
It’s baffling just how bad the Sharks power play looks on most nights. Saturday was no different. Sure, Joe Pavelski should have converted on that five-on-three, but that was really their only dangerous chance on that advantage. Then, after the Blues gifted them a four-on-three power play after Thornton’s major, they didn’t get any good looks on that one, either.
This was a Blues penalty killing unit that had been brutal lately, too, allowing at least one power play goal against in eight of its last nine games. The Sharks got just three shots on goal in 3:20 of power play time, while allowing Colton Parayko to score on a brief St. Louis advantage.
“The power play could have been a turning point for is in a positive way for us, and wasn’t,” Pete DeBoer said.
Brenden Dillon said: “Special teams are huge. It can win and lose games, and tonight unfortunately we were on the opposite side of that.”
The Sharks are now just 15-for-106 on the power play since Nov. 1 (14.1 percent). On this team, that’s inexcusable.
3 – Sinking in the standings
The Ducks, Kings and Oilers all won on Saturday night, making the division as tightly packed as it’s been in some time. San Jose has dropped to third place, four points behind the Ducks and one point behind Edmonton, although the Sharks have played two fewer games than each. They’re also just three points ahead of Calgary, whom they lost to on Wednesday, with three games in hand.
The Sharks continue to give up points to Western Conference opponents, too. While they’ve feasted on the east, going 15-6-0, they are just 10-10-2 against the west. Nine of their next 10 are in the Western Conference, too, so that had better start changing.