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."
Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.
Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.
“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth.
“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”
Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.
After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.
Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.
It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.
Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.
From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.
The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.
Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.
What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.
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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.
The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).
Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.
The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.
Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.
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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.
Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.
In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.
The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.
It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.
The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.