Greetings. Also, salutations. This is my last mailbag of the year before a well-deserved – OK, maybe just a “deserved” – vacation. I’ll be back the week of Jan. 14, but in the meanwhile, keep your questions coming and the gentlemen – OK, maybe just “men” – of THN will answer them. Here’s hoping you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season.
Adam, why can’t the NHL and the NHLPA have something like player arbitration? The two sides can’t agree on a figure and a third party makes a decision. If one side decides to “walk away,” then we would be where we are now, but a whole lot faster. Plus it would be very difficult to “spin” the PR in favor of the side that walked away.
Scott Callahan, Fort Collins, Col.
I believe you at least partially answered your own question. If you had non-binding arbitration and one side could walk away, nothing would be solved and the NHL would be in the same limbo it is now. Of course, binding arbitration – meaning arbitration that both parties would have no choice but to accept – is another story altogether.
But that’s precisely why neither side would agree to it. The focus would turn to the belief system of the arbitrator and not the issues, which is something players and owners don’t want to risk billions of dollars on. They’re happier to plot out their own strategy and take their chances either against the other side, or, as seems increasingly likely, in a courtroom.
Adam, this might be a little premature, but with an impending cancellation of the full season, I have got to thinking about what would happen with the NHL draft. The Oilers have a large amount of young talent already, could they really be in a position for another first round pick? Would a team like the Leafs, who have had the least success of any team since the last lockout, have a better chance at first overall?
Richard Simpson, Scarborough, Ont.
First, a few words of caution: I don’t think we’re on the precipice of a full-season cancellation quite yet. Yes, I know the league’s latest round of canceled games take us as close to that point as possible, but I expect we’ll see some furious (and, at last, honest) negotiations over the course of the next two or three weeks before the worst-case scenario turns out to be true again.
That said, you’re not the only one looking ahead to the draft. There are no absolute guarantees as to how the league would conduct it in the aftermath of another lost season, but we can look back at the 2005 draft for some indication of what it could look like. Back then, teams were assigned a number of balls for a lottery draw. They could receive as many as three balls or as few as one, depending on a number of factors: if they didn’t make the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons and didn’t receive a No. 1 overall selection in any of the previous four years, they received three balls; if a team met only one of those two measurements, they got two balls; and the other teams received one ball.
So, by those guidelines, Toronto would have a better shot at the first overall pick this time than would the Oilers. It’s still a lottery, so it’s conceivable Edmonton could wind up with another No. 1 pick, but you’d have to imagine team brass would take a serious look at trading down for more immediate, veteran help.
Adam, why are these millionaire hockey players so greedy? They are not concerned at all about the people who are out of work and going to food banks. I for one will be boycotting hockey for the next two or six years.
David Rouleau, Masham, Que.
I think it’s an unfair statement to say players are unconcerned about society’s bigger problems. They’re entered into a labor battle and just because they haven’t rolled over and accepted all the owners’ terms, that does not make them “greedy” or terrible people, nor does it necessarily mean they are insensitive to the less fortunate among us. Besides, I’ve never understood people who talk about “greedy” athletes, but never criticize “greedy” billionaire owners. If you’re going to go that far up the financial chain, why aren’t you prepared to look at the entire monetary food chain?
In any case, you have every right to boycott the league when it returns to action. But to me, if you’re going to be critical, take a look at the big picture and not just one element of it.
Dear Adam, what team do you think would be hurt most if the NHL cancels the whole year? For me, it’s my Hurricanes. They’ve only got Alex Semin under contract for one year and it seemed like they were ready to make a big run at the Cup.
Carrie-Ann Milloy, Raleigh, N.C.
Losing a year would hurt the Canes, but they’ve still got Cam Ward and Jordan and Eric Staal locked up for the long term. In my opinion, the Calgary Flames would be most hurt by a fully-lost campaign. Remember, this team bulked up with veterans in the summer for yet another playoff run, but they’ve only got star winger Jarome Iginla under contract for this season and starting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff signed through the 2013-14 season.
Thus, the Flames could lose Iginla to unrestricted free agency for nothing in return – a devastating-enough blow – and have Kiprusoff in the last year of his deal, perhaps looking for a chance to contend somewhere else. With their prospect system relatively barren, Calgary would be in dire straits and almost assuredly facing a long and painful rebuild. They still could be facing such a scenario even if the league returns this year, but a completely cancelled year would be more brutal for them than most franchises.
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