I recently received an e-mail from "CoachBowman", who's been a regular contributor to "The Fans Speak Out" for a few years now. He's started up a blog and wanted to know if I had any tips to pass on.
Here's what I always try to work by, a few of which were hard lessons learned over the past 8 years:
- Write what you feel, even if it seems you're in the minority or "going against the flow". It's your blog, so don't be afraid to voice your opinion.
- Write often, every day if you can. Nothing kills interest like a website or blog updated infrequently.
- Always strive to improve.
- Write a draft copy before posting it to your blog or site. Write the draft, walk away from it for a short time and then re-write it with fresh eyes.
You'll be surprised how different the two will look, and how often the second copy will be better written than the first.
I usually try to take at least at least an hour's break between my first draft and my good copy.
- If you're going to take a break or a vacation, let your readers know when and for how long, as well as the date when you'll be back.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them so you don't keep making the same mistakes.
- Don't be vindictive or petty. You can disagree with other opinions, even with good-natured humour, but if you get nasty with it you'll turn off more readers than you'll attract.
- Limit the profanity. I'm no prude and in my personal life I curse and swear like the serviceman I once was, but I've found in my writing I can make my point without peppering my work with profanity.
- Be yourself and let your personality shine through in your writing. Boring, impersonal writing will quickly kill interest in your blog. You may even wind up boring yourself.
- Do your research first, and know what you're writing about. Nothing kills credibility like writing about a topic you don't know anything about.
- Bookmark links for research. The internet is perhaps the best research tool available, especially if you know where to get the info you're regularly seeking.
- If you're wrong, or proven wrong, admit it graciously.
- Don't be wrong too often.
- Learn from other bloggers and writers. You don't have to copy their style but you may learn to improve your writing style or your hockey knowledge from reading other bloggers work.
- If it starts to become a chore, walk away from it. This should be something that's fun to do, and if it stops being fun, it's time to quit.
- Have fun and enjoy yourself. Writing is a joy if you love it.
The media reports, I respond, you decide.
- " The NHL shut down for an entire season in a nasty fight over cost certainty and franchise stability. But today, little more than one year from the date of the settlement, there is reason to wonder if the troubles aren't starting all over again.
The very league that rolled back salaries, put in cost constraints, capped spending and fought for the little guy is being undermined by its own general managers and by a collective bargaining agreement that was supposed to protect both the competent and the incompetent.
"(S)ome -- not all -- general managers saw this coming. Some screamed throughout the lockout that arbitration had to disappear for the CBA to have the long-term affect it needed. But instead, negotiators put in an arbitration process in which the team offers one salary, the player requests another, and the arbitrator has to choose one or the other.
What this CBA does is protect the league and its franchises, but not the makeup of rosters, if you understand the distinction. The league will tell you this is working properly.
In Buffalo and Phoenix and New Jersey and even with the lunatic fringe on Long Island, many will disagree. - Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, July 25th, 2006.
Under the old CBA arbitration was one of the main reasons for salary escalation, and its retention (albeit with modifications) was one of the reasons I noted last year that the players came out of the lockout in better shape than their critics believed when the new CBA was announced.
It's not just arbitration, as the spending frenzy during the opening days of unrestricted free agency proves some things will never change.
As I said throughout the lockout and following the ratification of the current CBA, you can't legislate against stupidity!
Remember, the players supposedly got "spanked" under this deal but it's apparent this is the kind of spanking that feels sooooo good (if you're into that sort of thing). It's a good bet they'll be saying, "Thank you, sir, may I have another" when this CBA is due to expire.
The league front office has to be quite happy over how things are working out under this CBA. The salary cap, continued frenzied spending on top free agents, the lowering of the eligibility age for UFA status and arbitration all ensure higher player movement in the coming years.
Under the previous CBA, the best players usually went to the teams that made the most money and had the willingness to spend to land them.
Now, the players will sign with, or be dealt to, teams that have the cap space to afford their salaries. That means more parity around the league, something NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed he hoped to see under this CBA.
The players aren't going to be upset, especially those heading into their prime. They're going to earn top dollar regardless of the so-called impositions on their salaries.
The owners, however,will likely grow more upset with arbitration and will undoubtedly try to get rid of it when this CBA expires.
Perhaps they'll succeed, after all, they got the players to concede to a salary cap, which they claimed they'd never accept.
But the NHLPA under this CBA gave up some things in order to get back other things that work to their benefit, just like the 1995 CBA, which was also considered by many media sages to be a victory for the owners.
So it's a good bet that if the players give on arbitration, they'll get something else in return that'll work every bit as well to their advantage.
And if arbitration is working well in bringing about the parity Bettman sought under this CBA, he may not be willing to back any attempt to eliminate arbitration.
- "Garth Snow is an easy mark for writers rushing for an off-season smack. But hes not the first player to leap into a g.m. role remember Cup-winning Serge Savard and Snow is not exactly a dope. In addition to his B.A., the now-ex-goalie owns a Masters Degree in Biz. Wait until April before putting him down! In the meantime, enjoy the latest Isles g.m.s sense of humor. One of his first quips, while media-schmoozing, related to his former teammates: Theyre all overpaid! snapped the g.m." - Stan Fischler, MSG Network, July 24, 2006.
Yeah, but "The Senator" (as Savard used to be called) never had to work for Charles Wang!
I don't doubt for a minute that Garth Snow's a warm, intelligent man. I just doubt he'll be effective with Charles Wang calling the shots.
Just ask Toronto Maple Leafs fans who were around in the 1970s and 1980s what life was like for their team when Harold Ballard was team owner. Then ask the men who were general managers under his ownership (Jim Gregory, Gerry McNamara, Gord Stellick and Floyd Smith) how effectively they were able to do their jobs working for "Pal Hal".
That's what you're potentially in store for, Islanders fans, under Charles Wang, and Snow could suffer the same ignominious fates as Ballard's general managers.
And wasn't former GM Mike Milbury also one with a great sense of humour? Who can forget his memorable "village idiot" quip regarding player agent Paul Kraus back in 1999? Too bad Mad Mike wasn't as good at managing an NHL team as he was with his quips.
Just because a GM's got a good sense of humour doesn't mean he'll do a great job managing a team, especially when there's a micromanaging owner above him.
- It's arbitration time in the NHL. Now I'm not an agent. I'm not qualified to be an agent. I absolutely never want to be an agent. But if I were an agent, there is one rule I would never break -- I would never let my client in his arbitration hearing. What's the point? Why let the player hear his boss (usually the general manager of his team) explain why he isn't worth what he's asking, detail every failure and downplay his importance to the team? - Kara Yorio, Sporting News, July 24, 2006.
Like Yorio, I too wouldn't want to be a player agent, but if I were, I would happily allow my client in the arbitration hearing, because I want him to hear the team's general manager or lawyer explaining why he isn't worth what he's asking, detailing every failure and downplaying his importance.
In fact, I'd be secretly hoping the team's rep would actually call my client a worthless sack of s**t.
Because, folks, usually the player going to arbitration is also eligible to become an unrestricted free agent the following season. I'd want my client so pissed off at his team's front office that he'll be assured of testing the UFA market the following summer.
Or, if he's a star player, demand that I squeeze the front office's collective testicles under they scream (metaphorically speaking, of course) by forcing them to come crawling with a big salary worth far more than what he would've originally taken from them to re-sign long term in the first place.
Either way, the player - especially if he's an established star or an up-and-comer - will get a big payday, and since my cut is usually a certain percentage of whatever the player is paid, I'll get a big payday too.
Sure, it's nasty, but negotiating contracts for professional athletes isn't for the timid or the polite.
Spare the player's feelings? F**k that, I want him mad, I want him mean mad, I want him so mean mad at his team's front office that he'll be determined to get a big salary one way or the other, so that my cut of his salary gets bigger, too.
- " Reflecting the philosophy of the community is nothing new to the (Montreal) Canadiens. That franchise has performed a difficult juggling act virtually each year of its existence, one hand tossing into the air an unspoken predilection for players of French-Canadian heritage, the other straining to grab hold of a competitive balance." - Adam Proteau, The Hockey News, July 20th, 2006.
For most of the Canadiens existence, that was true.
Prior to the imposition of the NHL draft as it exists today, the Canadiens had a lock on the top Quebec-born talent almost by divine right, leaving the rest of the league to pick amongst the available scraps.
That hasn't been that way for several decades, yet the Habs throughout the 1970s and 1980s still tended to favour French-Canadien talent.
But since the mid-1990s, the Habs have moved away from any so-called "prediliction for players of French-Canadian heritage" at the draft table or in the trade and free agent markets.
This so-called "prediliction" hasn't existed for over ten years now, and probably won't ever happen again unless there's a return to the good ol' days when the Canadiens got dibs on the best Quebec-born talent around.
Figure the odds of that ever happening again!
Today's Canadiens roster contains only four French-Canadians,which undoubtedly pisses off some in the local French media but ultimately means squat to the team's die-hard fans. They could care less about the ethnic background of the Canadiens players, just so long as they win the Stanley Cup.
The only Francophone prediliction the Canadiens still show is with their selection of head coaches. The last Anglophone coach was Bob Berry back in the early 1980s. Since then, every one (Jacques Lemaire, Jean Perron, Pat Burns, Jacques Demers, Mario Tremblay, Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Claude Julien) was a Francophone.
The sole exception being Bob Gainey, who replaced Julien midway through last season in order to give assistant Guy Carbonneau an opportunity to get some experience before handing him the head coaching reins.
And in that case, I think Gainey's choice of Carbonneau had less to do with his Francophone background and more to do with the fact that he considers his old friend and teammate to be the right man for the job.
- I know I claimed my next Soapbox update wouldn't be for another week yet, but there's been a few things going on that I think merit an earlier column.
- Some of you have been wondering what my opinion was of the NY Islanders firing Neil Smith as general manager, replacing him with Garth Snow and Pat Lafontaine's subsequent resignation as senior advisor to team owner Charles Wang.
I've subsequently read where Wang's decision to run this team via committee is "breaking new ground", that it could be a "radical and exciting departure" from the way hockey teams are usually run, and could be a "breath of fresh air that puts new life" into the moribund Isles franchise.
If this were a committee made up of the best hockey minds in the business, with an owner willing to listen and accept its advice, I'd go along with that assessment.
With the exception of Bryan Trottier, it's not made up of those aforementioned best hockey minds, and I think Wang has proven unwilling to heed solid advice from knowledgeable people on his staff.
As I noted on my blog, maybe Wang will have the last laugh and his committee will guide the Isles into Cup contention in the next couple of years.
But any team whose owner doesn't heed the advice of an experienced GM like Neil Smith, who ignores the advice of a respected guy like Pat Lafontaine, who hired his backup goalie - a novice at management - as Smith's replacement and doesn't believe in the importance of scouting isn't going to have much success in turning his team into a Cup contender.
In the end, I really feel for the long suffering Islanders fans, who have to be wondering what they and their team has done to deserve their miserable fate over the past dozen years with no end in sight.
Maybe a long time ago, somebody in the Isles organization made a deal with the Devil to make the club a consecutive Cup champion and this is the price they must now pay as part of the bargain.
Who knows why, but you know what, folks, this stopped being funny a long, long time ago. Even die hard Rangers fans have to feel this has gone from funny to painfully sad.
It puts me in mind of what Maple Leafs fans had to go through for over two decades when Harold Ballard ran that franchise into the ground, and what's been happening with the Chicago Blackhawks under Bill Wirtz for the past ten years.
That wasn't funny either, and while I have no sentimental attachment toward the Leafs, Blackhawks and Islanders, I really hate to see the fans of any team stuck with a crappy team because of inept ownership.
Of course there's been a couple of readers who've disagreed with a few of my assessments. I have no problem with that but I felt their response merited further explanation for my opinion.
One Bruins fan wonders why I considered Zdeno Chara a good addition to the Bruins blueline yet claimed the club overpaid him.
Chara IS a good addition to the Bruins blueline. He's one of the best defensemen in the game, garnering a Norris Trophy nomination back in 2004.
That being said, I don't think he's done enough up to this point to merit a salary in the same arena as Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer and Detroit's Nik Lidstrom, who are unquestionably the two best defensemen in the game today.
Perhaps he'll earn that salary over the next five years, but as I said before, up to this point, he hasn't.
Another reader believes I'm biased toward the Montreal Canadiens and against the Toronto Maple Leafs, based on my assessment that the Habs signing Sergei Samsonov was a goo, affordable deal for that club whilst criticizing the Leafs for overpaying Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill.
I'm well aware of how long it took for Samsonov to get signed, but that has nothing to do with nobody but the Canadiens wanting him. Obviously he wasn't among the marquee forwards available, but neither is he chopped liver.
Sometimes some good players take longer than others to be signed. Mark Recchi is a good example of that and he's a forward most teams would love to have.
The Canadiens need size as well as offense, but after trying and failing to sign Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Brendan Shanahan, turned their attention toward the smaller but talented Samsonov.
For what they paid on only a two year deal for a player of his calibre, the Habs got a good deal. Now if they'd paid him that much or more over, say, four or five years, when nobody knows if the cap will rise next season or even if it'll rise substantially over the next three years, then I would've written that they'd overpaid him.
As for the Leafs, there was no need to sign Kubina when they've already got two offensive blueliners in Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. What the Leafs needed was one or two good "stay-at-home" d-men, something Kubina isn't.
As for Gill, he's a defensive blueliner, but as last season proved, not a very good one. He lacks the footspeed to be effective in that role, and as more than one Bruins fan will tell you, too many nights he was caught out of position.
But, I considered the trade for Andrew Raycroft to be a good one, considering what was available, and I believe the one-year, $2.5 million deal for Michael Peca was a good signing.
Don't be too sure that the Leafs weren't interested in Samsonov, only because of Leafs management tying up too much money in Kubina and Gill they were unable to meet the speedy Russian winger's asking price.
Don't ya think he'd look good on Mats Sundin's wing, Leafs fans? I bet Mats does!
- So Nikolai Zherdev is threatening to play in Russia next season unless the Columbus Blue Jackets offer him a better, longer-term contract, eh?
I expected a situation like this might happen, a promising young European player trying to squeeze his NHL club for a bigger deal by signing with a European team, even predicting it during the lockout.
Of course it's only one player at this point doing this, and it's still only early into the CBA, but if he's successful, don't be surprised if more European players pursue the same route.
Not all of them will, of course, particularly those who are legitimate stars in the NHL and have little trouble getting the deals they want, but rather promising, valuable youngsters like Zherdev who have little leverage and few options available at this point in their careers.
- Any American-based blogger recently wrote that so many Canadians (over 600,000) worked in Los Angeles that it could be considered Canada's fifth largest city.
I'm assuming this person is American based because a Canadian blogger wouldn't make that faux pas.
Actually, it would equate to Canada's tenth largest, ranking well behind Calgary (Canada's fifth largest city and one of its fastest growing), Edmonton, Quebec City, Hamilton and Winnipeg.
Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa aren't the only cities of note in this country!
It's the same as those down south who automatically assume that a player with a French-Canadian name like Columbus's Gilbert Brule is a Quebec native.
I wrote the following last summer regarding the French-Canadian thing and feel it's appropo regarding today's geography lesson:
"Just thought some American-based bloggers would find this helpful. And no, I'm not slamming all of you since most of you know already know this stuff, so don't write in bitching about how I'm slamming all American-based hockey writers and bloggers, OK?
If what I wrote doesn't apply to you, then you've got no reason to feel insulted. If it does, consider the above an quick educational lesson designed to prevent you from making the same mistake again."
When the latest NHL collective bargaining agreement was ratified last summer, most hockey fans and pundits assumed the salary cap and the reduced age of eligibility for unrestricted free agency would result in greater parity amongst NHL franchises.
Indeed, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that this CBA would "level the playing surface", giving hope to the fans of all 30 teams that their favourite teams would have a fair opportunity each season of competing for the Stanley Cup.
Over the past year it's become apparent that the cap and the lowered UFA age has resulted in greater player movement than ever before.
Teams needing to stay under the cap have been forced into salary dumping trades or allowing UFA players they might normally re-sign to walk away.
Meanwhile, players are getting the opportunity to test the UFA market earlier in their careers than they did under the previous CBA.
This combination has put big market teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche into an unaccustomed position of having limited cap space to bid competitively for the top UFA talent compared to the years under the old CBA, when there were no limits on their spending sprees.
It's also made it difficult for those clubs to retain key UFA players, such as Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake and Kim Johnsson.
They're not likely to get much sympathy from fans and media in small NHL markets, which in the past often lost their best players to these big market franchises via cost cutting trades or free agency.
However, it's also become apparent that the cap and lowered free agency, which supposedly would make it easier for those smaller NHL markets to bid competitively for the top UFA talent or to retain their best players, is also impacting the smaller markets.
An early example was the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 2004 Stanley Cup champions, which lost Nikolai Khabibulin, Brad Lukowich and Jassen Cullimore to free agency in 2005.
Their departures were due to management re-signing key players Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis to hefty new contracts, which cut deep into the club's available cap space.
During the season team captain Dave Andreychuk was forced into retirement to free up much-needed cap space. Moreover, because of cap constraints the club was unable to bring in the defensive depth it needed on the blueline. It was also believed the real reason the Bolts couldn't trade for a suitable replacement for the departed Khabibulin was cap constraints.
The end result was a Lightning team that struggled to make the playoffs and were quickly eliminated in the first round by the Ottawa Senators.
Following the playoffs, the Lightning re-signed leading scorer Brad Richards to an expensive new long-term contract, but the downside was the club lost defenseman Pavel Kubina to free agency and was forced to deal away defenseman Darryl Sydor as a cost cutting measure.
This summer, the Ottawa Senators faced a similar situation.
GM John Muckler came under fire from Senators fans for losing Zdeno Chara to free agency and trading away Martin Havlat. In an interview with the Ottawa Sun, Senators GM John Muckler explained why:
"Its not because we want change, its because the system is making us change. The system dictates that the players are going to be distributed throughout the league and thats going to bring parity. Thats what they tell us. It seems to be working because every team seems to be changing players on a yearly basis. And, if you are a team that has as many elite players as we have, it dictates that you cant keep them all. Who is going to be the beneficiary? Well, its going to be the other teams that are able to spend. Thats where the balance comes with other teams. As far as (Chara) is concerned, we didnt want to get rid of (Chara) or trade him. That was the last thing we wanted to happen. It came down to balancing the cap. If you keep all your elite players at the salaries that they demand, then you have to take people out. This is a team sport and its not just for the elite players. Yes, youve got to try to keep as many of the elite players as you have. Thats what we want to do. But, in the case of the CBA, thats impossible."
In other words, the CBA that was supposed to create more parity and help a team like the Senators has it instead facing the same cap balancing act as the Red Wings, Flyers and Avalanche, forced to dump salary and losing players to teams with more available cap space.
It's a scenario the Calgary Flames, another small market Canadian team, could be facing in a couple of years, according to Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun.
Francis believes if the Flames are to become a Stanley Cup champion, it'll have to happen within the next two seasons before salary constraints force management into deciding which of their key players, among them captain Jarome Iginla and Vezina winning goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, to retain.
It's also a scenario that the defending champion Carolina Hurricanes have already faced, losing Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, Aaron Ward, Matt Cullen and Martin Gerber to free agency.
Granted, it was understood that Weight and Recchi wouldn't be retained after the club acquired them in mid-season, while Gerber lost his starting goalie role to Cam Ward, and the loss of Ward and Cullen should be easily absorbed by the club's roster depth.
They could also be considered acceptable losses as their departure free up money to re-sign more important players like Eric Staal (three years, $13.5 million), Erik Cole (three years, $12 million), Rod Brind'amour (five years, $18 million), Justin Williams (five years, $17.5 million), Frantisek Kaberle (four years, $8.8 million) and Niclas Wallin (four years, $5.5 million).
Yet over the next three years, the Hurricanes could be facing the same woes the Senators faced and the Flames are facing.
Cory Stillman's contract expires after next season, and if he has another strong season as he did in 2005-06, he'll be expecting more than $1.75 million per season, at least double that amount. Long time blueline stalwart Bret Hedican's contract expires next season and he too will likely seek a substantial raise over the $2.43 million he'll earn next season.
If Cam Ward carried over his playoff MVP performance into the next two seasons, he'll be seeking a substantial payraise over the paltry $684K
In three years time, Staal and Cole's respective contracts end. The 'Canes will still hold Staal's rights but Cole will be eligible for UFA status. If Staal fulfils his destiny as one of the NHL's elite players, he'll command far more than $4 million per season, and that could mean cutting loose Cole to free up salary to afford Staal's payraise.
But is increased player movement to be a continual problem for the NHL under this CBA?
Blogger and Globe and Mail reporter James Mirtle suggests in a recent post that things might settle down over the next couple of years:
The thing is, 2006 is going to go down as the worst-ever year for player movement for a number of reasons, and there are a number more that point to things settling done in the future.
In short, coming off the lockout, many GMs (and players) opted for only one-year deals during the transition year, which is why so many players are without teams. As UFAs like (Zdeno) Chara and (Marc) Savard ink deals for longer terms with more and more no-trade clauses teams are going to stay together a heckuva lot better than what we've seen this year.
At least I hope that's the case.
It's possible this could happen, but the cap and the lowered age for unrestricted free agency could make it unlikely.
Tying up players for long term deals also cuts deep into cap space, especially expensive ones like those signed by Chara and Savard this summer with the Bruins.
Add in the $4.125 million per season currently paid to fading winger Glen Murray and that's over $16 million million out of a potential payroll of $40 million is a lot of money tied up in only three players.
Lower free agency meanwhile will be a continuing problem as the age drops from 29 this season to 27 in two years time.
That lowered UFA eligibility age is what forced the Panthers into trading Roberto Luongo and the Senators to trade away Martin Havlat.
It'll also be why we could see more younger players jumping into the UFA market to test their market value rather than re-sign with their club if they believe they're not getting a fair offer.
Even if many of those top young UFA stars re-sign with their current teams, the expensive cost is going to force teams into dumping payroll via trade or free agency in order to afford their salaries.
As in this season, these future moves will affect big and small markets alike.
For the sake of parity, this is a good idea, as it "spreads the wealth" of the top players around, rather than seeing them become the sole property of less than a dozen NHL teams as it was under the old CBA.
The downside, however, is that it's going to make it very difficult for successful clubs deep in talent to keep those roster intact, something that the fans of those franchises and the pundits who cover them never counted on when this CBA was signed.
They can complain, but this kind of player movement could be something we'll see more of over the life of this CBA.
Perhaps the best way to work around the cap and lowered UFA eligibility is for teams to put more effort into acquiring and developing young, affordable talent that can be ready to step in and fill roster vacancies left by departing players.
That's seems to be John Muckler's thinking when he dealt away Havlat for a young defenseman, two prospects and a high draft pick.
It remains to be seen, however, if that affordable talent will develop in suitable replacements for future possible departures by some current Senators stars.
That kind of gamble may be forced upon NHL general managers as they work to cope under this new CBA, which again makes it difficult for successful teams to remain successful, which isn't likely to go down well with their fans.
Reading through the Sunday papers online, I came across the following from the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher (registration required) regarding the upcoming NHLPA meetings.
The article notes former NHLPA honcho Bob Goodenow and his "long-time right-hand man" Ian Pulver will be attending the meetings at the invitation of a "dissent group" of players, led by former player Trent Klatt and Detroit Red Wings blueliner Chris Chelios.
Apparently, this move was allowed to give this group an opportunity for "a fair hearing" of their side of the story, which is spelled out on Klatt's website:
"The purpose of this website is to distribute information to all NHLPA members so that all members are informed of the illegal activity within their union and the steps which are being taken by over sixty (60) NHLPA members to secure legal counsel and put a stop to it. It is the mission of these players to educate all NHLPA members of this illegal activity, correct it and ensure that it can never happen again. An independent comprehensive review of all that has happened must occur so that all NHLPA members can have faith in their union once again and know that it is acting in all the NHLPA members' best interests through democracy as opposed to a few unilaterally making decisions for all.
This page was created because the NHLPA has refused the free flow of information to the NHLPA players. NHLPA members have requested the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of all of the NHLPA Executive Board members and the NHLPA membership and those players have been denied access to this information. Ted Saskin asked these players why they wanted this information. He then told the players that he did not want NHLPA members to receive "misinformation" and he refused to provide this information to which union members have a legal right. Therefore, union members do not posess all of the information and don't have the ability to communicate with one another in an open forum. Little information is being given to the NHLPA membership and the players are being asked to vote on Mr. Saskin's contract which averages in excess of $2.1 million per year. "
Returning to Gallagher's article, he writes: "At a recent board meeting, some team reps apparently got this initiative on the agenda and 20 members voted in favour of Goodenow and Pulver being extended an invitation, which has to be current executive-director Ted Saskin's worst nightmare.
Some of the more wild speculation has been that Goodenow could actually return to the NHLPA and get his old job back, which would have to give NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fits. But the possibility of that actually happening has to be considered remote."
However, with 20 of the reps voting that they be heard, indications are that everything is not hunky-dory within the rank and file of the 700 members."
Gallagher then goes on to summarize the circumstances leading up to this meeting, including Goodenow's and Pulver's ouster brought about by a faction led by Trevor Linden to seek a settlement to the lockout negotiated by Ted Saskin, who was then Goodenow's second-in-command and took over as NHLPA Executive Director following Goodenow's resignation.
The report also noted Goodenow has been silent since his resignation a year ago, "largely due to confidentiality agreements signed by both him and Pulver as part of their settlement packages."
But could their presence at these meetings lead to a potentially larger split within the PA's ranks, or perhaps see a return of Goodenow as PA director?
I doubt both scenarios will occur. Yes, it's compelling that two-thirds of the player reps agreed to allow Goodenow and Pulver at the meetings, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the current NHLPA leadership are threatened by what they may have to say.
If anything, those reps may be allowing this merely as a way of clearing the air.
Yes, it gives the Klatt-led dissent group the opportunity to once again reopen their claims of wrongdoing against the PA leadership, but unless Goodenow and Pulver come forward with damning evidence to support those claims and sways the opinion of the player reps, it could prove to be the final nail in the dissenters coffin.
Remember, the new CBA was passed last year by an overwhelming majority amongst the players, undoubtedly concerned about potentially losing another season and causing irreparable damage to the NHL product, which in turn would adversely affect their future contracts.
The dissenters may feel that this led to Saskin and some of the players executive pulling a fast one on the majority of the membership, but if there's growing dissatisfaction over the new CBA, it certainly wasn't publicly apparent over the past year.
If this summer's UFA signings coupled with the increase in the salary cap are anything to go by, the majority of players probably aren't worried about any potential salary hit, which could further weaken the dissenters case.
Gallagher also suggests that escrow could become more of a burden for the players next season:
"But there is a sobering school of thinking that would indicate this recent spate of spending by many of the owners in this latest free-agent binge is going to produce numbers that will have huge repercussions next year on the paycheques of players when escrow payments are taken into consideration. Players can only receive 54 per cent of revenues and at the moment, it's looking like they're going to be way over that mark at the end of next season.
This past season the players eventually lost nothing in escrow but that is most certainly not expected to be the case in Year 2 of this CBA unless there are some dramatic increases in revenue, something highly unlikely given the game's demolition as a major-league sporting entity on U.S. television."
A year ago, following the signing of the new CBA, many hockey pundits predicted players salaries could exceed revenues thus resulting in a clawback for the owners of up to 15% of those salaries.
Instead, the players got back every cent paid into escrow last season because revenues were much higher than anyone anticipated.
The salary cap was set at $39 million last season because it was anticipated revenues would come in around $1.8 billion, but because revenues were higher, the players got their escrow money back with interest.
Because of that unexpected increase in revenue, the salary cap was raised to $44 million. If revenues fail to either rise or remain at $2.1 billion, that could potentially put more bite into the escrow payments.
Despite the NHL's absence as a "major league sporting entity on U.S. television", the fact the league made almost as much as it had prior to the lockout indicates growth is still possible, albeit at a slower pace than if it were a major league entity in the US market.
It may be a stretch to suggest the NHL's revenues could jump another $300 million next season, but revenues could come in at between $2.2-$2.3 billion, which in turn could mean the escrow hit may be minimal again next season.
A successful opening season following a destructive year-long work stoppage bodes well for continued revenue growth for the league.
The excitement generated by the new rules that opened up the game, the league and the PA's seemingly aggressive post-lockout marketing, and the rise of new, exciting young stars should result in a gradual improvement of the league's visibility and popularity in the United States.
That means more revenue for the league, meaning not only a continual increase in the salary cap but the increasing likelihood that escrow could turn out to be less of a contentious issue for the players than originally believed.
The players percentage of revenue won't remain at 54% for the life of the CBA. Like the salary cap, it's tied to revenue fluctuations.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post reported on this on July 24th, 2005:
"(T)he players' share increases to 55-percent when revenues hit $2.2B; to 56-percent when revenues hit $2.4B; and to 57 percent should revenues ever hit $2.7 billion."
For next season, revenues stay at 54%, but after the league raked in a surprising $2.1 billion only a year after a poisonous, season-killing lockout, revenues could be $2.2 billion next season, which means in 2007-08 the players share will rise to 55%.
If things continue along that track, by the end of this current CBA the players share could indeed reach 57%, perhaps even sooner than that.
Ultimately, the players salaries and escrow payments will be tied to the success of the NHL. As long as things remain on an upward track,the circumstances surrouding Goodenow's ouster and the escrow issue won't become a noose around the collective necks of Ted Saskin and the PA executive.
I don't think I can add anything to the numerous heartfelt farewells floating around the media and cyberspace toward now-former (man, it felt weird to type that!) Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman, who announced his retirement on July 3rd, 2006.
Yzerman was one of the greatest captains in NHL history, a class act all the way, and the best reason to cheer for the Detroit Red Wings, even if you weren't a fan of the club.
Instead, I'm going to "open the vault" as I did when Mario Lemieux announced his retirement to post up a couple of previous Soapbox columns regarding the great "Stevie Y".
This one is an edited version written in the aftermath of the Salt Lake City Olympics, when it was revealed Yzerman and Lemieux had aggravated injuries. Yzerman took a bit of heat from a Detroit News columnist and a few Red Wings fans, prompting this response:
"(T)he recent report in the Detroit News regarding the venom being launched at Yzerman came as a surprise....
...(T)here are Red Wings fans who believed he shouldn't have competed in the Olympics so soon after having knee surgery, and are attacking him for supposedly letting down the Detroit club to chase Olympic gold....
...Those Red Wings fans questioning Yzerman's participation have nothing to base their anger upon.
For those who are screaming that Yzerman is "sitting on his butt collecting $8 million rather than helping the Red Wings", here's a little history lesson they should heed before they stick their other feet in their collective mouths.
When "Stevie Y" was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, the franchise, once a powerhouse in the days of the "Original Six", had fallen on hard times, thanks to decades of mismanagement. They were...a joke, one of the league doormats, a club that was considered an "easy two points" by opponents.
Although it was the off-ice improvement in management and scouting that helped rebuild the Wings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was built around Yzerman, who became Detroit's franchise player and was the key ingredient in turning the Red Wings around.
It was Yzerman who had to painfully learn how to change his game from offence-only to a stronger two-way style. He had to grow as a leader, and develop the mental toughness against critics who said he was an ineffective team captain.
It was thanks to Yzerman the Wings had the strong on-ice leadership needed to bring the Stanley Cup back to Detroit after 42 long years. It was Yzerman who helped bring the team together after the tragic accident that ended the playing career of Vladimir Konstantinov. It was Yzerman who led the Wings to repeat as champions in 1998. It was Yzerman who helped make Detroit "Hockeytown".
The attitude of those fans who are heaping abuse on Lemieux and Yzerman is that of, "what have you done for me lately"? They don't take into account all that these players have done over their long careers.
The fact neither player demanded early in their careers to be traded when the Penguins and Red Wings were doing so badly is lost on these whiners. The fact they've stayed with their teams for all these years means nothing. All the pain and doubt they had to battle through, all the growth they did to become better players and leaders and champions is being conveniently overlooked by these bandwagoneers.
I think these complaints are coming from a minority of fans who are "johnny-come-latelys", whose inflammatory statements are being fanned by some in the local media keen to stir up trouble. Those fans are either too young to remember what life was like before Lemieux and Yzerman came on the scene, or are the type who conveniently hopped aboard the Penguins and Red Wings bandwagon during the good years. Either that, or they're just plain morons who, as Lemieux said a few weeks ago, have nothing better to do than bitch."
Finally, here's what I wrote about Yzerman immediately following the Red Wings shocking early elimination from this year's post-season:
"If we have seen the last of Steve Yzerman as an active NHL player after the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated on Monday by the Edmonton Oilers, then we as hockey fans will be poorer for it.
We've seen lots of retirements of the "old guard" this season, but for me, the retirement of "Stevie Y" will sting the most.
Sure, Mark Messier won more Stanley Cups and individual awards and accolades for leadership, but "Moose" hung around far too long past his "best before" date, and in his final seasons was a shadow of his former greatness.
Nobody will say that about Steve Yzerman. If anything, Yzerman's career was more notable for the success and recognition he received in the last half than in the first half.
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a highscoring forward who rarely garnered the attention that his peers of that era - Messier, Gretzky, Lemieux and Hull - received.
And as the Red Wings stumbled from one early playoff elimination after another in the early 1990s, more than one fan and pundit openly questioned his right to hold the captaincy of the Wings.
Highscoring forwards usually lose their effectiveness as they grow older and their skills deteriorate. They struggle to adapt to being checking forwards and penalty killers, never appearing fully comfortable in those roles. When their careers are reviewed, it's the productive years that are fondly remembered, with the final seasons a painful memory to be blotted out.
Not so for Yzerman.
After Scotty Bowman took over as coach of the Red Wings, he was able to convince Yzerman of the value of being a two-way forward. Along the way, Yzerman also learned what it took to be an inspiring leader.
A quick look at the final ten seasons of his 22 season career indicate that, while he was no longer the offensive dynamo he'd once been, he'd morphed into one of the most complete forwards in the game.
He learned to be a winner and a leader, and in the 2002 playoffs, he led the Wings to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons on a knee so badly damaged that he required off-season surgery that would sideline him for most of the following season.
That earned him the respect of everyone. Players, coaches, management types, pundits and fans, regardless of which team they cheered for.
Losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round was not the ending Yzerman envisioned, but battling a serious rib injury, he was there at Game Six, battling as hard as he could to help his team win. Of all the Wings in that series, he was the only one who could hold his head high in defeat.
Gordie Howe was long considered the greatest player in Detroit Red Wings history, but now he'll have to share that spot with Steve Yzerman.
I don't think "Mr. Hockey" will mind."
Thanks for the memories, Stevie Y, and thanks for knowing, unlike so many of your peers, when it was time to go.
Thank you for not tarnishing your wonderful career.
- If anyone still believes the salary cap is going to significantly reduce the number of overpriced contracts being tossed around by general managers, the spending frenzy of the opening day of this year's UFA market should put that to rest.
The argument can be made that Zdeno Chara is worth the five year, $37.5 million contract he got from the Boston Bruins, after all, he's a former Norris nominee and considered among the elite blueliners in today's NHL.
One could even argue the merits of the LA Kings bringing Rob Blake home for $12 million over two years, even though Blake has lost a step and by his own admission only has a couple of good years left.
It's debatable if Ed Jovanovski is worth the $32.5 million over five years the Phoenix Coyotes ponied up for his services. When he's healthy he's among the best offensive d-men in the game, but his history of groin injuries has already raised criticism of this deal from some pundits.
The Oilers may have signed Dwayne Roloson for one year too many, given his age (36) and the fact that this contract was clearly based on his 2006 post-season performance, but given the lack of goaltending depth within the Oilers system and in this summer's UFA market, the Oilers had to make this deal.
The Devils re-signing Patrik Elias to a seven-year, $42 million contract looks good in the short term for a 30 year old scorer still in his prime at $6 million per season, but how will that contract impact the Devils payroll in the final years of the deal, when Elias is on the decline?
And just what the hell was Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr thinking when he signed Pavel Kubina to a four year, $20 million contract? Kubina's a good defenceman but he hasn't done anything in his career to suggest he's worth $5 million per season.
It was also puzzling that "JFJ" went after Kubina when he already has two offensive blueliners in Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle eating up over $10 million in cap space.
But then Ferguson compounded the problem by signing slow-footed Hal Gill, who couldn't even stick with a rebuilding Boston Bruins club, to a three year, $6.3 million contract.
$2.1 million per season? For Hal Gill? Sorry, but he's not a good defensive blueliner in today's NHL, and certainly not at that price.
Is Marc Savard worth the four year, $20 million he signed with the Bruins? Sure, he posted up 97 points last season but he did that with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa as his teammates.
He won't have those guys to feed passes to in Boston, and at $5 million per season that could prove very expensive for a guy who has a history of injuries and averaged far less than 90+points prior to last season.
I can understand the Minnesota Wild's rationale for signing Kim Johnsson, after all, they need to improve their roster and prove to their fans (and most importantly, Marian Gaborik) that they're serious about making a push for next year's playoffs.
But the Wild overpaid Johnsson with a four year deal worth almost $20 million. He's a very good defenceman but not worth almost $5 million per season.
If these deals proved anything, it's that the cap won't prevent the top UFAs from commanding top dollar, and it also won't prevent some general managers from making questionable signings.
- The Minnesota Wild were the most active on opening day, signing Mark Parrish, Keith Carney and Kim Johnsson on Saturday.
Given their acquisition on draft day of Pavol Demitra, hopefully this will be enough moves to convince Marian Gaborik to re-sign a long-term contract, especially since the Wild's first line could be a Gaborik-Demitra-Parrish combination.
- One factor that carried over from last summer's UFA feeding frenzy is that some teams with cap space will be the big spenders, and that includes clubs considered small or mid market.
In the bad old days of the previous CBA, the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers would've scooped up the big free agents, leaving the small and mid-market teams to battle for the remaining crumbs.
Not anymore, and in that regard, the new CBA is doing what it was supposed to do, give clubs that normally wouldn't be big players in the big markets the opportunity to bid competitively for the top UFAs.
Or has it?
Taking a quick look at the July 1st signings, only one small market team - the Phoenix Coyotes - made a major signing in Ed Jovanovski. Most of the bigger signings that day were made by Boston, Toronto, St. Louis and Los Angeles.
- The Bruins signings of Chara and Savard should do a lot to propel the club back into playoff contention next season. The B's possess plenty of promising young talent and some established vets, have a new GM and head coach, and with their recent re-signings appear poised for a promising 2006-07 season.
Yet I can't help but recall another team that last season was in a similar situation. It made a couple of major UFA signings, possessed promising youth and some established veterans and had a new head coach and GM and its future looked bright.
That of course was the Chicago Blackhawks, and the 2005-06 season is one that team and its fans would like to forget.
Here's hoping for the sake of long-suffering Bruins fans that their club doesn't suffer the same fate.
- I've been saying since last summer that the new CBA wouldn't prevent some general managers from overpaying for unrestricted free agents.
The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak believes the same thing.
- Finally, the Atlanta Thrashers were among five teams that overspent on the salary cap last season.
Not only did that spending not result in a playoff berth, but now the excess will count against the Thrashers cap for next season.
Can a team max out its cap and make the playoffs, or spend over and make the big dance? Possibly, but as the Thrashers management found out the hard way, injuries can hamper any attempts to bring in help when you're maxed out, and bonuses can hurt you the following year.