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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Miracle Off Ice?

This has certainly been an off-season to remember (or forget, depending on how you look at it).  From the obvious absurdities of the Kovalchuk fiasco and the CBA posturing, to the Shanahan Summit and the scam Don Fehr is pulling on the NHLPA, this continues to be a very eventful few months off the ice.

Now to top it off, according to The Hockey News, the NHL Official's Association may go on strike with less than 2 weeks to go before the pre-season schedule starts.  The NHL head office seems to be concerned enough about this to contact minor league officials in the AHL and ECHL about the possibility of them becoming "scab" referees in the event of a strike.

Lets be honest, NHL officials, as a whole, suck.  Game after game they blow important calls that are obvious to anyone else even slightly paying attention.  The league and the media constantly have to make excuses as to why supposedly intelligent human beings can't see when a puck has crossed a line, an elbow met with someones head, or a goalie 30 feet out of his crease isn't called for obstruction after he bumps into an opposing player facing away from him (Roloson/Holmstrom, 2006 playoffs, look it up).  Could you imagine being so bad at your job that your boss had to make excuses to your clientele as to why they keep you around?

The truth is, they don't blow these calls by accident.  The league has made it perfectly clear that they give their refs instructions on a nightly basis on how calls should be made, and then critique their performance after every game.  If these instructions didn't include making bad calls to help one side over the other, or even just to keep a game close for ratings sake, then I would have to believe that these refs would be fired left and right for poor job performance, but thats just not happening.  The refs have become pawns for the NHL agenda of league-wide parity, and up until this point, they have done it willingly.

And if the hold up on the CBA agreement between the NHL and the NHLOA was because the refs had simply grown tired of beings pawns and scapegoats, I would understand and respect them for their stance.  However, the real reason for the delay is the definition of irony.  Here is a quote from an anonymous minor league official on the issue:

"The guys say the supervisor will tell them one thing in the dressing room after the game then file something else with the league and the guys don’t have access to that,” he said. “The guys feel like they’re walking on egg shells all the time.”

So let me get this straight.  The group who's every action is the epitome of inconsistency, who make calls on the ice according to some ever-shifting standard that no player has been able to figure out since the lockout, which constantly keeps the players, coaches, and GM's guessing at how to play the game, is upset because the league is telling them their evaluation is going to go one way, and when it actually goes the other, they aren't allowed to know why?!?!


Sorry, that was uncalled for.  But how often do you get to see such a pure example of sweet irony?  I don't know if minor league refs are any better than NHL officials, but I would welcome any change that includes these clowns being removed from the ice.  Please NHLOA, go on strike for a long, long time.  And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, take Bettman, Daly, Campbell, Gregson, and the entire NHL head office with you.  Load them all up in the clown car, take a last lap around the center ring, and then leave the tent to the delight of all in attendance.  This circus needs to leave town.

I leave you with 2 of my favorite referee faux pas in recent history:

1.  A WTF! moment that cost Brad May what would have been the only goal he would have scored that season

2.  And the perfect example of refs making things up as they go along when things don't go the way the NHL scripted

The call on the ice, isn't the call on the ice?1?!?!  How do they get away with this stuff in broad daylight?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's A Mad Mad Mad World

Suffering succotash, where do I begin.  Well, first off, It's been a few days since I last posted, mostly because I was waiting for this whole Kovalchuk fiasco to figure itself out.  I guessed that it would all end in one of two ways:  either the NHL would remember what a bunch of gutless wonders they normally are and acquiesce to Kovalchuk's demands, or, backed by the arbitration ruling, they would hold onto their collective cajones for just long enough to smack Ilya and the Devils down, and void every contract from Chicago to Vancouver, a scorched earth policy that would effectively destroy any positive momentum they had gained from the events earlier in the summer.  Boy was I wrong.

The NHL chose to go full retard on this one.  First, they received what looked to be another ridiculous contract from the Devils, one that had only 2 years and $2mil difference from the one that was originally rejected, and also had an ultimatum from the Kovalchuk camp attached to it that demanded the NHL approve this contract within five days or Kovi would be playing Russia.

Then, continuing the ultimatum theme of this party, the NHL informed their usual whipping boy, the NHLPA, that unless they agreed to make immediate changes to the CBA to ban these "lifetime" deals, they would not only not approve the Kovalchuk contract, but also void the already established contracts of Luongo, Savard, and Hossa.  After negotiating with the union until the end of the five day deadline set forth by Kovalchuk's agent, Bettman and NHLPA reps informed the world that they would need another couple of days to get something done.

Besides causing a collective groan from the entirety of hockey loving North America, the extension gave the league and the union the time they needed to come up with a couple of new rules that supposedly would stop further circumvention attempts, as well as define exactly what the procedures are for making a valid contract.  According to a report on TSN by Darren Dreger, here is what they came up with:

"First: For long-term contracts extending beyond the age of 40, the contract's average annual value for the years up to and including 40, are calculated by dividing total value in those years by the number of years up to and including 40. Then for the years covering ages 41 and beyond, the cap charge in each year is equal to the value of the contract in that year."
"Secondly, for long-term contracts that include years in which the player is 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40; the amount used for purposes of calculating his average annual value is a minimum of $1 million in each of those years (even if his actual compensation is less during those seasons)."

In return for agreeing to alter the CBA midstream without actually collectively bargaining it (two very important words in a Collective Bargaining Agreement), the NHL will not only approve Kovi's outrageous contract, but also grandfather in all other current contracts that were being investigated for circumvention, which includes those mentioned above.

Now, its late on a Friday night, damn near Saturday morning, I'm kind of tired, and even when fully conscious, I'm not the greatest financial mind in my household, much less the country.  However, this seems to me to be a HUGE win for the NHLPA, the supposed underdog in all of this.  Not only did they save the jobs of numerous union members, added a now very rich returning member to their ranks, and helped keep one of the top goal scorers in the league from taking his talents elsewhere, they, especially in the eyes of the masses, stopped the tyranny of the NHL goon squad who again threw their weight around in an attempt to bully the battered union.  Public opinion is no small card to be able play in a couple of years when the CBA comes up and both sides hit the negotiating table, and right now, I would think the NHLPA has that card tucked away in its sleeve.

The NHL on the other hand comes out of this with very little to show for such a long, and arduous, dog fight.  Kovalchuk gets a smaller, but still no less ludicrous, contract.  I am far from convinced that these CBA amendments will completely eradicate the long term deals that make Free Agency stagnant, and they further muddle what was already a very confusing salary cap structure.  On top of that, the mileage from their arbitration win, one that was heavily supported by the fans, is spent.

In one of my previous posts I said that voiding the Kovalchuk contract was one of the few bits of common sense I had ever seen the NHL use.  What I didn't know at the time was that the stress of that one drop of wisdom would cause the league to snap like a twig and try to blow itself to smithereens.

And this was just a contract negotiation; wait until the CBA expires in 2012.