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Thoughts on 30 Thoughts” is a feature that looks at Elliotte Friedman’s terrific weekly post “30 Thoughts.” Justin Bourne selects his 10 favourite tidbits, and elaborates.

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a new “30 Thoughts” article from Elliotte Friedman, but yesterday he gifted one to the world. He covered the obvious stuff – lockout progress – but also the Roberto Luongo situation, NHLers in the AHL and more. Let’s dive in.

Last edition: Zach Parise ran the show in free agency

Friedman’s column, October 22nd: NHL lockout enters crucial week

Opening:

Elliotte crunches the numbers in the opening and breaks down just how quickly the league and PA would have to tidy up loose ends for there to be a full 82 game season. Bettman has made it pretty clear that his personal deadline for that is Thursday (the 25th), but Friedman figures there’s a handful of days wiggle room there, especially if the League torches the All-Star Game:

The now-vapourized NHL schedule ran from October 11 until April 13. That’s 185 days. If you cancel the All-Star Game (and you have to believe that’s likely), the league only needs 180 days, because that’s a five-day break.

I had to include that paragraph, because I love imagining the long, thoughtful debate about cancelling the ASG game – in Columbus, a team with almost zero all-stars – or not. I picture “The Bob’s” talking about it like they talked about Tom Smykowski in Office Space. “He’s gone.” “Useless.”

2. One thing about 2012 that is different than 2004: there’s not as much of a desire in the NHL or NHLPA to blow up the season (with one caveat to come). While there are hardliners, it’s nowhere near as widespread – including in the league office. The players were also more militant eight years ago. They don’t like what’s going on now, but they want to play.

I love the implication (okay, the reality) that at one point there was a desire to blow up a season. Sometimes people just out-smart themselves.

One thing I will say, is that players do want to play ASAP. They’ve all agreed to present that united front, but in truth (like the fans), they don’t care all that much who pays for the damn extra hotels rooms or extra trainers. Most are missing big paychecks, and don’t like the idea of missing a year of that (or at least making far less). I’ve only talked to a few guys, but it feels like the players might be putting a little behind-the-scenes pressure on to get this done.

Friedman gets to this point too:

5. Fehr doesn’t care what anyone outside his constituency thinks, but he’ll face similar challenges in the weeks to come. During the next two weeks, his players will be tempted.

Yeah, they are.

6. This is not the message the NHLPA should want to send: “Let’s put it this way – it would be better [for the players] if the lockout continues… Players want a definite answer. If the NHL season is lost,  let it be that way. I would then play in Russia for the whole season.” That’s Sergei Kostitsyn via Russia’s Sport-Express and The Globe and Mail.

I’ll say it: the Kostitsyn brothers seem selfish and generally oblivious – there’s a reason problems seem to follow them. We tend to put so much stock in a quote from a player that starts with “Players want…” but no two players are in the same situation, and these guys are not all on the same page. Him speaking for “players,” to me, carries less weight than what I hear Elliotte hears about what players want.

7. The emotions on both sides are as raw as I’ve experienced in 20 years. Some of that is social media. But the number of people (on both sides) who have fought with me or sworn they’d never talk to me again over something I’ve written/said is by far the most ever. Unfortunate, but not surprising. Shows how much anger is out there.

It does, but I really don’t get people from within the game who expect journalists to alter their message based on what’s best for them. Friedman talks to a lot of people, allows people to be anonymous sources, mixes in some of his own opinion, and keeps people informed. It’s why he’s so widely read and appreciated. Of course, there are secrets he’s agreed to honour with certain people (I would assume), but you can’t do it all the time. You have to walk the line.

Some reporter should give a coach shit for making a bad decision that cost their team a game and say “had you just done X, which I would have preferred, it would’ve been far better for my game story.”

8. Here are two questions the owners should think about this week: How much is your franchise worth if another year is gutted? And, if you really are interested in winning the Stanley Cup, what will decreasing the players’ existing contracts do in your dressing room? 

To the second part of the question, I ask: what’s the difference? If your team had to hack contracts, so did other teams, so it’s a level playing field in that regard. No player has any reason to be any more upset than any other player. I don’t see how that’d affect your teams chances of winning the Cup. It’s like bad ice – if our team is suffering through it, so is theirs.

11. If the NHL and the NHLPA want to make money now, they should sell a pay-per-view broadcast of both sides watching each other’s media conferences.

I’d pay. I can’t see Fehr over-reacting, but I could see Bettman watching Fehr and either A) accidentally snapping the pencil he’s holding, B) shattering the glass of water in his hand with a solid squeeze, or C) painfully grinning sarcastically and trying not to randomly stab the closest person.

14. Roberto Luongo: Really believe the Canucks want to do right by him. He showed up at their golf tournament after all of the trade stuff got out and they appreciated it. To me, the biggest question is: does the new CBA include that rule where the cap hit reverts to the Canucks if he retires? Because, if it does happen, does Luongo’s value go up?

I really don’t get this, though I saw a number of people say something similar. I mean, if you trade for Luongo and he retires, he’s off your books. If you trade for him and he retires (and the cap hit goes back to the Canucks)…he’s off your books.  I thought this was a league of GMs not trying to screw other GMs over.

16. I do believe the Maple Leafs and Canucks are far down the road in these conversations. But nothing is done until it’s done. And, if the Blackhawks (or someone else) like the look of that new rule, it creates a market for Mike Gillis to ask for more for Luongo. Would certainly be ironic if the legislation Brian Burke wanted costs him a player he’s interested in.

Okay, I think I get this: so if it’s someone like the Blackhawks, there’s the chance that an early retirement screws over a rival, instead of just coming off your books. The concept I dig. But if you’re okay with fucking over a Conference rival, why the ixnay on RFA offer sheets?

I guess my point is, I just don’t think that proposed rule changes anyone’s value all that much.

20. Then there’s Justin Schultz. Oklahoma City tracks individual player plus/minus for scoring chances. “After Friday night’s game [a 5-2 win over San Antonio], assistant coaches Gerry Fleming and Rocky Thompson said Justin was a plus-10,” head coach Todd Nelson said. “Then they said, ‘We’ve never seen that before.’ I haven’t either.” 

Plus/minus scoring chances is a terrific, telling stat. I wrote briefly yesterday on the success Schultz is having in the AHL. Man that has to hurt if you’re the Ducks. But if you’re a fan of the Oilers, you really really need that whole new building thing to get taken care of so you don’t miss the chance to see this team mature.

25. From Robin Lehner’s twitter account (@RobinLehner) on August 10: “My BMW drives on gas, the Audi on diesel and My fuel is haters! Thanks for pushing me forward!:)” Lehner fought Riku Helenius in a game Binghamton blew a 5-0 lead. This guy is a gold mine for media. 

He’s both a gold mine, and a potential trainwreck. Fun! I posted his scrap with Riku Helenius yesterday, and got some feedback online from AHL writers who explain that Lehner, on top of being a quote machine, also has “The Hextall Switch,” which can be both good and bad. You certainly want your tender to care, but man, you don’t want him to be a distraction.

29. If there’s one thing that drives me insane about the NCAA, it’s this: I can go online right now and buy a customized University of Wisconsin jersey with “Kerdiles” and the number 17 on the back for $135. Nic Kerdiles sees none of that. But a photo of him holding a “BioSteel” supplement leads to an investigation that costs him 10 games. It’s outrageous and, when it comes to the NCAA, it happens in every sport.

As wonderful as the NCAA is, there’s no denying it exploits its players. That said, I’m more mad at the suspension than I am the fact that players don’t get money for their name. They probably should, but during my college playing days, I got a (free) education, played some excellent hockey, was given the chance to move on, and generally feel I was given what I was worth. I suppose if I were an NCAA stud it’d be different, but for your average guy, the deal isn’t so bad.

Comments (25)

  1. “I really don’t get this, though I saw a number of people say something similar. I mean, if you trade for Luongo and he retires, he’s off your books. If you trade for him and he retires (and the cap hit goes back to the Canucks)…he’s off your books. I thought this was a league of GMs not trying to screw other GMs over.”

    RE: Luongo’s value, I took that to mean that the Canucks would be able to ask for more, as in he’s more valuable to them. If they have to inherit the risk of Lou retiring and sticking them with the last few years of his cap hit (which would be kinda hilarious) then maybe they use it as leverage/justification for asking for that top-flight prospect or an extra draft pick.

    • I just don’t see how it provides *any* leverage/justification. Yes, maybe he’s more valuable to the Canucks, but not to any trade partner (especially one out of conference).

    • I read it that same way.

    • I think the Leafs or Panthers or Hawks would just turn around and say, “well, sucks to be you.” The only thing that’s changed is that Vancouver’s position has worsened. All that it could really affect is whether the Canucks think it’s still worth it to trade Luongo away at all – and all the fundamentals still point to “yes” on that score – so while this could conceivably make Vancouver be less willing to compromise, this doesn’t itself offer a reason for other teams to be any more forthcoming.

  2. As I read Friedman’s point #8, it wasn’t that you had to cut contracts, but that if the Owners ‘win’ the bargaining, and the players have taken a huge pay cut, then you have a bunch of disgruntled, pissed off players — which causes a bad atmosphere.

    It would be worse to have a bad locker room in Pittsburgh, who has Cup aspirations, than Columbus, who has 1st round draft pick aspirations.

    • Still feel like the team Pittsburgh is going to be playing – say it’s Philly in an early round again – has Cup aspirations, players will still have “lost” negotiations on their team too. Just don’t think that one point is factoring into many decisions out there.

      • It would be funny if all those disgruntled Blue Jackets start winning just to stick it to their owners.

        • But first they need a goalie with bad knees who only makes league minimum, a blazing fast wing, a veteran who won’t go into corners because he’s concerned about his post-playing career, a defenseman who practices voodoo and has a huge slapshot that rarely hits the net, a cocky, hotshot rookie center, and a curmudgeonly coach.

    • It’s a pretty easy fix. If there are actual rollbacks you say that it wasn’t your idea and to make up for the lost revenue the owner could take every dollar they saved from the rollback this season and spend it updating the locker room/facilities. You also up the travel perks (I’m not sure if there is a cap on per diem but you can always throw in some extra if possible). The players still get paid less but you are not the bad guy now and the extra money you plowed in to facilities makes your organization more attractive for UFAs and adds value to the franchise.

  3. The hilarious scenario I keep picturing is Luongo getting traded to Chicago for a couple picks, a prospect, and a roster player, and immediately saying, “Screw all of you,” and retiring the next day. Vancouver gets his cap hit for the next 10 years, Chicago loses the value they sent over for him, and Luongo laughs all the way back to Florida to enjoy retirement on the beach with his family.

  4. About the RFAs and not tendering offers due to a belief of collusion – History suggests that the picks have more value than the player getting the contract. Now this is probably not true with a Weber or Stamkos, but look at the Vanek offer and tell me that Buffalo doesn’t wish they took that future return instead of a massive cap hit for a good but not great player.

  5. I know you touched on it, but is paying for the kid’s tuition not compensation enough? It seems like it gives them a right to market the kid. A lot of athletes wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to a big school and make a name for themselves if they weren’t given the scholarship.

    • I think the problem is who’s decided what’s “compensation enough?” Typically, it’s the free market that works out how much each athlete or mechanic or doctor is worth. Here, it’s a cartel, and a lucrative one. If we were to let the schools bargain with athletes, then their compensation would skyrocket – nobody disputes that. Instead of letting that natural process occur, the NCAA declares by fiat that no compensation beyond tuition can be rendered.

      Is it still “worth” it for the players? Sure, or else they wouldn’t keep doing it, presumably. But children working in coal mines for “money” they could only spend in company stores was also “worth it.” Working for something is always better than working for nothing. It’s not very fair to one side, though.

  6. “To the second part of the question, I ask: what’s the difference? If your team had to hack contracts, so did other teams, so it’s a level playing field in that regard. No player has any reason to be any more upset than any other player. I don’t see how that’d affect your teams chances of winning the Cup. It’s like bad ice – if our team is suffering through it, so is theirs.”

    I don’t think anyone knows the true answer here but I imagine there would be more tension in a dressing room where there is less parity (couple of guys on $11m contracts, rest of the team on smaller deals) verus those with more parity (a bunch of guys on $5 or $6m deals).

    I also think it depends on the leaders in the room and their attitude. If your leader is the guy coming back wishing he had stayed over seas, or worse still retires because of lost games (for example, Selane) that could create issues in the room.

  7. NCAA claims the Fighting Sioux Logo is hostile and abusive, at the same time it was the #1 selling memorabilia on it’s web site, while also marketing it!!!!!

    Most NCAA hockey teams are awesome for player development, many teams, players, have no interaction with the flunkies in Indy, but it’s mind boggling how much that faction irritates me.. Yet I love watching the games live sooo much!

    • Long live the “Fighting Sioux” This is a truly genuine, great hockey program with a legimate mascot. You can bury my heart with the Fighting Sioux.

      Justin Bourne, so glad your WCHA Sea-Wolf education was worth your efforts. You are my favorite hockey blogger. Methinks your jersey needs to hang high in the Sullivan Arena.

  8. I kind of agree with Matt (above) on #8. My impression of what Friedman is saying is that players may be less inclined to go out there and spill their blood for the organization if they feel the organization was dishonest with them and negotiated in bad faith. May be less inclined to lay down and take that slapper to the face or chest, less inclined to get stitched up and get right back out there. It’s true of any workplace, if you hate the company you work for you’re really not going to go the extra mile, especially if you feel the company couldn’t possibly care less about you.

    Just my opinion.

  9. Excited to watch Seattle Oilers next year.

  10. Re: Luongo

    I think everyone means his trade value goes up if that rule goesminto effect because therenwas a fear in the new cba that the league would make it stick to whoever had the contract at the time. If that is not the case then his value post new cba is higher than pre-cba when the unknown happened.

    And GM’s like screwing each other. The difference with RFA’s is there is a bigger chance you end up screwing yourself (see: Dustin Penner)

  11. Just add Justin Schultz to the Pronger deal, that might placate both sides a little regarding those two players transfers.

    As for the Kostitsyns, Andrei was supposed to be one of the most popular Habs players in the dressing room, something I’ve heard from a few places. Sergei I’m not as sure, but I don’t really blame him for those comments. He’s not saying he wants a lockout, he’s just saying he wants some certainty in his life. Right now, NHL players overseas are essentially day-to-day. At any time they could get a call saying “you’re coming back”… it’s almost like being in the military.

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