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

Last edition: Season of growing discontent

Friedman’s column, November 29th: Harding has kindred hockey spirit in Sigalet

Opening:

Friedge came at us with the rare “double whammy” opening. Part one was on Josh Harding’s situation. Wednesday night he shared the terrible news that he’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A quick explanation of that, from Mike Russo’s post in the Star Tribune:

[Multiple sclerosis is] an incurable autoimmune disease in which the body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of his nerves and causes them to scar. It causes problems with balance, fatigue and blurred vision. There are 25,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States every year.

“I had a couple days where I felt bad for myself, but no more,” said Harding, who plans on continuing his career. “There’s things in life that happen. Sometimes you can’t explain it. You deal with it.”

Friedman discussed Jonathan Sigalet, former Bruins prospect and Bowling Green alumni who found himself in the same situation a number of years ago. Both goalies, both diagnosed with MS.

As someone who has MS in the family, this story kills me. The good news is that Sigalet, now the goalie coach for the Abbotsford Heat, stresses that if you’re just honest with yourself about when you need rest, and don’t allow yourself to overheat too much, it can be manageable.

Harding sounds ready to fight, and I’m rooting for him.

Two:

Friedman talked with Martin Gelinas, who says coach Bob Hartley has the whole Flames coaching staff in 9-5 every day, watching video of their opponents, studying, planning and preparing.

This makes sense to me – you keep your routine going, up your knowledge base, and will be ready to rock whenever the puck drops on the season. Only thing I don’t believe: 9-5. Come on.

I can just see the assistant coaches being like “Bob it’s 3:30. There’s no season. We’re six-plus hours in. Watching old Ducks highlights is brutal. Let’s go get a pint.”

“NEVAR! MY STAFF SHALL BE THE PREPARDIEST!”

10 Thoughts

1. Ready for some labour? Next Wednesday is a huge day with the NHL board of governors meeting in New York City. Will commissioner Gary Bettman reserve the most important part of the get-together for the highest levels only? Each team has one governor and at least two alternates with one exception — the Phoenix Coyotes, who only have the latter. In at least one meeting during the last lockout, there was a point where Bettman told all the alternates to leave, so only the true decision-maker for each franchise would be in there with him.

Jesus, is the NHL Board of Governors, like, the Illuminati? I can’t imagine what a meeting of NFL Governors is like if the NHL is this intense (I’m guessing they have nukes and transporters and sharks with frickin’ laser beams and stuff). “Sorry, you’re only the second-most important person in the Red Wings organization, please leave while the truly important businessmen discuss…business.”

3. Obviously, some governors have more power than others. Case in point, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs flexing his muscles as board chairman. The NHL and the Winnipeg Jets denied this story, but there is no question that a) negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association take on a more frigid atmosphere when Jacobs is there and b) newer owners definitely feel as if they are expected to smile and keep quiet.

 

And of course…

Jacobs is going to come out of this as:

Mr. Potter, chief cheap prick in "It's a Wonderful Life."

…by the time it’s all said and done.

5. The 2004-05 NHL season was cancelled in February, but it probably won’t be that late this time. A few executives believe the true “red alert” is between January 1st and 15th. The concern among the moderates is that the mushroom cloud between the two sides continues to build, which endangers the possibility of a last-minute settlement.

This whole “last minute” thing, while likely the best way to wring every possible dollar out of the NHLPA, is infuriating, if only because it highlights how little the NHL gives a shit about the fans, and how insincere their negotiations have been up to this point. Talk about bad faith negotiating – “We’ll just stand pat and let the players give until they can’t anymore, then we’ll reach a deal when we finally see how far they moved. Hands in everyone! One, Two, Three, MONEY!”

And yes, I’m in a fake-quote mood today.

6. When the 1994-95 NHL lockout ended in January 1995, the collective bargaining agreement didn’t get signed until the following August. The league and players agreed to a “Memorandum of Understanding” and the 48-game schedule went on while lawyers haggled over details. Now it sounds like many of the “smaller” issues are agreed to and may be drawn up, but if this really goes late/sideways, will the NHL and NHLPA be willing to do that again?

Obviously not a lawyer here, but doesn’t this make a lot of sense to everyone else?

If you can tell you’re millimeters apart, there’s no point in setting fire to the season if you can work on the issues while actually having a season. As un-thrilled (yes, un-thrilled) as I am about the prospect of a 48 game season, be honest with yourself: you’d take it.

Let’s just get this out there though: the very worst – VERY WORST PART – of  a possible shortened season is going to be stat people saying the words – which while valid, are fucking annoying, because you can never call a player hot or cold, apparently – “small sample size.” Let’s all agree if there’s a shortened season to celebrate the good teams and make fun of the bad ones, like always. The teams can only play the games they’re in.

7. A number of reports criticised the NHLPA for waiting so long to consider decertification because it takes time. That’s true, it can take 45-60 days because a formal vote must happen through the National Labour Relations Board, but there is a slightly different process to be aware of. It’s called “Disclaiming.” Basically, it means NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr can say he no longer represents the players in collective bargaining. Barring a breakthrough in mediation, it’s expected the NHLPA will begin moving in that direction very shortly. It can take effect immediately. It’s what the NBA did days before reaching a settlement last November.

45-60 days seems like a long-time for a “quick fix,” but I guess it worked for the NFLPA and NBAPA. Anyway, enough legalese.

12. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reported that the NHL and NHLPA were close to an agreement on moving free agency from July 1 to June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, whichever is later. That’s the Major League Baseball timeline. Only thing I don’t like about it? In 1999, Roman Turek was told about his trade to the St. Louis Blues the night that the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup. There was an expansion draft and the Stars needed to make a move. I thought that was unfortunate.

I’m down with moving it closer to the end of the season, but get lost with situations like Turek’s. That’s not remotely fair, and teams – management included – shouldn’t be forced to make decisions hours after reaching the top of their personal Mount Everest. “Congrats on achieving your life goal, NOW PACK YOUR SHIT.”

17. The leader in the clubhouse for Sidney Crosby’s services is Switzerland. I wondered if he might play for Canada in the Spengler Cup should things not be settled, but that’s a huge insurance bill for Hockey Canada.

Switzerland? This reminds me of what I wrote about Alfredsson earlier, with a twist. Switzerland would be a great place for Sid to play competitive hockey, while remaining above the talent-level. He could get closer to “game shape,” without getting thumped by some Russian who’s pro-Ovy in the 8 vs. 87 debate.

19. One thing to worry about if you’re a locked-out player is if someone on your NHL team’s affiliate improves enough to take a job. This is one of those years, like 2005, where the AHL gets so much better because of who is playing down there. One exec said: “Most teams have two or three players they are looking at now who will make them think when the NHL returns.”

Dude, the AHL this year is the AHL+ this year. It’s the AHL-and-a-half. It’s the perfect place for guys like the Nazem Kadri and the rest of the “almost NHLers” at this point, so I think there’ll be a lot of borderline guys that make things tough on NHL GMs. I even feel like it’s good for a lot of the Oilers young guns who’ve established they can play in the NHL, just to re-establish in their own minds how good they are, that they can score, and to put them in more scoring situations than they would normally get so they remember how much patience helps.

22. The Heat want Brust, Danny Taylor and 2006 first-rounder Leland Irving to play, so all of them have to be patient. Taylor won the job out of training camp, but Brust’s been otherworldly. When Brian Boucher set the NHL record of five straight shutouts in 2003-04, he didn’t have to sit between starts. Brust wasn’t able to get into the same kind of rhythm, which makes his streak pretty incredible.

…and…

23. Brust, 29, is motivated by Tim Thomas, another late bloomer. Sigalet sees a comparison. “Barry is aggressive like Thomas. Unorthodox.” Brust will use the pokecheck and stacks the pads, too.

Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust. Brusty!

Barry Brust is a bit of a cult hero everywhere he goes. We grew up playing minor hockey together, and even his best friends have considered him somewhat of a superhero since then. The main reason is that in the way hockey players use the term “beauty” – if you know what “Gongshow Hockey” is, you know it’s a common term – defines Barry Brust. A straight-up beauty.

As Friedman says, he’ll pokecheck you (calls it “the nightmare”), he’ll stack ‘em, he’ll (figuratively) tape his glove to his hip to make you shoot glove before taking it away.

Barry was always a big boy as a young ‘un, but was extremely athletic. Great baseball player. Great forward in hockey too, actually. Pumped to see him have continued success.

25. Another New York Islander getting good reviews is Travis Hamonic. “A beast,” said one scout. I mentioned this last year, but a couple of teammates said he just had to understand how good he is. Sounds like he’s figuring it out.

Hamonic is one of those guys who caught my eye immediately when I first saw him suit up for the Islanders, in the “okay that guy can play at this level” way. He’s just a pure NHLer, and he’s got a nasty streak, which coaches desperately want in their d-men but find it tough to come by. The Isles have a gem there; he’s going to be a bitch to play against for opposing forwards.

Comments (4)

  1. Someday I’m going to get you drunk and get you to tell me really really off the record Brusty stories. :)

  2. I am going to have to learn to play hockey whenever hockey comes back just so I can dissipate the huge reserve of anger that has built up in me over the lockout (cough, Jacobs!). Sheesh.

  3. I think the young oilers will really benefit from playing against the other teams top d pair and the extra attention they will get in the AHL. Granted the quality of competition isn’t as high as the NHL but playing in more situations with extra attention can never hurt a young skilled players development.

  4. I’d be okay with moving free agency earlier- if they also move the season earlier. I’m of the belief that hockey shouldn’t be played in June. Start training camps September 1st, that way the Playoffs are wrapped up by the end of May, leaving plenty of time for preparation.

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