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: Harding has kindred hockey spirit in Sigalet

Friedman’s column, November 29th: NHL could call in NBA lockout fixer

Opening:

Friedman opened this week by introducing us to Jim Quinn, the man who stepped in to help the NBA avoid torching their season. The NBA, like the NHL, went through mediation and failed. The NBA, like the NHL, had its players move towards decertification. And similarly, everything was coming undone, and then for the NBA: Quinn.

I know no more about the apparently effective gent than you guys (here’s his bio), all I know is I’m in favour of any solution, even if that involves bringing in Voldemort, Kelsey Grammer and the Iron Sheik to get it done. I really don’t care, so I vote that somebody calls Quinn. I miss hockey, and he seems like he could help.

***

1. A lot of feedback from my Ron Hainsey blog, but it should be pointed out that not every player involved in the negotiations is having similar things said about them. Kevin Westgarth is getting a ton of media attention and, when his career is over, he’s going to have some options. His work on the pension issues, opposite Murray Edwards, was said to be very impressive.

If you haven’t read that Hainsey blog, you should really go do that. For my money, it’s the most interesting thing I’ve read in the past month on the lockout. Basically, there are rumblings that Ron Hainsey will be blackballed from the NHL after his conduct during the negotiations, which is to say, he’s been a bit more forthright than the owners would prefer.

The whole “blackball” thing can happen to guys on the fringe, I know that much (not that I’m calling Hainsey fringe). When my dad was coaching in the International Hockey League (then the AHL’s equal, if not superior), I remember him telling me about certain guys, and how personal interactions can help them, or screw them over. If the owners are really pissed that Hainsey is such a staunch Fehr supporter and general hard-liner, it could affect his ability to sign. Nobody would ever say “He’s a great player, we can get him cheap, we have a need” and leave him sitting on the sidelines. But certainly, if given the choice between A and B – and almost every team has those choices – Hainsey could find himself in a bit of a pickle.

2. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the lockout-shortened 1995 NHL season and how it was played with a “Memorandum of Understanding” and not a signed collective bargaining agreement. Games resumed as lawyers haggled over the details and the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup. The deal was not finished until August. Well, Fehr was asked about it in New York and sounded amenable to the idea. As for the NHL, deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email: “We would likely entertain the possibility of playing with some interim level of documentation, but I expect that we will require more detail than what he had in 1994-95.” Something to keep in mind.

As great as it would be to have hockey back, I’d still be uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take it, but I’m one of those guys who really likes to wrap up loose ends. I don’t like going to bed angry. But still, it does seem like there are more and more options to move things forward right now. The NHLPA could bring in Jim Quinn, or decertify, or agree to playing under an MoU…there’s a few options right now, and that’s a good thing.

3. Daly is not prone to public hyperbole, so his “hill we will die on” quote about contract lengths made me do a lot of thinking. In a follow-up email, he wrote that the owners said term limits was the issue needed “to the exclusion of all other Player Contracting Issues.” That makes sense for them because, if you’re down to five-year deals, the variance per season doesn’t hurt as badly.

If you missed this before, I’ve written about the owners on that:

Does the NHL really want to limit themselves to only being able to lock up their Crosbys for seven years? Why not a longer option combined with some resolve to not sign mediocre players to infinite length contracts? Have better GMs. Hold your GMs accountable. You don’t have to sign guys for as many years as it’s legally allowed. Have personal team rules. If other teams want to sign guys to shitty deals, isn’t that a benefit to your club? To hell with parity – what happened to being competitive and cashing in on the failures of other clubs?

And the players:

Kay.

Moving on.

Seriously: I mean, five years is a healthy amount of time. If you earn your money over that time, the time will re-up with you. What’s wrong with having some expectation of performance? You should expect that from yourself. Not to mention half the time the shorter deals will save guys from themselves – don’t you want to have options after a few years if you’re not happy somewhere?

My point is that this “hill to die on” isn’t one worth losing your metaphorical life over on either side.

Elliotte’s next three points address his thoughts (which are valid, and counter the ones I’ve made above somewhat), so go read those as well.

8. As we move closer to a CBA, amid all of the fire-spitting, the biggest question now among teams is the “transition rules.” The NHL says it doesn’t want amnesties or an escrow limit. So if the cap is $60 million in 2013-14, how are the Lightning ($57.5 million for 15 players), Philadelphia Flyers ($57M for 16) and Boston Bruins ($57M for 16, no goalies) among others going to make it work?

I don’t really understand how there’s an alternative to amnesty buyouts if teams hope to suddenly slash the salary cap back as much as that would. Would all the current unsigned players just get nickels? Surely the PA has to fight to make sure that’s not the case. What I’m saying is that this seems like a hill the NHL would be willing to let the PA have and not die on.

11. Several of you asked about Decertification/Disclaimer of Interest. It would be the latter because it’s faster. I’ve been told it’s still a threat, although the players have backed off at least twice from pulling the trigger. One possible NHL counter: suspending the league. Would it work? No idea. There is so little case law on this that people are hesitant to guess what’s right.

This has sort of been my hesitancy in jumping on board with “the players should decertify.” There are so few precedents for this sort of thing that it feels like a last resort. Aside from the threat of doing it influencing the owners, it seems to be the “throwing-shit-at-the-wall” option.

“What does this do?”

“Something.”

“We don’t know what?”

“Not for sure, no.”

“Well…let’s give that a go, then.” 

16. If they do get this done soon, start on Jan. 1. Even though the Winter Classic is cancelled, it still has a chance to be the NHL’s day. Drop the puck at noon ET and go until the last game is done out West.

Every time Elliotte (or anyone) brings up a potential first day, I get a little giddy. Like, seriously just Men-in-Black flash my brain from the past few months, get a midday game going, my laptop in my lap (go Twitter!), about 11,000 beers and lets do this.

17. I was thinking about the kinds of impactful things that the NHL and NHLPA are going to have to do for the fans. Fridge magnets and pocket schedules won’t be enough. Something that means a little more would be offering Centre Ice for free the rest of the season (No blackouts, either). Sign up and get a free code. Yes, it hurts hockey-related revenue, but revenue is damaged this year anyway. Got do to something tangible.

Center Ice would be a good place to start. I’m curious from fans though, is there anything the NHL could do or say to make you say “Ahh, that was nice of the league, it’s all good now?” I feel like fans are either A) pissed and done with the league for a healthy amount of time, or B) coming back in full force regardless of any action the NHL could take.

20. I thought Brad Richards of the New York Rangers had a good quote about the lockout. He compared it to a seven-game series where teams alternate victories until the end.

As a fan, it feels like it’s 6-0 owners heading into game 7.

22. OK, let’s move on, enough already. Some of Team Canada’s world junior hopefuls will face CIS No. 1-ranked Alberta on Wednesday afternoon. These games are like the Super Bowl for university players, as a good performance in front of the scouts can mean some kind of pro contract. Unfortunately, two of the Golden Bears’ best players — defenceman Ian Barteaux and centre Sean Ringrose — cannot play due to exams.
23. If it was me, I’d blow off the exam, but that would make each player ineligible for the second semester. When I was at Western, economics exams always used to be on Saturdays. Professors said to the football players, “You want to dress for games? Write two days early.” Too bad something similar couldn’t be done here.

I wrote a bit about this today: something can always be done, as long as the professors aren’t completely inflexible jerks. I get that it’s not the ideal situation, but this is a real life opportunity for a couple of very good hockey players. One of the roles of college is to give people a better chance to succeed in the real world, yet you’re going to deny guys that over a scheduling issue? I can’t imagine being a prof and having someone lay out the situation for me and responding with a flat “No, nothing we can do here.” That’s brutal.

25. A few Oilers fans asked if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had anything to gain by playing in the world juniors. Absolutely. A lot of teams like to see their top prospects in big-pressure moments. On the road, high expectations, a lot of games where a loss ends your hopes, important minutes against good players — I’d say you have something to gain.

Totally agree with Elliotte on this. I don’t think anybody really thinks it’s going to affect his development from a physical standpoint, it’s just a matter of exposing a talented kid to more big moments. It could be awhile before the Oilers see one (or not, just saying), so it’s great to get reps in those situations. No-brainer to have him there.

26 through 29

Curious to see if your team’s prospects are turning the heads of scouts? Check out Elliotte’s list of guys excelling in the AHL here. Barry Brust got a nod with some pretty fantastic young guns there. Good stuff.