January 04 2013 10:43AM
Because I do this for a living and have a heavy dose of self-interest riding on the outcome, I've no doubt been more invested in the CBA negotiations than your average fan. On a broad, macro level divorced from sentiment, it's been interesting to observe the parry and thrust of each side in this labor dispute, to impute the honesty and motives of those involved, to deduce each party's competing incentives and strategies.
After the recent "blow-up" in talks and PA missives about lack of trust (met by Bettman's threats of canceling the season), though, it's grown almost impossible for me to approach this on-going miasma as a detached mental exercise. Intellectually, boredom has set in thanks to the monotonous drip-drip-drip of non-news updates, dressed up, mock outrage and PR stunts that have littered this growing fiasco. As a fan and a man whose livelihood depends on the business of NHL teams actually playing games, my dueling emotions of hope and anger have, over time, simply boiled away, leaving a kind of numb, empty apathy; like a pot of water abandoned on a burner for too long.
I will continue to follow the ebb and flow of CBA talks - I'm too invested to do otherwise - but increasingly both my curiosity as a commentator and my emotion as a fan are being displaced by a unpleasant mix of fatigue and disgust. Even as I'm aware of the complexity and ambiguity of the issues at hand and the lack of a sympathetic protagonist amongst the parties, I am nevertheless compulsively struck with an image of venal, shifty-eyed men standing over a corpse, arguing over who gets to rifle through the pockets first.
- Related - Jonathan Willis shows why Bettman's "threat" to cancel the season unless a deal is reached by next Thursday is so much sound and fury.
- Related, again - A few years ago you couldn't swing a cat without hitting four hockey fans who would swear to you that Gary Bettman was the devil and responsible for everything that was wrong with hockey, both real and imaginary. I think that perception has sensibly shifted over time, but in some ways the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Now, it seems, Bettman is characterized as little more than a puppet dancing at the behest of the various owners - a scapegoat to absorb the fans ire and a mere cipher for hawkish rich men like Jeremy Jacobs.
I suspect the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. Bettman is assuredly the owners employee, but he's also their representation, their council. He is a major voice in the room and no doubt the guy determining significant aspects of the league's planning and strategies. He acts on behalf of the owners, and with their blessing, but that doesn't mean he's merely a pawn acting out the nefarious script of his betters.
I guess what I'm saying is $8 million per year is a lot of cheddar to pay for an impotent figurehead.
- I'm not one to wring my hands about Team Canada's performance on the world stage, so the loss to the States in the semi-finals didn't rile me that much. I'd say those who tend to get enraged or despondent when Canada doesn't quite live up to expectations at these things should consider a couple of things: that anything can happen in one-off games and that other countries are sending some pretty damn good teams of their own these days.
- Markus Granlund scored another three points recently and now shares the tournament lead in points (12) with teammate Joel Armia. Granlund has had a tough year in the sm-liiga this season, but at least he put together a nice run against his peers in the WJC.
That said, the WJC has been dubbed "the tournament of small sample size" by stats guys for a reason: observers and scouts tend to over-weight it due to it's perceived importance, but as always more results over a longer period are far more powerful and more predictive than less. So here's hoping he gets back on track in Finland once this thing is over.
- Sven Baertschi is apparently ready to get back into the Heat's line-up for their game tonight. The team could really use his offensive abilities obviously. It's somewhat disconcerting, though, that the Flames best prospect has missed time with concussion-like issues in each of the last two years though.
- Speaking of concerning health issues, John Weisbrod was on the FAN yesterday and noted Roman Cervenka is suffering from a hematoma and is isn't medically cleared to play. He hasn't skated since the end of November and there's no timetable for a return. Add in the uncertainty of the labor dispute and there's a moderate but growing chance that Feaster's KHL experiment won't ever skate in Flames colors.
- Anton Babchuk has 3 points in 31 games for Donbass in the KHL and is -9 (the worst +/- on the team). I doubt the Flames ask him to fly back over the pond, even if the NHL does return. Regular readers, I hope you'll allow this minor indulgence but...I told you so.
- Almost all of the Gaudreau shirts have been mailed or delivered. I hope those who have received their shirt(s) are enjoying them.
- You'll notice we finally have "tweet" buttons at the bottom of articles. Yay! Next up: a facebook like button.