It’s slim pickings when it comes to Flames new these days I’m afraid. Aside from constantly raining plaudits on Johnny Gaudreau and following the exploits of the Abbotsford Heat, there isn’t much more to talk about in Flamesland.
Instead, here’s some general interest links and stories worth following…
First up, of course, is the impending mediation between the NHL and NHLPA. The offcial announcement of the parties involved caused a brief firestorm yesterday on twitter when one of the three mediator’s (Guy Serota) personal twitter account was suddenly deluged with public scrutiny. I didn’t see the incriminating twitter feed myself, but apparently it was replete with juvenile jokes, odd tweets directed towards comedian Sarah Silverman and strident political messages.
As is the style of the time, Serota quickly deleted his account and then claimed it had been "hacked" ("I did not. Have. Sexual relations with that woman…"), but not in time to save his position in the NHL talks. He was quickly dismissed from the proceedings by Federal Mediation Service Director George Cohen.
Of course, it didn’t help Serota that the NHL labour fight is already neck deep in poisonous PR. One wonders how much flak he would have taken under different circumstances.
*headline explanation here.
– On the actually important aspect of mediation, attitudes seem to vary widely on what effect the introduction of an interlocutor might have on the lock-out. LeafsNation contributor 67 ound and NHLNumbers contributor(s) Driving Play discussed potential ramifications on twitter today:
As always, I remain skeptical. The apparent lack of meaningful progress through the first two months of the season have turned me into a cynic (moreso) when it comes to the CBA talks, so I’ve begun to think it will take some drastic action (outright cancellation of the season or union decertification) to get real movement from one or both sides.
Apparently "Super Drunk" Isn’t just a Frat Boy State of Mind
(original pic via Deadspin)
– Completely unrelated to anything, but this might be the strangest hockey-related headline you read this year.
I remember during Sheahan’s draft year that Edmonton was rumored to be strongly interested in picking him. Obviously, someone needs to tell the kid that he was drafted by the Red Wings instead so he can put down the bottle.
– James Mirtle (who has been excellent at CBA/lock-out coverage this year by the way) notes that both the owners and players technically "won" the last CBA negotiation given the league’s growth and how much each group walked away with in the end. He also shows just how close both current proposals from each side are.
Related – the NHL recovered rapidly from the last work stoppage in 2004-05, paradoxically recording some record growth in the wake of a lock-out despite cancelling a whole season. I personally assume this emboldened Bettman and the owners to swing for the fences again, but it’s highly probable they benefited from a number of factors that don’t exist this time around. To wit:
1.) General fan and media sentiment were sympathetic to the league
At the time, the NHL was suffering from run away salaries and a stark contrast between the "haves" and "have nots". It gave a large portion of the faithful the perception that the league was broken and needed to be fixed, allowing the owners to sell the lock-out as a necessary evil.
2.) A Changing Game
The league was able to effectively re-brand itself after the previous lock-out thanks to the implementation of new rules like the shoot-out, obstruction penalties and the goalie trapezoid. The "New NHL" was not only going to boast more parity across the various teams but the action on the ice would also be faster with more goals and more excitement.
3.) Sidney Crosby
The 2005 entry draft was the year of the Crosby lottery. A rare generational talent, Crosby was the most anticipated prospect to hit the NHL’s stage in several decades. As a result, the NHL had the benefit of a new financial system, new rules and the best modern player’s rookie season heading into 2006.
Put that altogether (and add in a strong Canadian dollar) and you have an explosion of fan interest and revenue growth post-2004.
None of that is true this time around. Fans are empathizing with neither the players nor the owners in this battle. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, motivations on both sides are considered far more petty and venal in this work stoppage. There’s also no planned paradigm shifting rule changes nor the introduction of a Crosby-like talent to re-enliven things.
Whenever this thing ends, the league will most likely stumble back to its customer base, bloodied and bruised and neither the players nor the owners will have enough lipstick to pretty up its swollen visage in the short-term. Absent a rapid conclusion to the lock-out and sudden return to action, I suspect it will take the NHL a lot longer to recover from this particular, ill-conceived kerfuffle.
The Butler Did It
– Finally, there is a bit of Flames news worth sharing – Chris Butler signed in Sweden recently. It looks like he’ll play for Karlskrona of the Allsvenskan. I know what you’re all thinking: can Butler be the guy to finally shut down MIKAEL BACKLUND? We’ll soon find out…