The LA Kings completed the marathon that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs earlier this week, winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. They completed a dominant post-season and led by Conn Smythe Winner Jonathan Quick defeated the 1 (Vancouver), 2 (St. Louis) and 3 (Phoenix) seeds in the Western Conference before tripping up the New Jersey Devils in the final.
Hope you enjoyed it, because you might not see NHL hockey for some time.
Now that the season is over, the NHL can turn to look at a cloud that has been hanging over the NHL for the better part of a season, the looming end of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. All signs point to a lengthy work stoppage:
1. Despite winning a Salary Cap in 2005, the owners/managers around the league can’t help themselves and do their best to circumvent a system that they fought so hard for.
2. Former MLBPA leader and new NHLPA boss Donald Fehr has a history of inducing work stoppages (1994 MLB strike) at inopportune times to make a point. Forcing the cancellation of the World Series after 3/4 of the season had been played took a serious set of stones. Not only do they have to iron out their differences, but they have to get to know each other and their strategies.
3. The current CBA doesn’t expire until Sept 15th. Not having that hammer over their heads until the league is 3 weeks away from beginning the regular season is a fatal mistake in the writing of the last CBA. As we have seen in recent NFL and NBA lockouts, true negotiations don’t seem to begin until that hammer is dropped. The big difference is that the other two leagues in question had their CBA’s expire shortly after the season came to its completion. The NFL didn’t lose many games but the NBA lost half a season. That was with an entire off-season to negotiate. The NHL and NHLPA will begin negotiations shortly but how serious they will be until Sept 15th remains to be seen.
I went on the record 10 months ago predicting that there would be a long time without hockey, and nothing that has happened in that time to change my mind. I think the players feel that they gave up enough in the last round of negotiations that resulted in a cap and will not be willing to give up much more (if anything) this time around. The owners got what they wanted last time, but still shot themselves in the foot by doing everything they could to find loopholes in the system instead of respecting the framework of it.
I hate to say it, but I don’t think there will be a 2012-13 season. There is just too much posturing and ego at work, and lines will be drawn in the sand and I don’t see either side giving in easily.