Welcome to another downhill run on the roller coaster that is the NHL collective bargaining agreement negotiations, this time featuring the "arguing like teenagers" school of public relations.
There were a series of developments late this week, though how significant they are depends on how much you buy that the league is willing to cancel the season a full three months earlier than they did last lockout go-round.
The first development was that the league has placed another deadline on the negotiations, this one on the time-frame for an agreement if the December games are to survive, with the outside chance that the entire season could be cancelled soon. Not everyone is so sure a total lost season is so imminent, though the idea that the league will cancel December games if an agreement is not reached in a week brought less argument.
Then news broke that commissioner Gary Bettman has proposed a two-week "moratorium" on the negotiations, with right-hand man Bill Daly e-mailing out the following quote:
"I find it incredible that the Union is suggesting that we are somehow "close" to a deal. They have utterly refused to negotiate for months. They have made essentially one proposal -- five times. They continue to request a "guaranteed" Players Share as part of the next agreement and we repeatedly tell them maybe they should get a reality check. And in the mean time, maybe they can make their position clear to us on 50-50, on the make-whole and on Player Contracting issues."
NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr fired back with this:
"Of course everyone on the players' side wants to reach an agreement. The players have offered the owners concessions worth about a billion dollars. What exactly have the owners offered the players? We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don't. So we are ready to meet. If indeed they do not want to meet, it will be at least the third time in the last three months that they have shut down the dialogue, saying they will not meet unless the players meet their preconditions. What does that tell you about their interest in resolving this?"
So to boil it down to the basics, the NHL believes they've made no progress and that it's somehow helpful to sit in their respective corners and sulk for a week while the NHLPA believes it's already giving up a hell of a lot without getting anything in return and wants to beat that point into the NHL's head across the table even though the league clearly doesn't care. Lovely.
In the midst of all this, a professional mediator has offered his services to the sides for free. Of course, neither side seems legitimately interested in taking him up on the offer. Because a cool-headed third party couldn't possibly help in this situation.
Also in today's links, Tim Cowlishaw's line about the lockout will almost certainly get some nods, the saga about the Stars management of local youth travel hockey continues and the most blessedly average players in Stars history.
- I'm not always a fan of Tim Cowlishaw's opinion on all things NHL, but he may very well have a point on the lockout in this excerpt from a chat. [DallasNews.com]
- The lawsuit brought by parents of the Dallas Ice Jets players against the Texas Amateur Hockey Association after the reorganization of the top-tier travel teams this summer is not new, but this story does lay out the parents' side of the story fairly clearly. Frankly, though, I'm not quite sure what legal footing they're trying to stand on here even though I do understand their anger - being able to compete against the top teams in the area or in the top league is not a legally protected right. [WFAA]
- A product of that local youth system (who played with the Ice Jets as a child) is Stefan Noesen, a first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2011. He is continuing to develop in major junior now after spending the summer working with Trevor Daley. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Brett Ritchie's absolutely stellar play with the Niagra IceDogs and OHL select team has all sorts of people raving about him and even has his name on the outskirts of the conversation for Canada's World Junior team. [Toronto Sun]
- After being promoted directly to the big club coming out of college, Reilly Smith has had a little rougher adjustment to the professional game than many hoped to see. He's still searching for that first professional goal and talk to Mark Stepnaski about how things have been coming together. [DallasStars.com]
- If you've never seen sled hockey before, it's definitely worth a look-see if you ever have a chance. And the contingent representing the Dallas Stars did its sponsor proud recently, coming away with the "A" Division championship at the USA Hockey Sled Classic. [USA Hockey]
- Protip for those of you who play rec hockey: Don't fly up into the air and land on the side of your head because, as Jo Innes explains, that can lead to very, very bad things. [Backhand Shelf]
- I have a deep and probably unhealthy love for the average-talent player who ends up making some sort of impact on a team long term, so Todd's list of the most average players in Stars history is so very near and dear to my heart. Dave Reid for the win! [Thursday Morning Cupcheck]
- Gary Bettman had an.... icy reception at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony. How would the crowd have accepted him if he used this first draft of his speech? [Grantland]
- I could give you some more of the excellent Flashback Friday clips from the Stars website, but I thought you could use a laugh instead. So imagine, if you will, that you are Pekka Rinne. How would you handle trying to play the puck in this KHL game? He channels his inner Marty Turco with disastrous results.