More of the same for NHL, NHLPA; what's next?

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More of the same for NHL, NHLPA; what's next?

Another week has gone by. And it was another week of no progress between the NHL and NHLPA. Talking to each other, talking with a mediator, it doesnt matter: the lockout drags on, reaching Day 76 on Friday.

So where do the league and players association go from here?

Commissioner Gary Bettman suggested that the league and PA brass stay out of the next negotiation session, allowing owners and players to meet without them. The NHLPA did have an internal conference call planned today; as of this writing, theres been no report of whether or not itll go with Bettmans suggestion.

The two sides are running out of ideas to get something done. The only thing they seem to agree on is that theyre far apart.

So what about decertification? The NHLPA has discussed it internally; and considering how things have gone, it may be the next step. Players have their own thoughts on the possibility.

It makes sense when this lockout has gone this long and theres been no movement from the NHL and massive concessions from the players, Blackhawks defenseman and player representative Steve Montador said recently. Its unfortunate that we have to consider such measures, but its a serious one.

Jonathan Toews said decertification is an option. Im not sure if its the most imminent choice right now. But at some point the players have certain negotiating tactics that we need to use. Up until now its been a waiting game. Waiting to see if the NHL means business, if they have the nerve to take it as far as they have. Here we are almost in December, and they look like they couldnt care less.

A lot of people on the outside think the players are standing up for something that doesnt really mean anything, that in the end and in the future its not a lot of money. But it goes beyond that, Toews said. If we agree upon a six-year deal right now, whos to say the league wont try this again in six years? As players, we need to be strong and show them that, it doesnt matter what the terms are. We work hard for our contracts and work hard to get to where we are and to put on a show for the fans every single night. Theres a massive price to pay to get to this level. And (being) pushed around by our employer isnt going to happen.

The National Basketball Players Association went that route last year. On Nov. 10, 2011, the NBA issued a proposal to the NPBA, which the latter group rejected. A few days later, the NPBA voted to go forward with decertification. On Nov. 26, 2011, the two sides reached a tentative deal; 12 days later the NBAs board of governors ratified the deal and, on Christmas Day, the NBA was back.

Players are hoping that, if they take the decertification route, a quick resolution would come in the NHL, too.

Right now, its a viable option for us, Troy Brouwer said earlier this week. If nothing is going to push the owners to even want to negotiate, maybe this will force their hand. Were discussing it internally. I dont know if itll be our next move, but its definitely in the dialogue. If its our most viable option, well move toward it and get the process started.

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DENVER – Well, that was a wild one, wasn’t it?

We’ll spare you the gory-to-glorious details (most of which are in the game story, anyway). So instead, let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Colorado.

1. Great night for the rookies. The Blackhawks’ newest players were their most prolific players on Tuesday night. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals. Tanner Kero did too, and added an assist. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. All of these experiences are great learning curves for the Blackhawks’ youth, and coach Joel Quenneville likes how they’re progressing, not just with scoring but with their overall games. “That’s the part that’ll make them better players and us a better team is playing the right way defensively, being responsible, putting the puck in good areas and going hard to the net.”

2. Top line still too quiet. Line changes were made but the results remained the same, especially for the Blackhawks’ top trio. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were up there with Jonathan Toews in this one, but still nada. The three had a combined three shots for the game. Many of you have asked if Toews is still dealing with that back injury. On Tuesday morning he said, “no, it’s been really good, actually.” Still, there’s something up with a top line that, regardless of combination, just can’t get anything going.

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3. Terrible second period. The Blackhawks came out of the first in great shape and with a 2-1 lead. But things got messy in the second period. Be it the inability to clear or get the puck deep in the Avs’ zone, the Blackhawks made mistakes. The Avs capitalized, scoring three goals in the second including two in a 63-second span. Outside of Tanner Kero’s goal, the Blackhawks had a forgettable second period. The Avalanche outscored them 3-1 and outshot them 8-4 in the second.

4. Faceoffs lost. The Blackhawks did not do well in this department, winning just 23 percent of their faceoffs. It didn’t cost them the game but they certainly need better nights than they got on Tuesday.

5. Corey Crawford gets through it. Crawford was stellar prior to his appendectomy but hasn’t been at that level since. Quenneville said he considered pulling Crawford during this one but decided to keep him in. Quenneville’s still happy with his goaltending – again, the Blackhawks aren’t where they are right now without it this season. But he said Crawford could be better than he was on Tuesday.