NHL rejects latest players' proposal


NHL rejects latest players' proposal

The optimism was short lived. According to the NHL, though, it was actually non-existent. And in a matter of minutes, the thought that hockey would convene soon evaporated into a mist of anger, frustration and uncertainty.

The NHL succinctly rejected the NHLPAs latest proposal minutes after the players association announced it in a press conference and they did it via voicemail, no less. And judging from the very angry reaction from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, things have definitely taken an ugly turn in negotiations.

Im disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight, Bettman said in a press conference. The characterization that I just heard that we were close reminds me the last time the union said we were close, and we were a billion dollars apart. Spinning us into an emotional frenzy over maybe were close and were going to be playing hockey tomorrow is terribly unfair to our fans and this process.

The characterization Bettman spoke of came about an hour before, when NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr held a press conference on his groups latest proposal. Fehr said the NHLPA and the league had a complete agreement on dollars. We expect this to put us on a quick end to this dispute. The players proposal, according to Fehr, was an eight-year CBA and player contracts maxed out at eight years.

But Bettman said it wasnt about the players coming up with a new proposal. He said it was about them saying yes or no to key elements that the owners wanted, and a yes leading to more talks. Those included a long CBA the league wants 10 years and the five-year term limit on player contracts, which deputy commissioner Bill Daly said is the hill we will die on.

Following the PAs rejected proposal, Fehr said this looks like it's not going to be resolved in the immediate future. We are clearly very close, if not on top of one another in connection with most of the major issues.

Again, its looking like two sides speaking different languages. Fehr saying theyre close, Bettman saying theyre nowhere near being so. And after Thursdays events, Bettman said elements the league added, including the make whole provision, are now off the table.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, who was present for this weeks talks in New York City, said its unfathomable that we moved as much as we did in an attempt to make the deal. And as close as we are, to find ourselves that far away or having the owners effectively walk away and taking everything off the table is unfortunate.

It was an ugly end to a week that started off positive in terms of talks. The owners and players, minus Bettman and Fehr, seemed to develop good banter and even progress toward a new CBA. But things apparently changed on Wednesday. And by Thursday players were meeting with NHL brass, and the four remaining owners who had talked through Wednesday were leaving town.

And in another twist, four of the owners who were involved in this weeks talks issued statements regarding them. Owners to this point had been largely silent, as they faced big fines for talking.

Pittsburgh co-owner Ron Burkle said it seemed progress was being made in ownerplayer talks, and therefore we were surprised when Fehr made a unilateral and "non-negotiable" decision -- which is their right -- to end the playerowner process that has moved us farther in two days than we have moved at any time in the past months. I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried to reach a deal I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.

The optimism is gone for now. No more talks are currently planned. Bettman told NYC media that no drop-dead date to cancel the season has been set, but he also said he couldnt see the league playing anything less than a 48-game schedule.

There have been episodes in these negotiations that have been anything from interesting to bizarre. The latest events are just sad.

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

This Five Things was headed for a lot of negativity before the final three minutes of regulation. But thanks to the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback, this one won’t sting as much as Friday’s installment.

So while you all celebrate the Cubs going to a World Series, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. Waking up just in time. The Maple Leafs haven’t played their best hockey in third periods – entering Saturday’s game, they’d been outscored 6-1 in that frame. But for 17-plus minutes of the third it didn’t look like the Blackhawks were going to take advantage of that stat. But they would, salvaging a point out of nowhere with two goals within a minute (Artem Anisimov at 17:32 and Richard Panik at 18:32). Better late than never.

2. The Richard Panik show continues. The forward said he doesn’t think about Toronto anymore, that it’s all about the team he’s with now. But looking at his celebration on his game-tying goal late in the third period, there had to be a little motivation to score against the Leafs, right? The Blackhawks don’t care who the opponent is, and Panik now has six goals to start the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Power play fizzles. Ah, thought we were going to talk about the other special teams? In a second. The bigger problem on Saturday was the Blackhawks’ advantage, on which they went 0-for-6. It took until overtime, when their fifth power play was a 4-on-3 for them to really generate anything against the Leafs.

4. Late-period goals hurt. The Blackhawks looked set to enter first intermission with a 1-0 lead but Tyler Bozak scored with just 14 seconds remaining. They could’ve had a 2-2 tie entering the second intermission but James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:44 remaining in the second. Again, the Blackhawks overcame that. But coach Joel Quenneville talked about the loss of momentum in games, and here are two examples of it.

5. The Auston Matthews show. The Leafs phenom didn’t score a goal on Saturday but there’s no doubt he had his effect. His speed was especially on display on William Nylander’s goal; Matthews drew several Blackhawks and Nylander had a rather open net on the rebound.