Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lockout Mythbusting

PuckDaddy explores the myth of the career-ending lockout.  Nice headline pic of Alfredsson in action.

Personally I don't see why everyone's hung up on Alfie's "last season" getting stolen by the lockout.  If last year wasn't a victory lap, what the heck is?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just Shut Up

What do you mean, I'm not
the center of the universe?
One of the things I don't understand is the feeling of entitlement that some fans seem to have.

Exhibit A: Flyers fan and all-around entitled misfit Jaymes Hall.  Mr. Hall crashed a press conference that Mr. Bettman was giving, and demanded to know why they didn't just implement his overly simplistic band-aid and continue playing.
"Why not freeze the revenue generated from those sources that are still in dispute?" he screamed. "What about an escrow account or something so we can get back to playing? Let's get back to playing! The fans are angry!"
First of all, no, nobody in business is going to leave money on the table without applying a certain amount of leverage to get at it. That's what this lockout is -- leverage. The idea is that by denying the players money for playing, you'll put pressure on them to settle faster than if they just did their jobs. The players applied pressure back on the owners by offering to continue to play under the old CBA, but that would mean the owners would be on the hook for potential losses incurred under the old CBA. Now the whole lockout thing has horribly backfired on the owners under this strategy, and the losses the league will incur are now much higher than if they'd just played under the old CBA, but that ship has been quite thoroughly sunk in the harbor. No sense even thinking about it anymore.

So yeah, no. Shut up.

Second, if hockey is so important to your life that it encourages you to show up places where you shouldn't be and yell half-assed bandaid suggestions at people, then frankly your life is more than a little sad. If the strike really made you angry at hockey you'd give up on it and wouldn't care any more.

Going off on a rant like that makes me think that you are acting more like a spoiled kid who isn't getting to see his favorite bedtime show because the TV is broken, and is having a temper tantrum because his parents won't take him down to Best Buy every night to watch it while the parents work out financing a replacement.

So yeah, shut up.

I can understand the entitlement from the media. They are paid to cover this circus, and if the circus isn't running the articles can get repetitious and boring. I can even understand* anger from the people who would be working the games in the arena, and even sympathize with anger from people who work in the wider secondary markets (like restaurants and sporting memorabilia stores) because there isn't the same driver of business that there usually is.

But Mr. Hall doesn't seem to be either of these. He's just an entitled "fan".

In any case, I'd bet real money that when hockey resumes in January or in October, Mr. Hall will be more than happy to pay good money to park his butt in the arena again.

*= even if I think their anger is misguided -- when you pick a pilot fish industry to work in, you end up in trouble if the shark dies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chirping The CBA: Contracts

Puck Daddy says the NHL's concern is around four player contracting issues. Let's pretend that these are the real issues and have a look at them, shall we?
1. Cap circumvention in which contracts are buried outside of the NHL, be it Wade Redden in the AHL or Cristobal Huet in Europe.

2. Cap circumvention on long-term deals that front-load salaries and then "back dive" later in the contract, with annual salaries dropping by a large percentage in order to influence the cap hit.
I'm listing these two issues together because they are A) related and B) ass-backwards -- the first is a direct consequence of the second. The only reason that universal whipping boy Wade Redden is buried in the AHL is because Rangers idiot GM Glen Sather signed Redden to that ridiculous contract in the first place.

I understand that the league is concerned about both these issues because of the negative impact they have on running franchises, but the problem isn't the players. Wade Redden wouldn't have been able to hold Sather hostange if Sather wasn't buying. I'm sure that Redden would have happilly signed for $25 million. Or $20 million. Or maybe if that was Sather's threshold of sanity, then maybe someone else would have signed Reddin to some other amount, and he'd be someone else's problem now.

This whole thing is like situations where bus drivers don't pick up passengers, and the bus company says to the passengers, what can we do to make this situation better? How about have the bus drivers stop the bus and pick up the passengers when they should?

If the league has a problem with the way that their owners and GMs are behaving, well then fix your owners and GMs.

Maybe the grownups should start acting like grownups and A) stop doing stupid things, and B) live with the consequences of their actions.
3. There is $5.7 billion in future contractual liabilities to players, i.e. long-term contracts that have already been signed. How can NHL owners deal with those commitments and still have the freedom to, for example, refinance their stakes or sell the team?
Ugh. See the whole rant above about "living with the consequences of your actions". That $5.7 billion hole has been dug, now you have to live with it. Trying to make it hard to make the hole bigger is a different problem.
4. Rewriting the contracting rules for young players, from contract term to arbitration rights. The idea is to shift the money from a player's "Second Contract" to his third contract. It's a way to create a little more fiscal sanity when it comes to big money thrown at still unproven players. It's also not a money-grab by the NHL — rather, it shares the wealth with established players in a way the system doesn't encourage at the moment.
I go back and forth on this issue.

One the one hand, keeping young players cheap is good business sense (for the owners). It also builds in space for the inevitable cap drop in the future, in that the younger players won't be paid as much while the cap space to pay them also drops. This helps protect the older contracts in a reduced cap world.

On the other hand, many -- most? -- of these guys won't see a third contract. At the end of the day, we watch the game to see the game played. We don't tune in to watch the owners and GMs make money. So it would be nice to see some more of these guys get a bit of a payday before they lose their spots.

The whole message behind these "issues" that the league has is that the individual owners can't control themselves, so they want the players to fix the problem that the owners made.

Same story as last time. Same story as next time.

The situation is exasperated by the fact that there are some teams that make a lot of money (ie Toronto) and this is pushing league revenues up, which lifts the payroll requirements for the poorer teams. This makes it harder for these teams to continue financially, which leads to the kinds of ownership debacles that we've seen (Nashville, Phoenix, etc).

Some of these teams are not viable. They won't be viable unless either A) there is a substantial cash infusion from the more successful teams (ie Toronto) or B) they get moved someplace where there is a population willing to support them. However the league's refusal to contemplate either of these possibilities just compounds the problems that they've continued to make.

So what is it going to take for long-term viability?

1) Move or close some of the financially weaker teams. Phoenix, I'm looking at you. Find someplace viable or shut them down.

2) Real revenue sharing -- something like 20% of all revenues go into a pot, which is then distributed by proportionally inverse revenues. Ideally break-even teams like Ottawa break even. Phoenix and Nashville get a ton of money. Toronto just pays. (Everybody wins!) But that's a problem for the league to solve with its franchisees. As long as the players get paid, they really shouldn't care where the money is coming from. (Or going.)

3) Real limits on contracts. Like five years max. Like "the money you pay in a July-to-June calendar year -- including bonuses -- is the cap hit." Like a cap tax for contracts signed but not active with the big team (ie the Wade Redden clause).

My guess is that in the end we might see some limits on contracts. The league is actually making some steps in this area with previous offers.

But the rest of these issues? The league has had its collective head in the sand for so long, I don't see them changing now.

And in five or seven years when this CBA expires, we'll do it all again.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Taking A Run At Fehr

Elliotte Friedman talks about the NHL's disdain for NHLPA head Fehr:
Rightly or wrongly, even moderates among the teams question his true devotion to the players, believing he has invested nothing in the sport and will damage it, simply walking away once this is all over.
Thing is, in the long run a disinterested 3rd party is what you do want to help you come to a fair, workable settlement. Those who think Fehr is damaging "the game"* are the same ones who think that if the players just relax and become indentured slaves to the individual teams, we could all just get on with playing hockey. And isn't that what everybody wants?

It is in Fehr's best interest to get the best deal possible for his clients. That is the business he is in, and that's the reputation he needs to continue to maintain and build. He won't be in the NHLPA for ever, but he will have to work afterwards. And standing aside while his clients get a bad deal does nothing to enhance his future employment prospects.

I hope the NHLPA holds firm behind Fehr. Completely folding for the owners last time round didn't buy lasting labour peace, and it won't this time either.


*= by which they mean the owner's pocketbook

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Calling Time

I almost hope, for Daniel Alfredsson's sake, that there's no hockey this year.

Lots of people have been writing that Alfredsson's return for another victory lap is good for the Senators. That to go out after missing a season due to a lockout is, somehow, a diminishment of his accomplishments over his career with Ottawa.

My argument is: there's almost no better way to go out.

Alfredsson came off a frankly disappointing 2010-2011 campaign, playing hurt and eventually missing time due to an injury. He seemed slow and couldn't produce the way he had in previous years.

And then...

And then he roared back in 2011-2012. He looked like the leader of previous years, giving maximum efforts at both ends of the ice. The whole All-Star weekend was frankly an Alfie love-in. And he was instrumental in dragging a "rebuilding" team, one which was expected to miss the playoffs, to fighting the #1 East seed in a winner-take-all 1st round game 7.

Short of Stanley Cup glory, is there really any higher note to go out on?

Alfredsson risks becoming another Micheal Schumacher, who doesn't quite know when to quit and gets embarrassed by younger, stronger players.

Alfredsson's career is one that will leave him with respect up and down the league. Failing to call time on it at an appropriate moment is very risky to his legacy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Optimistic Penguin Is Optimistic

Anyone else amused by the fact that after all the lockout-fanboys went through a couple of cycles of optimism-to-pessimism over the press releases, offer exchanges, and instant-refusals -- now they're all getting optimistic again because there hasn't been any new press?

Up until now, offers and public negotiation was good.  When the press stopped, everyone got depressed, until someone made a new offer, and then optimism spiked again.

Now we've gone through a couple of weeks where there's been nothing public happening.  There are rumors of secret negotiations, and guess what?  Everyone's optimistic again because this means that "they've decided to stop posturing" and "they are getting down to business".  I'm sure once these negotiations collapse everyone will get depressed again.

It's just amusing that the media in general takes any excuse to be optimistic.