The NHL’s CBA and You: What To Consider Regarding the New NHL CBA

It’s hard to believe that we are already eight years removed from the infamous season long NHL lockout of 2004-05, but alas, the groundbreaking (yet rather one-sided) agreement that was the former CBA is set to expire in September. The issues are largely thought to not be as monumental and controversial as the issues which plagued business viability and even popularity of the NHL almost a decade ago. The results of the past CBA speak for themselves. Popularity and business are up. The game itself opened up thanks to favorable rule changes. The salary cap and floor have attempted to assure that each team has somewhat of a chance to compete.

The NHL and owners have taken the first step in the process, making the first proposals to changes to the CBA.

While the proposal itself is implausible, it does highlight a few problem areas within the game that need to be address.

1. Reduction of Player cut of Revenue from 57% to 46% – this is just a starting point, and I think both sides know this. I guess the League feels like the best approach is to try to sell the agreement like they would a used car? I fully expect the players to scoff at this figure an submit a more reasonable number. I’ll expect the agreement to be around around 50%. With the rise in salaries around the league and the owners providing the actual circumstance for any player to be paid a nice salary, I feel that this may be a concession the players can afford to make.

2. 10 Seasons Played in NHL Before Being Eligible for UFA Status – A three year increase, which apparently removes entirely the age restriction of 27. I don’t know how much the players will budge on this, MAYBE add one year, and maintain some sort of age requirement. For instance, goalies don’t usually make it until around 24 or 25 years old. With the new rules, they would be a restricted free agent until 34, which in most cases is when the decline occurs for an average goaltender. A 10 year minimum would greatly hamper the earning potential of their careers! I expect 8 years and maintaining some sort of age requirement for UFA eligibility.

3. Contract Limit to 5 Years – This would be a welcome provision, but of course, not likely strongly welcomed by the players’ side. There are A LOT of questionable contracts in the NHL right now, and it would only get worse, especially if this offseason sets the precedent. Parise and Suter with 9 year deals. Luongo, an albatross of a contract, making him nearly unable to be dealt. In fact, the only player’s name you have to mention when talking about the absurdity of these long term deals is Rick DiPietro.  The only place you see this kind of job security is in sports and on university campuses with so-called tenured professors.

4. Elimination of Salary Arbitration – I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, if you exceed expectations, especially if you had a lower paying contracted, you should be compensated accordingly. On the other hand, however, you did agree to the terms. Why not have an incentives package? Or why not suck it up and continue to improve as a player for the big payday? I know the players’ side argument (as it is in any sport) will be the uncertainty of injury. That you have to get the money today that you may not get tomorrow. A fair argument. The players will never agree to this, and I’m not sure if there is a middle ground. Perhaps increasing revenue another percentage point or two?

5. Entry level deals are 5 years instead of 3 – This point could also be another nonstarter for the player’s side. Currently, a draftee is signed to a 3 year contract, with the max yearly salary being 975K. After that period, you earn your big money. Adding 2 more years, while ensuring the retention of a fan favorite for those years, could also prove detrimental to drafting players abroad, especially in Russia where the KHL throws big money around. The Lightning’s fan blog, Raw Charge, uses our most recent 1st round draft pick, Andrei Vasilevskiy, as a great example. Assuming he develops in juniors the next two years, why on earth would he play for 1M a year for 5 years?

An additional issue that I haven’t heard too much talk about is the botched realignment that occurred last winter. Perhaps those details are to be hammered out as well?

These issues, depending on how the NHLPA decides to react or play ball with the owners, coud be easy to iron out, or they could result in another lock out. The sides are due to continue discussions later this week.

 

 

Mourning the Rays

Carl Crawford

We’ve been duped.

No, that picture of Carl Crawford in Red Sox gear is not a work of photoshop mastery. You are seeing what you are seeing- a workhorse taking the payday created by the current Major League Baseball system.

Tampa Bay Rays fans everywhere have been straight up fooled. For the last half of a decade, we actually thought we were no longer the glorified farm system of the major leagues.

I’ve lived through the Naimoli days (who I didn’t know was a Notre Dame alum), where we tried to mesh the young and cheap with the old, glorified, but past their prime. I’ve seen the Rays try to copy the Yankee formula to an embarrassingly cheapened and quite unsuccessful degree- I’m looking at you HIT SHOW years. And I’ve seen the Rays have a team full of minor leaguers who would probably have to scrounge around for playing time in other teams’ farm systems.

And then it happened. New ownership. Stu Sternberg- a man with a plan. No more “Gruden-esque “deals like giving  up prospects for has beens. The talent was brewing in our own system, we just needed time, and a few key trades that, while a gamble, brought in youth, and ultimately loads of potential.

The rest is history. After winning 2 AL East titles and having three winning seasons in a row, it seemed like the Rays were ready to be perennial threats to the former status quo of the AL East instead of the perennial doormat. A young nucleus was in place. A starting pitching staff that could easily dominate the scene for years to come had been assembled.

There are two issues. How can any GM work contracts so that almost half a roster becomes free agents at once, and also, how can you not even try to keep the face of your franchise? Offering arbitration must have been an insult to CC. But he knows the system, and he now is a rich man thanks to it.

The Rays have thrived on scouting out unproven talent  and signing on the cheap. I know how we operate. But you can’t help but wonder if this call for payroll reduction, and blaming poor attendance, a horrendous stadium, and whatever other factors Sternberg wants to claim are hindering the Rays franchise from competing fiscally with the big boys is nothing but a sham.

We are being duped.

It’s just a cover up. Management knew this day would come. While we made some GREAT moves, again, how can you allow for all of these contracts to expire at the same time? It’s a cover up. Slashing payroll to cover up managerial mistakes. Gotta love it.

Baseball is a special game. No one really gets it like we do here in the United States. Yes, the game is played in Asia and in Latin America, but the game of baseball is by far the greatest expression of Americanism at it’s finest. Hard work yields reward. Loyalty is an afterthought. We follow the almighty dollar. But who can blame CC, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit, or anyone else who is soon to find a new home with a fatter paycheck?

I’ll have to accept the fact for now that Tampa is just a MLB training ground- and if we are lucky, we may get to see something special every couple of seasons.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Columbus Blue Jackets Unveil New Third Jersey

Steven Stamkos Curtis Joseph #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs makes the save on Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 12, 2009 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Steven Stamkos;Curtis Joseph

The Heapmaster is a HUGE hockey fan. The Lightning have been tearing it up lately and I am finally making it to a game on Saturday! I can’t wait to finally return to The Forum. It’s been way too long.

I’m also a big fan of jerseys- histories, changes, additions. The big news today is that the Columbus Blue Jackets finally unveiled their third jersey. The concept of the third jersey has an interesting history in the NHL. The concept was most rampant in the 90’s  when it seemed that everyone and their mother was having a third jersey. (This seemed to usher in the “black era” in the NHL where EVERYONE tried to incorporate black into their color scheme)

The 90’s and early 2000’s were an experimental period for jerseys. Most concepts were horrendous, with giant alternate logos, crazy color schemes, and all sorts of abstract ideas. Here are some brutal ones:

The Dallas Stars had a classic one, nicknamed the “Mooterus” after the female reproductive system…

The Mooterus: NHL fans have a great sense of humor

The Anaheim (formerly) Mighty Ducks had a terrible one:

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Yes, this is a real jersey.

The Islanders might have faced copyright infringement charges.

Hey, isn't that the Gorton's fisherman?

The point is is that Thirds are historically bad, especially back in the day when a hockey jersey seemed to be a canvas for amateur designers. Thankfully, after the lockout, third jerseys took more of a throwback for most teams and less ostentatious and bizarre.

So here it is, the new Columbus Blue Jackets jersey:

This is third jersey perfection. I like the omission of red instead of using the usual color scheme for the team. It gives it more of a timeless look. The use of the circle crest is excellent, not to mention the use of the cannon as the main fixture of the logo.

A lot of the “leaking” information hinted at keeping a navy blue sweater. I wondered how this would work and be unique enough being that CBJ has a navy home jersey already! The attempt at delivering a tasteful “throwback-ish” distince sweater was wonderfully executed!

Kudos to the designers of this jersey!

Brad Childress Fired, A new Favre Watch Begins

Earlier this afternoon, Brad Childress was mercifully fired by the Minnesota Vikings after a 3-7 record into this season. Not really a surprise after a team many expected to be neck and neck for the NFC North crown with the Green Bay Packers has a solid 1 game lead over the Detroit Lions in the race for the NFC North basement. (Luckily, the Carolina Panthers have the NFL basement locked up)

Instead, the circus has been in town for the past two years in the Twin Cities. Starting with Childress’  courtship of Brett Favre after the Jets offered a cordial “no thanks” to Favre and his ego, to this offseason’s continuance to stroke Favre’s ego, the Randy Moss situation and mismanagement of the team eventually lead to his demise.

As many other sports journalists are writing, with Childress’ head delivered, so too should Brett Favre’s be, right there on a silver platter. Some argue that his legend is dead. Is he playing for stats? Records? Money? Veteran leadership opportunities? Brett is a hall of fame quarterback in the green and yellow. The past three years have been a farce. Favre benefited last year from the opponent’s fear of their rushing game, not to mention one of the best defenses in the league. Both have been ordinary this season, and that’s being generous.

So Favre was left to be quarterback. It’s what everyone wanted, right? the problem is that he has nothing left to prove. Nothing but unsubstantiated hoopla. A consecutive starts streak, yard, touchdowns sacks… you name it… all in the name of Brett Favre.

My favorite was how he wanted to bring a Superbowl to Minnesota. Riiiight. It takes a team to get there, and right now, Brett Favre is the team. And all that is is a name, a name of old that can only play like he is old. 2011 starts today for Minnesota, it should be Tavaris Jackson time- at least for the rest of the season. Whether he is or isn’t the guy is topic enough for another entry, and one that I won’t do being as that I don’t care about the Vikings or Favre.

Lastly, I think one very important fact is getting lost amid all of this chaos and instability at the head coaching position around the league.

The packers have now delivered the knockout punch to TWO coaches! The Cowboys promptly fired Wade Phillips after the Pack stomped all over Dallas, and now Childress. And believe it or not, they have the chance to deliver 2 more by the end of the season! Week 13 brings the 49ers to Lambeau where Mike Singletary has been on the hot seat after a horrendous start. The last week of the season has Lovie Smith and the Bears coming to town. It seems that it is Playoffs of bust for Chicago this year. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if the Packers can take out any more head coaches!

The Heap’s 2010 Fantasy Baseball Team: The Roster

I just finished my fantasy baseball draft for ‘The Better League,” this year’s league with my friends. I am simply revealing the roster for your 2010 Heap Masters tonight, and I will have an entry in the next few days analyzing the team!

Introducing the 2010 Heap Masters Fantasy Baseball Team!

Catcher- Yadier Molina
First Base- Miguel Cabrera
Second Base- Dan Uggla
Shortstop – Derek Jeter
Third Base- Michael Young
Outfielders- Michael Bourn, Ryan Braun, Juan Pierre
Utility- Alex Rios
Bench- Todd Helton, Jason Kubel

Starting Pitchers- Cole Hamels, Josh Beckett, James Shields, Ubaldo Jimenez
Relief Pitchers- Carlos Marmol, Frank Francisco, Matt Thornton, Jose Mijares
“Utility” Pitcher- A.J. Burnett
Bench- Daisuke Matsuzaka

We’re fielding a very talented and potent team this year, and we hope to adequately represent all of you! I’ll have an more in depth look at the team later this weekend!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

“Breaking” News

This just in to The Heap news desk:

Mark McGwire used steroids.

Let that sink in for a second. Or did you just chuckle to yourself, and just shake your head whispering, “It’s about time.”

Today, the former king of swing (dethroned only by another fellow ‘roider) finally came clean after the quite physical evidence of his choices were captured by cameras and seen by the nation for the past decade.

Come on, who of you out there were wholeheartedly surprised by this announcement? In fact, as a baseball fan, I am a bit offended by the timing of his announcement. Not even a week ago, McGwire might have even been voted into the Hall of Fame! Looks like it was one and done. What could have motivated him? Why now? I think he knew he could never shake the stigma of The Juice. He conveniently waited to see if he would make it this one time. He was a long shot, and one, he will forever remain.

Mark McGwire, as a normal sized Human Being

But then, is it plausible to say that the theatrics of the Steroids Era was engineered and puppeteered by Big Baseball itself? You’ve heard it all before all over the airwaves. Baseball, America’s Game was sagging behind the NFL in attendance and popularity. A strike towards the beginning of the decade only made the situation worse.

Enter the Home Run. The pinnacle of offensive explosion in any sport. A timeless play in a timeless game.  The individual’s effort in order to help the efforts of the team, but for those brief moments, the spotlight is on the batter as he rounds the bases. The home run personifies the American individual and the nation. (Check out my essay on Japanese/American baseball in the Original Works page)

Mark McGwire, as a chemically altered beast

In a decade of almost unfettered economic growth, of getting ahead at all costs, the 90s and the Steroid Era go together quite well. But in the end, it all falls down on itself. McGwire and Enron, A-Rod and Bernie Madoff, even Palmeiro and US Banks all had their heyday only to be exposed for what they were. Living the American dream.

Using performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Mark McGwire is a cheater. But don’t you worry, he and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Sammy Sosa had quite the supporting cast- many of which are still TBD. The steroids era (we can only hope) is in its final act. They will have their curtain call soon.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Buccaneers Introduce Throwback Jersey!

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The infamous creamsicle orange is back in the Bay Area, as the Buccaneer’s finally succumbed to the throwback trend. And with the advent of HD technology, FOX might just have to warn in advance of possible vision damage and/or blindness as a result of the Orange returning.

Let’s not forget the return of Bucco Bruce, whose portrait adorns the helmet and completes the (obvious) 70’s gridiron ensemble. Legend has it that he wasn’t even a pirate at all, but just the leading man in a really bad 70’s porno. What were they thinking back then?

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In all seriousness, I love the orange! It’s definitely unique… to say the least. But here in Buc Town, it’s also synonymous with losing, a lot. You can count the winning seasons in orange on one hand over the 20 year span of the Creamsicles. The Glazers, and more prominently, Jon Gruden had zero interest in digging up the sweetest atrocities in all of sports from the grave.

That is, until the expectations for this season went down the toilet bowl, along with the economy and season ticket holders. The Bucs are practically begging people to buy tickets. So of course, from a marketing and merchandising standpoint, this will serve as additional revenue. With an anticipated losing season on the horizon, any hype is welcome.

Antonio Bryant as wondering if anyone is scurred and confuz’d about the return to Orange.

The Heap applauds the jersey, but not the act of desperation by the Glazers (who just want to have some cash to buy more players for Man U anyway. Sigh.) Possible purchase in the future? To date the only throwbacks I’ve seen was Leeroy Selmon’s 63 and Mike Alstott’s 40. I’m not sure which player I’d buy if they were to sell them now.

So the Bucs have committed to using them at least once for the next 5 years! This year’s game will be November 8 against Green Bay.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser