For anyone missing their daily dose of lockout-inspired sarcasm, the Answerman returns for a fresh look at a stale topic, Day 19 of a bun fight that shows no sign of ending in an up-with-people way:
Q: So the NHL cancelled 82 games today. Does that move the needle on negotiations in any way, shape or form?
A: None. It’s a sideshow we’ll see every two weeks, an opportunity for NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to express his regret at the slow pace of negotiations. Fact is, from here on in, the cancellations mean nothing. If some miraculous solution were presented tomorrow, they’d find a way of tagging the lost games onto the end of the schedule, even if they risked a July finish. Seasons don’t matter here. Only dollars do.
Q: And speaking of dollars, it sounds as if NHL players are better prepared than ever to withstand the economic effects of a lockout. Many saw this coming and established a rainy-day fund just in case. Have the owners underestimated just how long they’re willing to sit out this time?
A: Well, first things first. The players showed a lot of resolve last time too. They lost a full season out of their careers in 2004-05 under then executive director Bob Goodenow. Goodenow had warned the players early in the proceedings that they could be off the job for 18 months. So they were aware of the worst-case scenario and most seemed willing to sacrifice one year, but not more than a year to the cause. It’s easy to imagine them being equally firm this time around - and thanks to that escrow cheque that will land in their bank accounts in mid-October, more solvent too.
Q: I see some wit has formed the NHL Replacement Players Association on Twitter, with the following mission statement: “We just want to play hockey. Ready to meet with the NHL brass. Call us maybe ...” If the lockout goes on indefinitely, does the NHL seriously consider replacement players?
A: Doubtful. The use of replacement players is a far trickier matter than it sounds because it leads right into an anti-trust discussion. Essentially, to get to that point, the NHL would have to argue that it’s reached an impasse in talks, after bargaining in good faith, at which point they could try to impose their own CBA, with whatever restrictions were in their last offer, and then open for business. Sounds simple and it probably did to major-league baseball owners who tried something similar in 1995 when - guess who? Donald Fehr - was running the players association. As acrimonious as talks were the last time, the NHL did not realistically ever consider replacements. Legally, it opens up a can of worms - and that’s not even measuring the fan response to replacement players, which you’d have to think would play about as well as replacement NFL officials. It wouldn’t be good.
Q: So if you’re a locked-out NHL player, which league would interest you the most and why?
A: Depends upon what I’m looking for. If it’s a life experience, I am most certainly joining Joe Thornton and Rick Nash in Switzerland. You get the best of both worlds there - a chance to play tourist during the lengthy breaks of the season; and a reasonably competitive, quick game that, Nash’s bruised shoulder notwithstanding, is about as risk-free as you can get. If it’s a bottom-line decision, Russia is offering the most cash. Travel is iffy, for a lot of reasons, including some exceptionally long and complicated road trips. If it’s competition, Russia wins by a nose, but not by much. And if I’m a player from Europe, I’d likely take the opportunity to go home, because the chance to play in front of family and friends only comes along once every seven years, like clockwork.
Q: Well, at least some players are playing, including Leaf prospect Nazem Kadri, who gets to play himself into shape with the AHL Toronto Marlies. What did you think of the Kadri weight flap?
A: Every time, I hear Kadri’s name in the news, I think of Carlo Colaiacovo. How many years did Toronto’s first choice, 17th overall, bounce back and forth between the minors and the NHL? How much ink was spilled chronicling his injuries, his ups, his downs, his choice of breakfast cereal before he was traded to St. Louis with Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak? In the end, getting out of Toronto helped Colaiacovo become a good, if not great NHL player for four years with the Blues and earned him a free-agent contract just before the lockout started. I fear something similar could be in the cards for Kadri.
As for the direct correlation between weight, fitness and on-ice success, I would just say one thing: Drew Doughty. Not exactly sculpted in the Greek god mode either, but Doughty was maybe L.A.’s best position player in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. I suspect he likes to eat potato chips on the couch too.
Q: It’s only the first week of October, the regular season wasn’t even supposed to start for another seven days, but 100-plus players are already in Europe and it feels as if the lockout has been going on forever, doesn't it?
A: True enough. The worst thing is, no matter how the outside world may react - or how many good ideas are out there to get the two sides talking in a meaningful way - you know deep down that nothing’s going to change for two months anyway, at which point, there’ll be an 11th-hour push for a settlement, and either the 2012-13 season will be saved, or it won’t be. About the only thing left to do is poke the bear - the NHL bear and the players’ association bear - to provoke a response. Otherwise, this trance-like state that negotiations have fallen into will just drone on ... and on ... and on.