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Campbell's Cuts: Bye bye, Balsillie?

Jim Balsillie thought he had a deal to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in October of 2006. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Jim Balsillie thought he had a deal to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in October of 2006. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:

• As it turns out, the mediation process between the NHL and the Phoenix Coyotes is not taking the conventional form of mediation and that’s probably not very good news for prospective owner Jim Balsillie.

Last week, Judge Redfield Baum ordered mediation talks between the NHL and Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and is awaiting a progress update on Wednesday. Normally, mediation involves the two sides sitting down with a third-party mediator in order to find some common ground and discuss what can be done to come to a solution.

But the two sides have decided to bypass having a mediator and are having discussions themselves. That is a significant development because, if both sides had agreed on a mediator, he would have had the power to include Balsillie in the mediation talks. With both sides doing it themselves, Balsillie has effectively been frozen out of the proceedings.

“(There is) no mediation, per se,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to THN.com. “The parties are working together to present a plan on how the club will be operated pending a sale. There may or may not be several open items we’ll need to seek the court’s guidance on.”

One expert contends it’s quite likely the NHL made it worth Moyes’ trouble to not have Balsillie involved, which means there’s a good chance the league has already made some major concessions to Moyes. That could lead to a scenario where the league might still control the franchise, with Moyes having some say, but not the right to put the team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy once again.

Which might effectively kill Balsillie’s third attempt to buy an NHL team and move it to Hamilton.

Oh to be a fly on the wall…

• Admitting when it has made a mistake is not one of the NHL’s strong suits these days, but it looks as though the league has realized the error of its ways when it comes to scheduling the Stanley Cup final.

And what’s even better is it seems intent on doing something about it.

The league announced last week that if the conference finals did not end by Tuesday – which would have required four-game sweeps on both series – the Stanley Cup final would begin Friday, June 5. That would mean if the Pittsburgh Penguins go on to sweep the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night, they would have nine full days off between games and if the Detroit Red Wings go on to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks the next night, they would have eight days off.

But its looking as though the league has come to realize how ridiculous it would be to have things come to a screeching halt right when the best playoffs in recent memory are about to reach a crescendo. NHL senior vice-president, public relations Gary Meagher said nothing is 100 percent decided at the moment, but the league is looking at moving things up.

“If both series end this week and don’t go into the weekend, they are looking at several different possibilities,” Meagher said. “They are working on a number of different scenarios that would move it up.”

The more likely scenario if the series end Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, would be a Saturday start for the Cup final in Detroit.

An unnecessary start date of June 5 would have killed any momentum the playoffs have built up and created a logistical nightmare. The league would have either faced a scenario of compressing a seven-game final into 11 days or risk having the final run right into the NHL awards ceremony, meaning Evgeni Malkin (Art Ross winner, Hart and Pearson finalist), Pavel Datsyuk (Hart, Selke and Pearson finalist) and Nicklas Lidstrom (Norris finalist) would likely have been no-shows.

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• Those who follow the Toronto Maple Leafs are always looking for the next savior and they’ll undoubtedly latch onto Dale Mitchell, who helped his Windsor Spitfires win the Memorial Cup this past weekend. Leafs fans breathlessly watched as Mitchell scored a natural hat trick to rescue the Spitfires in the tiebreaker before going on to score a goal in the 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in the tournament final.

Mitchell tied for the tournament lead in goals with five in six games, but expecting him to replicate that kind of offensive touch in the NHL would be an enormous stretch. In fact, the reality is there’s no guarantee Mitchell will even ever be a full-timer at the NHL level.

You’d have to think the team and its fans have learned a little something from Justin Pogge, who went from national junior team hero to possible flop under the weight of ridiculous expectations and an organization that handled his development in its typical ham-handed fashion.

Pogge may rebound from his recent troubles and become a terrific NHL goalie, but he also might never land a full-time gig. Perhaps he was never going to be an NHL goalie in the first place, but the situation he faced in Toronto certainly didn’t help his cause.

Mitchell, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old borderline NHLer who faces at least a couple of years in the minors before he’d be ready for full-time NHL employment. Some scouts think the wisest thing for Mitchell would be to reinvent himself as an energy player who could play on the third or fourth lines of a team. The fact Mitchell isn’t a big man and GM Brian Burke likes his big men might work against the youngster as well.

“He should be able to play in the league, but it’s a tough call,” a scout said. “Is he going to be a regular guy or a call-up guy? He might be one of those guys that if he’s playing on your first or second line, you’re not a very good team.”

• If it’s true that Patrick Roy is poised to take over both the coaching and GM duties with the Colorado Avalanche, fans there had better hope Roy hires some experienced NHL people to work with him.

If reports out of Montreal are true, Roy would insist on hiring former teammate Sylvain Lefebvre and Drummondville Voltigeurs coach Guy Boucher as his assistant coaches. That would give the Avs a GM and coaching staff with zero NHL experience at a time when they need to rebuild their system and their roster.

It’s never a good idea to underestimate Roy, but historically that kind of set-up at the NHL level has never resulted in anything very good.

On that note, do the Avs plan on putting Tony Granato out of his misery anytime soon or are they keeping him on stand-by for the next time their coaching job becomes vacant?

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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