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Campbell's Cuts: Union primed to be broken; Leafs getting off too easy

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a dreadful 0-6-1 start. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a dreadful 0-6-1 start. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:

• With its organization in tatters and facing a leadership crisis (again), the NHL Players’ Association failed to achieve quorum on what was supposed to be a critical conference call Sunday night, a night when all 30 NHL arenas were dark.

If the players don’t think the tall foreheads with the NHL aren’t looking at this situation and laughing maniacally to themselves, they’re deluded.

Because, you see, what transpired Sunday night – when only 22 of 30 player representatives bothered to take part in the call – does absolutely nothing to dispel the notion that NHL players have almost no interest in the business side of their affairs as long as the beer is cold and the million dollar checks are rolling in. The fact roughly one in 10 players dialed into the call that was open to every player in the league indicates a mind-boggling level of apathy.

So, here’s what I do if I’m the NHL. After the 2011-12 season, I lock the players out again – and please, don’t believe this nonsense that another lockout will kill the game – and do so with a list of demands that meets every one of my needs from entry-level deals to second contracts to no-trade clauses to guaranteed contracts and length of deals. In fact, I would probably demand even more than I wanted, such as ending participation in the Olympics, just to make it look as though I were throwing the players a bone when I relented a little.

Then the league should tell the players these are demands, not negotiating points, and that the doors will remain locked until such time the players indicate they want to start playing hockey again.

Then watch them cave. It might take a season the way it did last time, but the players will cave every time. Why? Because they’re hockey players. Not unlike Gordie Howe, who was a major reason why players remained oppressed in the past, they just want to play hockey. They got nervous the last time the money stopped coming and threw Bob Goodenow under the bus to get a deal, and recent actions suggest they’ll do exactly the same thing again.

That, my friends, is how the NHL can finally get the deal it really wants.

• This has been a hobbyhorse of mine for quite a while, but it bears repeating with the Toronto Maple Leafs getting out to a 0-6-1 start.

The notion that the Maple Leafs are at some kind of disadvantage because they face the relentless pressure of playing in the NHL’s biggest market is absolute hooey.

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Funny how so few people ever point out that a player could be energized by playing in such a hockey-mad place. Instead, it’s always the unbearable pressure. Poor dears.

What’s also funny is the Maple Leafs don’t face one ounce more of scrutiny/pressure as members of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United or Real Madrid do. It’s interesting how that doesn’t keep those teams from being successful for long stretches of time. You want scrutiny? I’m willing to bet if a married member of the Maple Leafs hooked up in another city with an exotic dancer the way Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees did a couple of years ago, not a single media outlet in Toronto would report it. When A-Rod did so, it was front-page news.

The belief the Maple Leafs face undue pressure lets the entire organization off the hook. First, it gives a free pass to the players when they underperform and provides them with a built-in excuse. It also gives management the justification for cutting corners or accelerating a sound building plan by giving up the future for help in the present and saying the local market will never be patient enough to endure a rebuilding project.

And it’s all nonsense.

• Still with the Leafs, I wish I could take credit for this line, but it belongs to a young man named Adam, the nephew of a good friend of mine. On the Leafs playing dodgeball the other day in practice: “I bet Vesa Toskala won.”

• No NHL games Sunday night. This is an Olympic year and the schedule is supposed to be compressed, right? Leave it to the NHL to give its fans nothing one night and then too much on many others.

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 Wednesdays 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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