Nationwide Arena is scheduled to host this season's All-Star Game...if it happens. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Hi there. Sick of the lockout yet? Me too. But let’s dilute our feelings of frustration with some adventures in mailbagging. If you’re a long-time reader, but first-time reader of this space, remember, I also answer your questions in The Hockey News magazine and on THN Radio. Thanks for your continued co-operation in this matter.
Adam, if we lose the NHL season completely, or if it does not start until January or later, how will that affect the All-Star Game and when/where it is played? Columbus is investing a lot of time and money in an effort to accommodate the All-Star weekend this season. Would they (we) get it back the following season if it is taken away this season? Thanks.
Scott MacKenzie, Columbus, Ohio
Nobody can say with certainty what the NHL will do if/when the league cancels this year’s All-Star Game. But if you go by what happened during the 2004-05 lost season, you’ll see it isn’t a lock that Columbus would host the next edition if the 2013 game doesn’t materialize.
Atlanta was awarded the 2005 All-Star Game, but when that didn’t come to pass, Dallas got the 2007 game (there was no game in 2006, as it was an Olympic year). The ill-fated Thrashers had to wait until 2008 to host the event. So, considering the Sochi Winter Olympics – which could feature NHL player participation again – are in 2014, it could be 2015 or beyond before Columbus gets another shot.
Hi Adam. A friend of mine said in about the next 30 years the NHL will expand to Europe and Russia. Do you think that could happen and what do you think it would do to the NHL?
Bryson Geikie, Ottawa
Hi Bryson. First of all, anybody who claims they can see 30 years into the future is fooling him or herself. There are all kinds of potential twists and turns that could affect the possibility of overseas NHL expansion – and to surmise that there is only one end result in the decades ahead is nonsense.
That said, I think there will be some formidable obstacles to such a scenario. For starters, we all know the cost of travel has ratcheted up drastically; that reality alone could be enough to dissuade owners from playing a full schedule that regularly requires trans-Atlantic flights.
But let’s look at what we do know: the league doesn’t have its financial house in order as it is. Why would they further complicate matters by adding more teams that could well require revenue-sharing (depending on currency fluctuations or other factors)? Yes, I know they might choose to do so strictly on the basis of the expansion fees, but they could have done so a long time ago. Yet here we are.
Anything is possible, of course. But probable? Inevitable? No and no.
Hi Adam. Loved your 11-point CBA solution. I think the only thing you missed is to get rid of the front loaded contracts/signing bonus. Let that count against the annual salary cap average. Keep up the good work! Thanks.
Oscar Quintero, Cedar Park, Texas
Hi Oscar. Thanks for the kind words. I didn’t forget about that element, but that column was nearly 1,600 words. If I’d covered every aspect – including relocation, drug testing and a number of other factors – it would have been a document nearly as big as the collective bargaining agreement.
That said, while I’m definitely in favor of averaging out the total value of a player’s contract over its term length, I’m not in favor of tightening each and every loophole. For instance, I think that owners still should have the option of burying a contract in the American League or Europe (and add the option of buying out a buried player after a year in the minors).
Clearly, not every team has the wherewithal to afford that luxury, but as I’ve argued before, I don’t see complete competitive parity as being particularly fair to teams that are supported to a much larger degree than the league’s bottom-feeder, revenue-sharing-dependent franchises.
Hey Adam! What's up with the Maple Leafs’ management decisions of late? I am fully behind the firing of Francois Allaire, but clearly the Leafs' management did not handle the situation well because Allaire openly criticized them. Also, what is up with Cody Franson signing for a whole year in Sweden? This is a good offensive defenseman with solid all around upside and the Leafs have undervalued and underplayed him since coming over from Nashville.
Finally, I have never heard of an NHL team openly criticizing the fitness of one of their specific players as is Nazem Kadri's case (excusing the Dustin Penner pancake case, and that wasn't even management I believe). What is Dallas Eakins thinking, especially factoring in that Kadri has tried hard to change his ways with the help of Gary Roberts’ training program? All of this attention is unnecessary, especially in a market like Toronto. Will Burke and his fellow employees please get their act together?
Nick Stoyan, Toronto
It has been a tumultuous time for Leafs brass ever since the team went off the rails late last season. However, as is usually the case in Toronto, nothing ever is as positive or negative as it often appears.
Yes, Allaire took some shots at Burke on his way out the organization’s door, but that says as much about him as it does about the Leafs. Burke is famously loyal and protective of his employees and co-workers and prefers to deal with issues in-house. I’m quite sure there are other sources of friction and/or frustration – not just with the Leafs, but all teams – yet they rarely leak out into the public arena. And they’re certainly not magnified the way most hockey matters are in Ontario’s capital city.
Franson didn’t impress Leafs brass consistently enough to make himself an off-season re-signing priority and you didn’t see anyone step up to make him a restricted free agent offer. He’ll likely get another shot, but it’s a little much to imagine he’ll be a blueliner of major impact for any team when he returns from Europe.
Lastly, the Kadri situation is another that’s been overblown because of the intense coverage Toronto (and Canadian teams in general) receive. Remember Sergei Fedorov’s redundantly named brother, Fedor? He too was criticized in 2003 when Burke was running the Vancouver Canucks for not being in “acceptable” physical condition.
Besides, if you take a dispassionate look at Marlies coach Dallas Eakins’ treatment of his team, you’ll find he is one of the most progressive young coaches out there who always is demanding the most of players. That’s what you should want – honesty, not coddling – in a bench boss.
All in all, Burke and his management team will feel the heat to make the playoffs this season. But their real rebuilding of Toronto’s talent won’t bear serious, consistent fruit for a couple more years. That’s not fun for Leafs fans to hear, but it’s true.