Familiar Faces Back in Town

Informal skates continued today for the Bruins who are already back in town, this time moving over to their normal location in Wilmington at Ristuccia Arena. There were however a few notable additions, the biggest being the return of Nathan Horton.

BostonBruins.com beat reporter John Bishop has the video on it:

 

Horton’s health has obviously one of the question marks leading up to this shortened season, and despite numerous reports from his agent that things were in fact good, this video seems to confirm the reports.

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GAME ON

NHL Lockout Over: Game On

Well, it appears the NHL Lockout has finally come to an end. Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr announced just a few hours ago that both sides had reached what’s being called a ‘tentatative agreement on the framework of a deal.’ Meaning as long as nobody screws up writing down the details and the players don’t suddenly decide they don’t want to play this season, then we’re going to have NHL hockey soon. Here’s the presser:

 


The details as reported so far:

  • 10 years in length, opt-out after 8.
  • Salary cap for this year is $60 million, with teams allowed to spend up to $70.2 million as part of the transition. Year two the cap will go to $64.3 million. The cap floor for both seasons will be $44 million.
  • In terms of contracts, deals can’t be more than seven years, unless a team is re-signing its own player, in which case the term can be eight years. Value cannot differ more than 35% from year to year, and the last year on the contract cannot vary more than 50% from the highest value year.
  • Revenue sharing will be $200 million, with a $60 million growth fund, initiated by the NHLPA, included.
  • Participation in the Olympics and/or the World Cup of Hockey will not be part of this deal, and instead will be part of a side negotiation.
  • July 1 will remain the free agency opening date, despite the NHL trying to push for July 10.

weird_guy

The season is expected to start January 15 or January 19, depending on whether a 48 or 50 game schedule is accepted. That should be known this week.

Much of the credit was given to federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who had brought the sides together over the past few days and helped nail down agreements on the last few points of contention. With that said, this was also out there this morning:

 


As has been widely reported, the NHL isn’t exactly winning awards for its business model.  While it’s scary to think the league and players got extremely close to having to cancel another season, it’s good that regardless of where the pressure came from, they felt it and got a deal done. It will be very interesting to see how the league does from a business perspective for the rest of the season, but as a fan I’m just glad the B’s will be back on the ice soon.

From Bruin defenseman Andrew Ference‘s twitter account (@Ferknuckle):

“As players we can now do what we do best. Proudly pull on our jerseys and play with complete passion for our cities and fans. I hope that we can replace the intense negativity brought on our sport with a reminder of how great it can be when the action is on the ice. From my grandparents to our B’s fans, I am deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey. All we can do now is play our hearts out for you.”

Let’s see it. GAME ON!

 

Loose Pucks

  • We expected to have more time to report on this, but congrats go out to Team USA, who defeated Sweden 3-1 at the World Junior Championships to take home the gold. Team Canada lost to Russia in the bronze medal game, marking the first time in 14 years that they have failed to take home a medal.
  • Johnny Boychuk is already back in town, Zdeno Chara is on his way back Tuesday, and Dougie Hamilton will be at camp when it starts. Finally.

 

MURICA!

Americans to Battle for the Gold

USA World Junior Championships

Revenge was sweet this morning for Team USA, who laid a 5-1 beating on Team Canada to advance to the World Junior Championship final on Saturday morning. The loss was Canada’s worst since their world junior program began in 1982.

After falling to Canada just four days ago in the prelims, the American offense has exploded for 21 goals in three games, led by Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau, who followed up a quarterfinal hat trick with two more goals in this morning’s win.

It was clear early that an extra day off for Team Canada was no favor, as they were noticeably flat and terribly sloppy in the opening period, especially in their own end. And as flat as Canada was, USA was that sharp. Defenseman and USA Captain Jake McCabe (BUF prospect), not normally known for his scoring, netted two goals in the first to put USA up 2-0 after one.

canada_us_wjhcIt was the same story in the second as just three minutes in Gaudreau went top shelf after a nifty toe-drag move in the slot for his first goal, and Harvard’s Jim Vesey ended Canadian goalie and Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban‘s morning early after he found space streaking through the right circle and buried a wrist shot far side.

Despite an early shorthanded goal by Canadian forward Ty Rattie early in the third to get the score to 4-1, solid play by US goalie John Gibson (ANA prospect) kept the Americans confidently ahead, and Gaudreau’s second goal with five minutes to go sealed the deal. You can check out the highlights below:

 

 

The US will now face Sweden on Saturday morning for the gold medal, while Canada will face Russia, who fell to the Swedes 3-2 in the other semifinal, for the bronze medal. The tournament final game has a much more reasonable 8am start time, so set the alarm and start the day off right.

In terms of Bruins prospects, this game was obviously pretty ugly. Obviously Subban would be the first one to jump on after allowing 4 goals on 16 shots before being pulled midway through the second, but the stats don’t really tell the story. Subban was screened on the first two goals of the game, especially on the first as there were no fewer than five players battling in front of him. On the third goal he faced a fly-by screen and let’s face it,  few goalies would have stopped Gaudreau’s wrister. Vesey’s goal would probably be the one he would have wanted back, as he was deep in his net and with his team down 3-0 that would be one that you’d need your goalie to stop to give the team a chance. All in all the defense in front of Subban was terrible, as the US continued to dangle through the Canadians even after Subban was pulled.

This includes Dougie Hamilton, who had an unimpressive game as well. He mustered just two shots on net and finished a -2 for the game. He wasn’t as awful as some of his defensive counterparts, but Canada needed its stars to show up and Dougie was pretty quiet. He did have some good power play looks in the third, but he couldn’t beat Gibson. This was all after he reportedly spoke to his team before the game to caution them against the extra day layoff from his experiences last year. His leadership is obviously a good sign, but it’s just as important to back it up with his play, and he didn’t do much to turn the tides for his team.

Canadian forward Anthony Camara was a non-factor, though he did continue to play hard and physical throughout the game which was good to see. Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev was quiet in his team’s loss to the Swedes as well.

Loose Pucks

Here’s an abridged version of ‘Loose Pucks’ for today, as there were a few updates from the last night’s lockout negotiations.

  • We mentioned earlier that the new CBA will probably include one-time ‘Amnesty Buyouts’ for teams to get out of bad contracts. The report now is that each team will get two of these. Fellow Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr has a good take on who might be on the chopping block for the black and gold.
  • The NHLPA decided against moving forward with a disclaimer of interest as its deadline passed last night, though now it seems the players will vote for a second window, this one 48 hours, to disclaim again. Obviously the decision not to disclaim last night should be a relatively good sign, especially knowing that Donald Fehr had full power to make that decision himself.
  • Who really knows what the state of negotiations are at this point. Talks reportedly grew contentious last night over HRR reporting, which led to the second disclaimer vote mentioned above. This is what my Twitter feed is looking like these days:

NHL Lockout Twitter

markey_mark_wtf

Loose Pucks – January 2nd

Boston Bruins Loose Pucks

Happy new year! Here’s the latest edition of “Loose Pucks,” with some tidbits from the week so far. Let’s hope there is some, dare we say, “NHL” hockey to report on soon.

Seguin Scoring Goals

As we mentioned the other day, Tyler Seguin recently wrapped up his impressive stint with EHC Biel in the Swiss league, finishing with 25 goals and 40 points. Today the video below was making the rounds on the interweb, so now you can see all 25 goals in all their infinite glory.

 

 

Boston Bruins Tyler Seguin

Bad ass.

A few things about this. One, a good few of those goals came with Seguin standing in front of the net, untouched. While it’s encouraging that he’s going there for opportunities, the chances that he gets that kind of time and space in front of an NHL net are slim. We can always hope he took those lessons learned from Mark Recchi to heart though.

Second, when he does get time and space, this kid is money. The flashes we first saw in the Tampa series in 2011 are seemingly becoming more commonplace, and again while it won’t be as easy to pull some of these off in the NHL, it looks like Seguin’s growth is going to be fun to watch. If the Bruins can ever get their ridiculously awful power play figured out, he could put up some giant numbers.

Lastly, I can’t get over how hilarious the whole Swiss league top-scorer flames get-up is. It’s obviously a complete gimmick geared toward casual fans, but if I’m the NHL I’d at least give this some thought. I think the jerseys are off limits in the name of preserving the tradition of some of the teams logos, but I don’t think I’d be against the NHL doing a cool scaled back helmet design (maybe in team colors) that would make some of the games best players easier to pick out. Normally I’m not for things like this (see: shoot-out), but hockey admittedly is a fast game and something like this could make some sense in the name of drawing in more fans. That, plus it’s hilarious.

 

WJC Update

Quarterfinal matchups were underway this morning to determine who will move on to face Canada and Sweden in the  tournament semifinals. In the first game, our own Team USA downed the Czechs convincingly by a score of 7-0. Boston College standout Johnny Gaudreau had a hat trick and earned Player of the Game honors, while defensemen Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg property) and next year’s potential #1 draft pick Seth Jones had four assists each. The US will have a chance for revenge as they face off against Dougie Hamilton and Team Canada tomorrow morning at 4am. Get your DVR’s ready, unless waking up that early is your idea of fun.

 

Bruins Prospect Alex KhokhlachevIn game two, the host Russians squeaked by a much improved Swiss squad, earning a 4-3 victory by way of the shootout. Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev, who’s had an up-and-down tournament so far centering Russia’s top line which includes recent top draft pick Nail Yakupov, opened the scoring for Russians six minutes into the game on the power  play. Khokhlachev has two goals and two assists in five tournament games, which is fourth best for Russia behind Nikita Kucherov (7 pts – TBL prospect), Yakupov (5 pts – EDM prospect), and Mikhail Grigorenko (5 pts – BUF prospect). Russia will take on Sweden in the other semifinal game tomorrow.

 

Lockout Update

The big news on the lockout front is that both sides appear to be inching closer to a deal as they’ve met on consecutive days in New York to trade proposals. Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference has joined the PA posse over the past two days, along with the usual suspects. In case you’re wondering how it’s gone:

 

 

Both sides are expected to get back together tonight to discuss the NHLPA’s latest offer.  Word from the Twittersphere is that pensions have been a remaining point of contention, so it will be interesting to see what tonight’s meeting brings. The other big sticking point seems to be the league proposed salary cap of $60 million for the ’13-’14 season, which would be a drastic drop that would impact many teams. Puck-Daddy has some of the details here, including the fact that 16 of the NHL’s 30 teams would be over that limit with their current rosters.

Another point not to forget is that the union’s option to file for disclaimer of interest is very close to expiring through it’s self imposed deadline of midnight tonight. If the window were to pass, another push to file would have to be voted on again, though hopefully letting this deadline pass would mean that both sides are truly close on an agreement. Again, we should know more later tonight.

 

Playoff Expansion

The other big rumor floating around over the past 24 hours has been the idea of possibly expanding the playoff brackets to allow four more teams to qualify, for a total of 20 teams:

 

 

I can’t begin to explain what an awful idea I think this is (and it appears our fellow Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr would agree). While this probably has to do with the eventual league realignment (and you know, the league making more money) likely back to the four conference approach, having two thirds of teams in the league qualify for the playoffs is a joke. Even the current sixteen team format makes for a long playoff run (last two playoffs have gone April to mid-June), and adding teams would just stretch it further.

While I agree that there is nothing quite like playoff hockey in terms of intensity and excitement, adding more teams would further diminish the importance of the regular season as well as the buzz that current playoff races generate. The past few years each conference has had three or four teams within striking distance close to the end, but if we’re now talking about two or three spots eligible instead of one, I think a lot of that excitement is out the window, or at best somewhat muted. Overwhelmingly average teams shouldn’t be rewarded for being overwhelmingly average. Please, please, please do not let this happen.

New Offer on the Table

nhl lockout crown royal

While I refuse to call anything the NHL and NHLPA does “progress” at this point, it’s worth noting that as of this morning the NHL has apparently submitted a new proposal with a few further concessions in an effort to end the NHL lockout. Maybe this is that “new idea” people were looking for as recently as last night.

From Bill Daly:

“In light of media reports this morning, I can confirm that we delivered to the Union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA late yesterday afternoon. We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the Union’s staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

If the devil is in the details, here’s what’s being reported:

  • Make Whole – offer the same at $300 million, likely meaning the proposed term of the CBA is still 10 years and there is still an opt-out possibility at 8 years. No Earth-shattering news here.
  • Salary Variance – Up to 10%, a 5% increase from the last proposal. This prevents circumventing the salary cap with front loaded contracts that span a number of years. This is a pretty good increase and should be seen as a good step forward.
  • Contract Term Limits – Up to six years, seven if you’re dealing with your own drafted players. Up from five years recently.
  • “Amnesty Buyouts” – apparently on the table, would allow teams a one-time period prior to the 2013-14 season to buyout players with no impact to the salary cap. The money would however count against the players’ hockey related revenue share.

There’s no hiding the fact that if a deal doesn’t get done soon there isn’t going to be enough time to have a legitimate season (though some, including myself, would argue there’s no time for that already). The proposal does give a little into the NHLPA’s demands, so there is some hope that this could spark a deal. The Boston Globe is even reporting that some execs believe this offer will be a “tipping point.” Whether that’s the case obviously remains to be seen.

This move shows the NHL is likely feeling the pressure over the possibility of losing yet another season, and if Donald Fehr and company feel they can go further, there’s a good chance he may take the low road again. The other question mark is whether or not the players feel this way as well. The next few hours and days could really paint a clearer picture on what the next month or so will hold.

But while we wait, the clock is still ticking…