Report: NHL in contact with ECHL referees to possibly work as scabs

Thumbnail image for nhlreferees.jpgIf you’ve been stressing out a bit over the potential labor problems the NHL and NHLPA could have in a couple of years, it’s probably best to take a breath and relax. In the meantime, you can get worked up over the NHL and the NHL Officials Association not having a new agreement squared away. To make matters actually more nerve-racking, according to The Hockey News, the NHL is in contact with non-league officials to possibly work in the NHL this season while the NHL and NHLOA work out a new agreement.

THN.com has learned that with less than two weeks to go before the NHL starts holding pre-season games, the league and the NHL Officials’ Association are still without a collective bargaining agreement for this season. The previous agreement expired Aug. 31 and while talks between the two sides are ongoing, THN.com has learned the league has approached non-NHL officials in both the American League and the ECHL to determine whether or not they would be interested in acting as replacement officials should an agreement not be reached.

One minor league official contacted by THN.com said he has received two calls in the past two days from other minor league officials asking if he would be part of a group that would work games.

“I think it is wrong to be a scab,” he told THN.com. “I would never be a replacement (official), but there are a lot of my colleagues that are surprisingly jumping at the chance.”

Respecting potential picket lines is something that any of these officials will potentially have to deal with, as would the possibility of never being allowed in the NHLOA if they make it that far on their own. That said, this has nothing but bad mojo written all over it for the NHL if you’ve got extreme minor league officials getting called up from two levels down to work NHL games.

Think about it this way, most fans have severe complaints about the regular NHL officials as it is. Bringing up guys that aren’t as quick on the call nor as experienced has disaster written all over it. More than likely, this preparedness kind of move by the NHL is to make sure they’re covered in case things keep going slowly but it also doubles as a negotiation tactic to put pressure on the NHLOA to show them that they’re ready to continue on without them.

Of course, not having the best of the best in officials to manage games featuring the best of the best of its athletes doesn’t do anyone any favors at all. After all, there’s a reason why these guys work in the ECHL in the first place. Graduating them forcibly up to the NHL level is a nightmare scenario waiting to happen.

Scroll Down For:

    The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

    AP
    Leave a comment

    The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

    Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

    The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

    With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

    “I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

    The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

    Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

    “It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

    Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

    3 Comments

    Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

    Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

    “He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

    Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

    It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

    Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick

    Stamkos ‘getting really close’ to return

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    It probably won’t happen Thursday against the Red Wings, but Steven Stamkos is getting close to making his return for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I think we can start putting him in the day-to-day category right now,” said Bolts coach Jon Cooper, per team beat writer Bryan Burns. “I don’t see him playing against Detroit. After that, I’d say it’s getting really close.”

    Stamkos, who hasn’t played since November due to a knee injury, practiced today with his teammates. He took line rushes and even worked with the second-unit power play.

    “Today was probably the best day yet,” the captain said. “Doing better than last time we talked and really feeling better each day now.”

    Tampa Bay’s next game after Thursday’s is Saturday against Montreal.

    The Lightning are three points back of Boston for the second wild-card spot in the East, but they do hold a game in hand on the Bruins.

    A challenging offseason awaits Dean Lombardi

    Getty
    4 Comments

    For the 23rd time this season — the most in the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings lost a game in regulation after they outshot an opponent.

    It happened last night in Edmonton, where the Kings outshot the Oilers, 35-29, but lost on the scoreboard, 2-1.

    Afterwards, captain Anze Kopitar could only express his frustration.

    “It seems like we’re beating the dead horse every night,” Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We outshoot teams, we out-chance teams yet we’re on the other side of the winning part, so bottom line it’s just not good enough. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, we’ve got to be better in both areas.”

    It’s mostly offensively. For whatever reason, the Kings have the second-worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the NHL, with only Colorado’s (7.2) being lower.

    Perhaps the Kings aren’t getting enough quality shots. Perhaps they don’t have enough quality shooters.

    Probably a bit of both.

    But it’s something that GM Dean Lombardi will need to address this offseason — assuming he can.

    Roster-wise, the big problem for Lombardi is that the Kings have a pair of veteran wingers, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, whose contracts look a lot like anchors.

    Brown, 32, and Gaborik, 35, have combined for just 21 goals this season. Meanwhile, their combined cap hit is north of $10 million, and there’s plenty of term left on each deal.

    Not helping? Both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending RFAs, and they’re in line for raises.

    Oh, and there’s not much in the way of top prospects, either. In the past four drafts, only once have the Kings made a first-round pick. (Adrian Kempe went 29th overall in 2014.)

    Eleven points back of the second wild-card spot in the West, the Kings are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They’re in Calgary tonight to take on the Flames.

    Related: Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski