Fehr and players

Players need to ask themselves: Is it worth it?


Even after the NHL canceled all games through November, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr maintained it makes sense for the players to hold out for a better deal from the owners.

“It’s a five-or-six-or-seven-year agreement,” Fehr told the StarTribune Monday. “Also, look at what’s on the table [from the owners], there’s a lot more that’s on the table in addition to just player share. They’re saying the things players got in the last agreement in return for the 24 percent rollback [and salary cap], they have to take it back. [The players] lose ground in salary arbitration, they lose ground in free agency, lose ground in the entry-level system, contracts are limited in all kinds of ways that make them much less secure.”

However, when asked if it would make sense to lose an entire season of salary – in 2011-12, total player compensation was $1.873 billion – Fehr would only say that the league stands to lose an entire season of revenue, too.

The counter-argument is that an NHL franchise isn’t an NHL player. The first has an indefinite life span and a value that’s determined by the expectation of future revenues; the other has an average career length of four to five seasons and a value that falls to zero once that career is over.

In September, Mike Modano reflected on the season the players lost due to the 2004-05 lockout.

“At some point, we were sold a bill of goods,” Modano told ESPN. “Everybody was buying it. Everybody thought, ‘Let’s not let each other down. Let’s do it for the future of the game. Blah, blah, blah.’ You’re only in the game so long.”

And he wasn’t the only one to look back in regret.

Last November, Dave Andreychuk advised locked out NBA players to get a deal done as soon as possible: “In the end, it will be worse.”

Last October, Bill Guerin concluded: “Burning a year was ridiculous.”

So is Fehr doing the players a disservice by advising they hold out for a better deal that he’s not even guaranteed to deliver? Sure, the NHLPA – which like an NHL franchise has an indefinite life span – may be stronger in the long run by standing up to the owners today, but if you’re a current player, how much are you willing to sacrifice for the future of the cause?

Only the players can answer those questions. Perhaps money isn’t the root cause of their dispute with the NHL. Maybe it’s more about pride and fairness. Nobody likes to be extorted, even if paying the ransom is preferable on a non-emotional level to the alternative.

Fehr said he reminds the players “a negotiation is a process of constant reevaluation.”

So, do they stay the course?

Or, is it time to…reevaluate?

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”