We’re slowly learning more about the NHLPA’s unwillingness to give their consent to the league’s realignment proposal. While it may have came as a bit of a shock when the league executives issued their release that realignment will be postponed, today it was revealed that the vote wasn’t even close among player representatives. Fans and the league may be in favor of immediate realignment—but the vast majority of player representatives voted against the proposal as currently conceived. No wonder the NHLPA would not give their consent before the league’s self-imposed January 6 deadline.
Elliotte Friedman shared the knowledge this evening. “First of all, the vote was 28-2 among the Players’ Association,” Friedman said on the CBC’s Hotstove segment. “The only two teams that were in favor of realignment were Detroit and Columbus. The other 28 players voted against it. Secondly thing is, there was a schedule provided to the Players’ Association—it was Vancouver’s and it was a partial schedule for next year. I think only about 60 games were on it. That’s what the Players’ Association didn’t like; that early look at the Vancouver schedule…”
Various players around the league were also speaking out as the dust continued to settle. For the most part, it sounds like the players were not willing to agree to realignment because of all of the unknowns involved. Players were unsure how the new conferences would affect their everyday lives and travel schedule throughout the six month regular season.
“The travel would have been big for a lot of teams, would have changed things,” Mike Knuble told the Washington Post. “We just wanted to request more information – show us a schedule what the schedule might look like and how the teams might be run around the country. It’s a lot of time and a lot of grind, the season’s a grind enough was it going to add a lot more? It might have.”
In the same rink, San Jose Sharks player rep Joe Pavelski shared his opinion a little later. Instead of travel, his main concern centered around the unbalanced conferences and possible playoff implications. “I think playoffs was big. It’s why we play the game,” Pavelski said. “There’s definitely an advantage; four to seven, four to eight.”
It’s fairly obvious to most observers that this is only the first shot fired in what will be a lengthy collective bargaining process. But simply discarding the decision as a bargain chip in the negotiations would to undermind the serious concerns of players in just about every market. Just because the realignment may work for players on a specific team, that doesn’t mean things will look as positive if a player is traded to a different team next season. Dallas Stars’ player representative Adam Burish explained the rationale:
No matter what happens, this is only the first dispute in what will prove to be a hotly contested confrontation. After hearing some more of the specifics and the opinions of players, does it make you change your opinion on realignment?
There’s a game going on in Montreal at the Bell Centre tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadians are battling it out on Hockey Night in Canada for some much needed points in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But outside the building, there were a few hundred protesters who cared more about the coach behind the bench than the team on the ice. More specifically, they cared more about the language the coach speaks when addressing players and the media.
Mouvement Quebec francais president Mario Beaulieu released a statement to accompany Saturday evening’s demonstration. Via the Montreal Gazette: “The Montreal Canadiens management does not respect the status of French as Quebec’s official language,” Beaulieu said. “The music played in the Bell Centre is English. All announcements made in the arena are bilingual. There are only two or three francophone players left on the team. And now they have named a head coach who doesn’t speak a word of French. Not even ‘Bonjour’.”
Anyone who thought this language debate had cooled was sadly mistaken. As if Randy Cunneyworth’s job wasn’t difficult enough as he tried to turn things around for the mediocre Habs, he has hundreds of people outside the arena protesting because he doesn’t speak the right language. To some of the folks on the street, winning is secondary to the organization representing Quebecois culture.
General manager Pierre Gauthier has already publically apologized. Owner Geoff Molson (who is now tweeting in both languages) has already said that the head coaching position will be re-evaluated at the end of the season. Still, as long as Cunneyworth is behind the bench, there will be those who will publically voice their displeasure.
The Kings continued to struggle scoring goals as they were shut out by the worst team in the league on Saturday afternoon en route to a 1-0 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The shutout loss is only the latest in a season that has featured plenty of scoring woes for Los Angeles. After all, becoming the worst scoring team in the NHL doesn’t happen overnight.
By the end of the game, they were 0-for-8 on the power play and feebly failed on a 6-on-4 advantage to end the game. If they were able to score a single goal against Columbus’ second-worst penalty killing unit (or 25th ranked defense), they could have earned at least a single point against the woeful Blue Jackets.
The 1-0 defeat wastes yet another solid effort by Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. The man is among the league leaders with a 1.93 goals against average and a lofty .934 save percentage; yet he still has 17 losses (11 regulation, six OT/shootout) through 35 games played. How can a guy with those numbers lose almost 50 percent of his games? It’s quite simple actually: the Kings only have 21 goals in Quick’s 17 losses.
After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter told the media that he was happy with the overall effort by his team. “We did everything we wanted to do today except score on the power play,” Sutter said after the defeat. Of course, scoring an even-strength goal may have been something they would have liked to do. Or a victory—that’s something that should have been on the agenda.
The positive spin in LA is that the defense and goaltending has been so good this season, the team is still sitting near the top of the Pacific Division and on the cusp of a playoff spot. The loss to Columbus is the first regulation loss for the Kings under Darryl Sutter (5-1-3) and the first loss for the Kings overall in regulation in 10 games. Not bad for a team that has scored two or fewer goals in 19 of their last 21 games.
Just imagine what this team could do if they found a way to start scoring.