Although things could change, the current state of CBA negotiations is pointing to yet another lockout. If so, this would be a natural hat-trick.
Since the NHL owners slotted hired-gun Gary Bettman as their commish, the mood of player/ownership negotiations has gone from somewhat amicable to downright confrontational and even combative at times.
The financial state of the league can be represented in many ways due to various metrics such as current value and revenue. But looking at the league and its teams as a whole is a bit like looking at the ass as a hole. In each case there is more to it than meets the eye, and as individual entities, some look better than others. ;-)
Some facts are not in dispute. Teams have risen in value since the last CBA on an average of 47% as of 2011, but because of increases in player salaries, operating income has dipped starkly with a year-over-year regression of 21% as of last year, most negatively affecting small market American teams.
Although it is the owner’s fault in large part, these numbers are not sustainable and there has to be a correction from the 57% of league revenue dedicated to salaries, to something closer to 50%. And even though the players are innocent victims, this has to happen for the league to be viable, and unless the players agree there will be a lockout.
Contraction has been suggested by some fans and would help to some degree, but neither the league nor the PA have an appetite for that.
If we have learned anything at all, it is that the players can never win a war of attrition against the NHL owners. So they might as well capitulate now. But I doubt they will and the losers will ultimately be the players who lose a year of their contract and career and most importantly from my perspective the fans, who neither side cares about when it comes to money.
The owners are a bunch of greedy sociopaths and the players are a bunch of spoiled brats. Yet hockey-crazed Canadian fans are more forgiving than Hillary Clinton when it comes to the game they love and will most assuredly return to the game as soon as the puck drops. Both sides know this.
The irony of it all is that the fans who will be hurt the most(generally speaking) are these same Canadian fans who support their squads through thick and thin and also have the most responsible owners. It is no coincidence that two of the three most successful franchises are Canadian (Montreal and Toronto), and that no Canadian team had a negative operating income based on last year’s numbers. We Canadians loves us some hockey.
There is yet more irony, to-wit: the Canadian teams will arguably be hurt more than their American counterparts as well.
The Vancouver Canucks who have been atop regular season standings for the last two seasons and made it within a win of taking it all, are facing a closing window with aging key players facing the downside of their careers.
The Edmonton Oilers need to develop their young guns in an NHL environment not the minors.
The Ottawa Senators are on the rise after a microsecond- rebuild looking to improve on last year’s resurgence.
The Winnipeg Jets just got their team back and are facing another year without NHL hockey after an already prolonged drought. Ugh!
Calgary is hopeful that a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and signing of key free agents will get them the handful of additional wins they would need to get back into the playoffs. They are also eagerly awaiting a full season from their top prospect Sven Baertschi who scored three goals in 5 games with the big club last year and extirpated the WHL at a 2 PPG clip.
Montreal are looking to improve on last year’s sub par performance and have taken steps to ensure future success by replacing their GM and have a buzz-worthy prospect in Alex Galchenyuk who has Habs fans salivating in anticipation.
And lastly Toronto fans (god luv 'em) are eternal optimists who feel they are going to win the Stanley Cup every year. Just kidding…kind of.
So is there anything Flames’ fans can cling to as a positive if the league shutters play for the entire season? Perhaps.
If the league takes the same approach to determining draft order as they did after the last lockout, teams who have the fewest playoff games over the last three years combined with the fewest #1 overall draft picks over the previous four years, will be weighted as favourites. The Flames would have as good a chance as any other team in the league to select Nathan MacKinnon or even Sam Reinhart as a consolation prize.
Factoid: The NHL is the only major sports league in North America to have lost an entire season to a labour dispute.
Next time up, I will look at the possibility of the Flames returning to the post season…if there is one.