Less than 24 hours ago the 2011-12 NHL season ended when the LA Kings thumped the New Jersey Devils 6-1 en route to their first ever Stanley Cup Finals victory. Though the season has ended there are a few loopholes left to close: The NHL Awards Show, the 2012 NHL Draft, and most notably the upcoming (and hopefully soon to occur) Consolidated Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA.
On 20 June the stars of the NHL will gather in Las Vegas at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas hoping to claim some extra hardware for their resumes. Specifically for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos will be there to collect, at a minimum, one trophy. Stamkos has already secured the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (his second) for being the league leading goal scorer with 60 goals. He is also a finalist for the Hart Memorial and Ted Lindsey Awards. Stamkos will be going against Hank Lundqvist and Evgeni Malkin for the Hart Trophy as the NHL Most Valuable Player (voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association). Unfortunately I feel Stamkos has no chance at securing the Hart as the Bolts were not in the playoffs this year (an unofficial determining factor) even though he was the main reason why the Bolts remained in the playoff race towards the end. As for the Lindsey Trophy, I feel Stamkos has a better shot even though he is again going up against Malkin and Lundqvist. This award is given to the “most outstanding player” as voted by the NHLPA. Seeing as how Stamkos is well respected (and well feared) throughout the league, the players might give Stamkos the edge despite not making the playoffs.
Two days later the NHL Draft will be held in Pittsburgh, PA. The Tampa Bay Lightning are poised to leave Pennsylvania happy, whether through draft picks or trades, having two first round picks in hand (10th and 19th). Bolts By the Bay recently participated in the Fansided-NHL Mock Draft selecting Zemgus Girgensons at #10 and Henrik Samuelsson at #19. Will that be the route GM Steve Yzerman follows? Only he knows, as he is on the prowl for a solid option for the Lightning’s #1 Netminder spot. However the 2012 draft may pan out, I can only say that it will bode well for the organization since after Yzerman’s two years at the helm both our American League affiliate and ECHL affiliate have won their respective championship trophies (Calder Cup for the Norfolk Admirals and Kelly Cup for the Florida Everblades).
Through all the festivities and fanfare of the Awards Show and Draft looms an oppressive shadow, the upcoming CBA negotiations. Commissioner Gary Bettman filed his notice to the NHLPA that the league will not be renewing the current CBA, which is set to expire on 15 September. This move was not surprising as league revenues have increased and the recent renegotiation of the NFL and NBA CBA saw their players take a hit when it came to sport-related revenues. Currently the NHL players receive 57% of hockey related revenue, which is 7% higher than their closest counterparts in the NBA. Other factors which are sure to take a forefront in the negotiations will be player safety, travel, and realignment. Though the league tried to address realignment with a
not-so-great plan earlier this season, the NHLPA rejected the proposal because they were not given a theoretical schedule. Despite the hurdles and barriers to overcome, I do not foresee another lockout. The league would suffer more in financial losses (long-term) if they do not offer some concessions to the skaters in terms of hockey related revenue and safety, but at the same time the players need to be willing to bargain on their end as well through Donald Fehr.
What about player discipline you ask? Considering that the owners and General Managers have a nascent ability to exact their will upon the League, I feel that no changes will be directly made when it comes to Brendan Shanahan’s Office. However to help address this problem I hope the League and the NHLPA take a look at the officiating which has been a major component to the recent spike in disciplinary issues.
Though I do not feel that negotiations will start prior to the conclusion of the Awards Show and Draft, I do believe they will start soon after. With all the chest thumping and trumpet sounding that is sure to happen, I am certain that it will fade quickly in order to allow the dust to settle so that we can have a 2012-13 season start on time.
– Jim Courteau
Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim