My Solution to the NHL Lockout

My Solution to the NHL Lockout

Last Friday, you indulged me on a rant about which side is
to blame for the NHL lockout.
As players and owners are meeting face-to-face
without their lead council
on Tuesday in a last ditch effort to save this
season, perhaps you are willing to follow me down the rabbit hole a bit
further.

The key divisive issue is the league’s owners want or need
to cut costs immediately. The players association would accept less than the
current 57% split of revenues, but in order to move to the proposed 50-50 model
in the first year of the new collective bargaining agreement, it would require
the union accept salary rollbacks across the board, which we know they are
unwilling to do. Up to now, they have been unable to find a way to bridge the
gap.

Even if the players are going to continue their hard-line
stance against a rollback on contracts that are already signed – as well they
should – there is still a way to give both parties what they want. That’s
cost-certainty for the owners, yet every penny promised to the players.

Agree to temporarily remove the salary cap, and along with
it, the salary floor.

There is little evidence teams in major hockey markets such
as Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, etc. are hurting. In certain cases, their
profits might not be exactly where they would like, but that should be solved
by a simple redistribution of the revenue.

What the lockout really seems to be about are franchises in
smaller hockey markets that are legitimately struggling, in some cases losing
money. Even with a 50-50 split and increased revenue sharing, they still may
need to reduce salaries right away to remain financially competitive.

By reaching a compromise that takes the cap out of the
picture for the first few years of the new deal – let’s say four for the sake
of being concrete – owners get the best of both worlds. Those who agreed to pay
their stars fair market value can continue to do so, even take on another club’s
bad contract if they so choose, running their franchise at any cost without
impunity. Organizations that are having trouble paying the bills can dump
salaries, fielding a few teams on the cheap to make up for the last few years
of operating in the red, running their franchise at any cost without impunity.

With the high draft picks that would result in some cases
from teams tanking for a few years, along with the league’s revenues being distributed
more evenly, several of these franchises would likely be more viable by the end
of the new CBA. In other words, maybe we can avoid this mess again further down
the road.

Spending would never get out of control for big market
teams, either, because they would eventually be required to get under the
future cap. It would force those front offices to remain fiscally responsible and budget accordingly so that
contracts were coming off the books at the right time.

As far as the players are concerned, there is theoretically no limit on how much a
player could make during the grace period.

Obviously an estimated cap figure would need to be known in
advance of its implementation, but I’m sure we can handle this.

I admit I am no economist, nor a lawyer, so maybe there is
some key financial or legal ingredient that would serve as a major stumbling
block to my plan. It also does nothing to address the various contracting
issues on the table, which may be a bigger hurdle than we would hope. I think it deserve points for creativity though, which is
what it’s going to take to solve the labor battle at this stage, as opposed to
some contrived meeting between players and owners.

The league is not taking the players seriously, employees
who signed their deals fair and square, with moves like a “make whole provision”
that doesn’t actually make contracts whole. However, the owners are not taking
each other seriously, either, by ignoring the fact that there are haves and there
are have-nots among their ranks.

The only way to give the union what they want, and bring
hockey back to the people, is to honor those contracts. The only way I can
think of to accomplish that while simultaneously cutting costs universally for all
franchises is to allow each one to spend as they see fit for awhile.

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The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

Well, if anyone hoped the Sixers' performance at game's end against Portland on Friday night -- with Joel Embiid riding the bench, ruled out for the game's remainder with a left knee contusion -- would carry over to an entirely Embiid-less game again Saturdaynight... I guess you're not alone, 'coz I sorta did. Perhaps it shouldn't have been particularly surprising to see that the Sixers were still the same team last night in Atlanta they were the previous Saturday against the Wizards: good enough to hang against an above-average East team, but not nearly good enough to actually win. 

At least they kept this one closer longer. Normally, against the Hawks, once the single-digit lead in the first half balloons into the double-digit lead in the third quarter, it never deflates back, but this time we cut it down to seven a couple times -- just never hitting that one big shot that would've really made things interesting, ultimately losing 110-93. It doesn't help that Nik Stauskas is in the midst of one of his most refrigerated runs as a Sixer, going just 7-30 (3-16 from deep) over Philly's last five games, or that Dario Saric is similarly bricking shots near and wide, a remarkable 2 for 22 over his last couple contests. 

This, sadly, is a primary reason why the Sixers' playoff hopes, while fun to dream about, are still unlikely to be more than a flicker. Over the next few weeks, the Sixers have a trio of back-to-backs coming up, with the back-end games coming against Milwaukee, Sacramento and San Antonio -- none of which Philly, 2-12 without their star center, are probable to win sans JoJo. Even if they can take care of business with Embiid on the court, it'll be tough to make up the ground that the Sons of Sam need to while they have to drop one every three or four games as Joel sits. 

That's fine, though. This season's been super-fun, but we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves: Let's ensure Embiid's health, maybe get Ben Simmons out there too, secure a nice draft pick or two (though the plummeting Kings could be of significant help with that themselves), and focus on making next year even more of a thing. The future remains impossibly bright, even if the present is going to have to be borderline-unwatchable once or twice a week.

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers (22-19-6) at Islanders (19-17-8)
6 p.m. – CSN/CSNPhilly.com and streaming live on the NBCSports app; Pregame Live begins at 5:30.
 
The struggling Flyers head north Sunday night to battle the Metropolitan Division rival Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
 
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s matchup.
 
1. New week, same Flyers
Those hoping the Flyers would be a refreshed, recharged team after the bye week met a harsh reality Saturday night.
 
The Flyers were blown out of the Wells Fargo Center in a 4-1 loss to the Devils that saw the same things continue to haunt the home team — defensive breakdowns and a lack of offense, among other things.
 
It’s no secret this season is quickly slipping away from the Flyers. They’ve lost their hold on the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference to the upstart Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes, Panthers and Devils are breathing right down the Flyers’ backs. To pile on the good news, every other team in the East is within four points of the Flyers, including the last-place Isles, who have 46 points compared to the Flyers’ 50 points.
 
Needless to say, the margin for error is all but gone.
 
This has been said many times recently, but the emphasis still hasn’t waned — if the Flyers want to save this season, it has to start with the next game.
 
2. What’s the mindset?
Michal Neuvirth, who was pulled before the third period of Saturday’s game for “precautionary reasons,” had a striking quote after the loss to the Devils.
 
“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” he told reporters.
 
He’s not kidding, and further proof of that came in the loss to the Devils, when the game was tied 1-1. In the second period, Radko Gudas was whistled for a clipping penalty and, boy, was it an awful call. It was nothing more than a hard hip check, aka a solid hockey play. Gudas got the two-minute minor and then Wayne Simmonds received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for protesting the call, giving Jersey a full two-man advantage.
 
Predictably, the Devils scored to take the lead. Also predictably, the Flyers unraveled after that point.
 
It just seems lately that when something goes wrong for the Flyers, it all goes wrong for the Flyers. And that’s a troubling trend.

3. Changes in Brooklyn
Superstar John Tavares is still there, but beside that, plenty has changed since the Flyers and Islanders last met, a 3-2 Flyers shootout win in November at the Barclays Center.
 
No more Jack Capuano behind the Isles’ bench, as he was recently canned amidst his team’s struggles. Assistant general manager Doug Weight, whom you may remember from his not so distant playing days, is the interim head coach for the Isles.
 
Remember goalie Jaroslav Halak, who started the two teams’ first meeting? It’s no longer his net in Brooklyn, as he’s had a falling out with the club, lost the starting job to Thomas Greiss and was recently put on waivers.
 
And the Isles have responded positively to the changes, as they’ve won three in a row heading into Sunday night’s contest. The last-place moniker is misleading because the Isles are still just five points out of the final wild-card spot and still have tons of talent.
 
4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let’s go with Travis Konecny. Let’s just say the Flyers are in need of an energy jolt these days and the rook has just the type of skillset to provide it. He scored his team’s only goal Saturday against the Devils and isn’t afraid to throw his body around if need be. He also scored against the Isles earlier this season. He’s now up to eight goals and 14 assists on the season.
 
Islanders: It has got to be John Tavares. The guy is an absolute star, but still could fit into the “underrated” or “under the radar” categories just because he plays for the Isles. I mean, check out this goal he scored earlier this year against St. Louis. Holy moly. While you’re at it, get a glimpse of this one he scored against Dallas last week. He’s got 19 goals and 17 assists on the year. In his career against the Flyers, he’s got 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points, the third-most points he’s tallied against any team in the NHL.
 
5. This and that
• In a scheduling quirk, Sunday evening will mark the fourth straight time the Flyers and Islanders will play in Brooklyn. They haven’t met in Philadelphia in over a full calendar year — Jan. 9, 2016, a 4-0 Flyers win

• Sunday is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. They’ll also play Feb. 9 and March 30, both times in South Philly.

• Greiss will start in net for the Isles on Sunday. He’s recorded shutouts in his last two starts. For the season, he's 12-7-2 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.

• Reinforcements could be on the way Sunday for the Islanders, as forward Cal Clutterbuck (lower-body) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (upper-body) could be ready to return to the lineup after injuries.

• Sunday’s game will be the second of a back-to-back set for both teams. The Flyers are 6-3-2 this year in such situations.

• The Flyers’ ugly road losing streak is up to nine games. A loss Sunday would make it a not-so-perfect 10.