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NHL Sick? Paging Dr. Dowbiggin!

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Old
11-05-2003, 04:57 PM
  #1
Bicycle Repairman
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NHL Sick? Paging Dr. Dowbiggin!

New from McClelland and Stewart this fall, the Must-Have book for the hockey fan is Money Players: How Hockey's Greatest Stars Beat the NHL At It's Own Game by Calgary author Bruce Dowbiggin.

The most comprehensive examination of the business side of the NHL ever written, Dowbiggin examines the history of the NHLPA, painstakenly recounts the 1994 NHL Work Stoppage, takes the reader inside the process of negotiations for a Unrestricted Free Agent, and prescribes the painful medicine necessary to save the great sport of Professional Hockey in North America. 301 pages of lucid and sober commentary by one of hockey's most trusted commentators.

Dowbiggin is also the author of the award-winning The Defense Never Rests chronicling the Alan Eagleson saga, as well as The Stick (an elegy to the sport's tool of the trade -- making him truly Hockey's Poet Laureate).

Dowbiggin's thesis is that the system, as it currently stands, will work if only the principle intent is one of fair play. It is stupid owners, not a stupid system that is the biggest problem. Reigning in the rogue spenders around the league is the answer.

Anyway, just thought I'd bring this up for debate. This bracing view certainly runs counter to the prevailing mindset on this forum.

I'd encourage everyone to read the book. It's getting very favorable reviews.

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11-05-2003, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bicycle Repairman
Dowbiggin's thesis is that the system, as it currently stands, will work if only the principle intent is one of fair play. It is stupid owners, not a stupid system that is the biggest problem. Reigning in the rogue spenders around the league is the answer.

Anyway, just thought I'd bring this up for debate. This bracing view certainly runs counter to the prevailing mindset on this forum.
I don't think anyone disagrees with that. However there is no way to reign in rogue spenders without changing the system (i.e. the CBA). To attempt to do so outside the parameters of a CBA opens the NHL to charges of collusion. My thesis is that the intent of the current system was only designed to make money for the owners and had nothing to do with fair play. It's failed miserably on both accounts.

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11-05-2003, 05:44 PM
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Have you read the book yet, Buffaloed?

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11-05-2003, 05:53 PM
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Have you read the book yet, Buffaloed?
Haven't seen that one yet in the bookstores. I may have to order it from amazon.

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11-05-2003, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Buffaloed
Haven't seen that one yet in the bookstores. I may have to order it from amazon.
It's actually quite an interesting take. He argues that the existing CBA merely needs a few tweaks here and there, but the existing agreement itself is quite sound, if only the intent translated into practice.

Ironically, Dowbiggin takes a shot at small market übershill Brian Burke, who circa 1994 was the NHL negotiator, fell asleep at the wheel and allowed loopholes in regard to rookie incentives.

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11-06-2003, 09:18 AM
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I haven't read it yet. Dowbiggin, however, was on SportsTalk with Dan Russell on Tuesday evening and spoke about it. He said he had three suggestions for how to deal with the economic problems in the NHL.

One is to create a multi-tiered league of 100 or so teams, a la the English Premiere league for soccer. Basically, if you don't have the cash to play in the top division - you don't. You spend time in a "lesser league" developing youngsters who you eventually sell to top teams. Economically feasible I guess but I'd hate to see something like this happen.

Another was just to make some minor changes to this CBA. Introduce a luxury tax, tweak the qualifying offer system a bit, fiddle with UFA-dom, fix the rookie salary cap situation, twiddle with arbitration.

He didn't say what the third one was. Interesting interview, nonetheless, I'm going to try and pick this one up.

Ah, he also pointed out something I thought was pretty vital: NHL Owners are happy to play star players star player dollars. That will always happen, and that's why it doesn't really matter that Chris Pronger, Brett Hull and Jeremy Roenick mouth off about the league being overpaid. Bob Goodenow's power base comes from the second, third, and fourth liners who have done extremely well under him, and he has their loyalty for the long run.

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11-07-2003, 06:43 AM
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[QUOTE=Bicycle Repairman]It's actually quite an interesting take. He argues that the existing CBA merely needs a few tweaks here and there, but the existing agreement itself is quite sound, if only the intent translated into practice.[QUOTE]

And he is absolutly correct. The sooner the owners realize this, the better chance we have of escaping a work stoppage.

The fans can blame the owners for a work stoppage, not the players. The owners are the fools who want the players to give up their rights to protect the owners from themselves. I dont blame hte players one bit. Just like I wouldnt blame the owners if they (for example) let Marian Gaborik rot until he accepted his 10% increase. Who made MIN give Marian a 300% increase in base pay ? No one, they chose too !

Who made DET give Thomas 1 million dollars ? Who held the gun to CGY's head to give TOni Lydman 2million ? Same goes for CHI and Berard, Richards in TBY and Bertuzzi in VAN ..No one made any owner pay these guys the money they make .. they all chose too. If they think the players are making too muc, OFFER LESS !!! How hard is that to comprehend ? The players can only make what someone is willing to pay them. So, if someone is WILLING to pay them, then whats the problem ? If they arent WILLING, they why are htey doing it ? Because they are stupid ? And if they are stupid, why is it the players responsibility to manage that ?

DR

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11-07-2003, 11:37 AM
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[QUOTE=DementedReality][QUOTE=Bicycle Repairman]It's actually quite an interesting take. He argues that the existing CBA merely needs a few tweaks here and there, but the existing agreement itself is quite sound, if only the intent translated into practice.
Quote:

And he is absolutly correct. The sooner the owners realize this, the better chance we have of escaping a work stoppage.

The fans can blame the owners for a work stoppage, not the players. The owners are the fools who want the players to give up their rights to protect the owners from themselves. I dont blame hte players one bit. Just like I wouldnt blame the owners if they (for example) let Marian Gaborik rot until he accepted his 10% increase. Who made MIN give Marian a 300% increase in base pay ? No one, they chose too !

Who made DET give Thomas 1 million dollars ? Who held the gun to CGY's head to give TOni Lydman 2million ? Same goes for CHI and Berard, Richards in TBY and Bertuzzi in VAN ..No one made any owner pay these guys the money they make .. they all chose too. If they think the players are making too muc, OFFER LESS !!! How hard is that to comprehend ? The players can only make what someone is willing to pay them. So, if someone is WILLING to pay them, then whats the problem ? If they arent WILLING, they why are htey doing it ? Because they are stupid ? And if they are stupid, why is it the players responsibility to manage that ?

DR
Clearly this is the answer. The owners should just agree among themselves and never pay a player more than the league minimum.

The NHL needs a way to protect itself from rogue spenders without inviting a collusion lawsuit.

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11-07-2003, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burke's Evil Spirit
The NHL needs a way to protect itself from rogue spenders without inviting a collusion lawsuit.
Rogue spenders? I love that. Who is a rogue spender and what makes them a rogue? Can we get this better defined?

Why can't other teams just ignore the rogue spenders? If Leonsis wants to spend $11 million on Jagr, it is no skin off the nose of the Vancouver Canucks or the Ottawa Senators. Let the rogues give Bobby Holik $9 million. I think the rogues get punished under this CBA.

Unless of course, you think Boston got good value with Martin LaPointe or that Bill Guerin is worth every penny. I think rogue spenders end up wasting their money.

Shouldn't the rogues be able to waste their money if they want? Why not? If they don't want, they should stop. No skin off my nose either way.

Tom

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11-07-2003, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burke's Evil Spirit
... without inviting a collusion lawsuit.
I'm still unclear on the collusion part. The whole point of RFAs is that they can only negotiate with the one team that owns their rights. If you are an owner, and this player can only negotiate with you, he is not going to have the leverage to negotiate as much from you as when the player is free to negotiate with anyone.

If arbitration awards more than you want to pay, (perhaps even more than owners "colluded" upon as fair rates to shoot for in negotiations), then make the trade or take the RFA compensation from someone. Its not so radical, the result of a cap and lowered free agent age would be more player movement anyway. So why so afraid of this movement? If you have $4mil of cap space left, and your star 28 yr old star player wants a $6mil contract, the same end will happen.

Free agency isnt really a problem. I dont remember the last UFA holdout.

A problem with the current system, is that RFAs will occasionally have to push the bounds of the market to ensure market value by holding out when they have the leverage and are being given a poor offer. And a truly elite player can hold a teams cup hopes hostage. I guess thats the point when we'll find out what his true maarket value is wont we? I think we have to go on the principle that all owners always want to pay as little as possible for RFAs. And as it turns out, if they do this, it doesnt matter if they go hog wild on 31 yr old free agents.

We fans get so upset at RFA players holding out for more money. But look what happened when Gaborik held out. Every teams fan board asked the question: Should we sign Gaborik? Maybe if fans put their money where there mouth was, there would be no market for players abandoning their team over money negotiations.

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11-07-2003, 05:05 PM
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom_Benjamin
Rogue spenders? I love that. Who is a rogue spender and what makes them a rogue? Can we get this better defined?

Why can't other teams just ignore the rogue spenders? If Leonsis wants to spend $11 million on Jagr, it is no skin off the nose of the Vancouver Canucks or the Ottawa Senators. Let the rogues give Bobby Holik $9 million. I think the rogues get punished under this CBA.

Unless of course, you think Boston got good value with Martin LaPointe or that Bill Guerin is worth every penny. I think rogue spenders end up wasting their money.

Shouldn't the rogues be able to waste their money if they want? Why not? If they don't want, they should stop. No skin off my nose either way.

Tom
FINALLY ! Thats what I am saying. If you dont want to pay X amount, THEN DONT !

Its not collusion, Im not suggesting collusion. I am suggesting owners use the rights granted to them and offer the players contracts they can afford and if they cant afford it, DONT OFFER IT. I presume thats whats happening now and if it isnt, its NOT the players responsibilty to TEACH managment how to budget properly.

DR

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11-07-2003, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burke's Evil Spirit
Clearly this is the answer. The owners should just agree among themselves and never pay a player more than the league minimum.
Who said anything about collusion ? The teams should make their own financial assesment of each player and make offers from there.

DR

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11-07-2003, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by DementedReality
Who said anything about collusion ? The teams should make their own financial assesment of each player and make offers from there.

DR
Which is a flawed system anyways since obviously what David Poile thinks and what Glen Sather thinks will always be greatly skewed simply due to available cash on hand.

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11-08-2003, 05:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burke's Evil Spirit
Which is a flawed system anyways since obviously what David Poile thinks and what Glen Sather thinks will always be greatly skewed simply due to available cash on hand.
i dont see your point. only 23 guys can play for sather, so whats that matter. if you want to play on poiles team, you will play for what he thinks you are worth.

dr

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11-08-2003, 07:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DementedReality
i dont see your point. only 23 guys can play for sather, so whats that matter. if you want to play on poiles team, you will play for what he thinks you are worth.

dr
The problem being that the 23 best guys could conceivably play for Sather's team rather then Poile's.

If such became the norm across the NHL then I suspect the game is bound to lose fan support in the long run, as with few exceptions only the rich teams will ever compete for long.

Do we really want to watch a league in which we can practically lay out a teams performance by the cash the ownsership has?
It's not quite that bad yet, but it's bound to get there if the owners cannot contain their spending.

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11-08-2003, 08:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DementedReality
FINALLY ! Thats what I am saying. If you dont want to pay X amount, THEN DONT !

Its not collusion, Im not suggesting collusion. I am suggesting owners use the rights granted to them and offer the players contracts they can afford and if they cant afford it, DONT OFFER IT. I presume thats whats happening now and if it isnt, its NOT the players responsibilty to TEACH managment how to budget properly.

DR
I purchased the book this afternoon, and I'm about 3 chapters in and it's a great book so far...definitely worth buying. Anyway, the book seems to illustrate some of the same beliefs that I have; in fact, parts of it are frighteningly similar to parts of the ethics essay I wrote this week which dealt with the upcoming negotiations process. Regardless, I think we're all on a similar page here; the current CBA just needs to be tweaked.

I'd like to see the RFA qualifying offers dropped to 80% so that teams don't have to offer pay increases to disappointing players who still have potential (i.e. Kilger). This will save the teams money, but I think that the money saved will end up going back to RFAs, going to the guys who deserve pay increases (i.e. Gaborik). Paying the players who deserve to be paid well and being able to give paycuts to players who shat the bed...that's how it should be.

Also, I'd like to see the UFA age dropped to 29, giving the players a bit more mobility and increasing the supply of UFA players, potentially creating a more stable UFA market. With a lower UFA age, the demand for players who elect to become UFAs before they're 30 (i.e. Lapointe) won't be as high because there will be more players at a younger age on the UFA market. Basically, what I'm saying is that I think that if they lower the UFA age by one year, there will be more players out there on the market, and teams can be more selective when determining who gets the big bucks.

Another thing I'd like to see is an increased league minimum salary...say 250K or 300K. I think something like that will motivate minor league players to push harder to make the NHL, thus increasing the level of play for 3rd and 4th liners even more (those guys who make the NHL against the odds based purely on work ethic...fans love these guys), or it could lure more players/prospects over from Europe. I think that implementing this would equalize players' skill levels more than it already is, thus making teams more equal and theoretically making player salaries more equal. Hopefully, this slightly increased level of talent would make the game better all-around.

I think that these three large changes combined with some smaller deviations will help the market regulate itself. It would make sense that if the teams can't pay players the money demanded, then they shouldn't pay it. Oftentimes, even though it may not seem like it at the time, letting a guy go and going with a much lower paid player will end up being beneficial to the team on the ice. So many people underestimate the player equality in the NHL. We have high-profile players who get paid a ton but are defensive liabilities. When it really comes down to it, a lot of those lower paid guys are more responsible for a team's winning than the big-name guys. Assume that player X will score 35 goals, have 80pts and be a defensive liability and player Y will score 20 goals, have 40pts and can lead a team in +/-, who is more valuable? That's debatable, but with the way owners are valuing players right now, player X may want 8 million per year and player Y may want 2.5 million per year. If player X isn't going to bring in more than 5.5 million in additional revenues and they are both equally beneficial in a team's performance on the ice, it would make sense for teams to go with player Y...but teams except for pretty much the New Jersey Devils (who have been a model of success) tend to go for player Y. With Edmonton as my 2nd favorite team, I wouldn't have minded if they let Salo go a few years back and gone out and tried to acquire a young goalie like Noronen or Miller, who would demand 3 million less. I'm betting either of those youngsters would have performed a heck of a lot better than Salo has since signing his big contract...and who knows, maybe then Lowe wouldn't have had to ship Niinimaa to the Isles. Same goes for Theodore vs. Garon...but does Theodore bring in 5 million more in revenues than Garon would?...that's a gamble that teams have to assess. If more teams took gambles like Anaheim did this offseason, the league would be a lot better IMO.

That all said, here's what I think could have the largest impact on the state of the NHL. If there's anything the league can do to strengthen its bargaining position, it would be to have a system similar to the NHLPA Agent Certification Program. When you have experienced lawyers like Ritch Winter and Don Meehan facing off in negotiations with guys like Kevin Lowe or Andre Savard, who have little negotiating or legal experience, the agents have an obvious advantage that will result in a player likely getting more than he's worth on the market. I'm suggesting that teams should keep their GMs, but make it more of a figurehead position, and then have the league certify a person or two on each team who is allowed to engage in contract negotiations. This person may be the GM, if he's qualified, or teams may have to designate or hire another person to carry out these duties. Something as simple as this could completely change the business environment in the NHL and make it a lot more stable IMO. I know most teams already do make sure they get sound advice before and during negotiations, but all you need is one team that doesn't comply, and it causes a whack of problems for the teams (i.e. Comrie's, Richards' contracts). If teams CONSISTENTLY used their leverage to the extent that the player representatives currently do, the salary structure in the NHL would be much different. The best way to prevent benchmarking based on "extraordinary" contracts is to have a program that regulates who is qualified to negotiate on behalf of an NHL team. However, the problem I see with this would be an increased amount of players demanding salary arbitration, so my suggestion would be that the players give up their arbitration rights in exchange for a decrease in the compensation that other teams would have to give up to sign an RFA.

I dunno...i'm just throwing thoughts out here left, right, and center...it's obviously a rant and not something i've thought out too systematically...so don't mind the grammar...hopefully I can find the time to develop a more organized, thought out CBA proposal sometime later this week, but for now this'll have to do.

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11-09-2003, 10:04 AM
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard
I purchased the book this afternoon, and I'm about 3 chapters in and it's a great book so far...definitely worth buying. Anyway, the book seems to illustrate some of the same beliefs that I have; in fact, parts of it are frighteningly similar to parts of the ethics essay I wrote this week which dealt with the upcoming negotiations process. Regardless, I think we're all on a similar page here; the current CBA just needs to be tweaked.

I'd like to see the RFA qualifying offers dropped to 80% so that teams don't have to offer pay increases to disappointing players who still have potential (i.e. Kilger). This will save the teams money, but I think that the money saved will end up going back to RFAs, going to the guys who deserve pay increases (i.e. Gaborik). Paying the players who deserve to be paid well and being able to give paycuts to players who shat the bed...that's how it should be.

Also, I'd like to see the UFA age dropped to 29, giving the players a bit more mobility and increasing the supply of UFA players, potentially creating a more stable UFA market. With a lower UFA age, the demand for players who elect to become UFAs before they're 30 (i.e. Lapointe) won't be as high because there will be more players at a younger age on the UFA market. Basically, what I'm saying is that I think that if they lower the UFA age by one year, there will be more players out there on the market, and teams can be more selective when determining who gets the big bucks.

Another thing I'd like to see is an increased league minimum salary...say 250K or 300K. I think something like that will motivate minor league players to push harder to make the NHL, thus increasing the level of play for 3rd and 4th liners even more (those guys who make the NHL against the odds based purely on work ethic...fans love these guys), or it could lure more players/prospects over from Europe. I think that implementing this would equalize players' skill levels more than it already is, thus making teams more equal and theoretically making player salaries more equal. Hopefully, this slightly increased level of talent would make the game better all-around.

I think that these three large changes combined with some smaller deviations will help the market regulate itself. It would make sense that if the teams can't pay players the money demanded, then they shouldn't pay it. Oftentimes, even though it may not seem like it at the time, letting a guy go and going with a much lower paid player will end up being beneficial to the team on the ice. So many people underestimate the player equality in the NHL. We have high-profile players who get paid a ton but are defensive liabilities. When it really comes down to it, a lot of those lower paid guys are more responsible for a team's winning than the big-name guys. Assume that player X will score 35 goals, have 80pts and be a defensive liability and player Y will score 20 goals, have 40pts and can lead a team in +/-, who is more valuable? That's debatable, but with the way owners are valuing players right now, player X may want 8 million per year and player Y may want 2.5 million per year. If player X isn't going to bring in more than 5.5 million in additional revenues and they are both equally beneficial in a team's performance on the ice, it would make sense for teams to go with player Y...but teams except for pretty much the New Jersey Devils (who have been a model of success) tend to go for player Y. With Edmonton as my 2nd favorite team, I wouldn't have minded if they let Salo go a few years back and gone out and tried to acquire a young goalie like Noronen or Miller, who would demand 3 million less. I'm betting either of those youngsters would have performed a heck of a lot better than Salo has since signing his big contract...and who knows, maybe then Lowe wouldn't have had to ship Niinimaa to the Isles. Same goes for Theodore vs. Garon...but does Theodore bring in 5 million more in revenues than Garon would?...that's a gamble that teams have to assess. If more teams took gambles like Anaheim did this offseason, the league would be a lot better IMO.

That all said, here's what I think could have the largest impact on the state of the NHL. If there's anything the league can do to strengthen its bargaining position, it would be to have a system similar to the NHLPA Agent Certification Program. When you have experienced lawyers like Ritch Winter and Don Meehan facing off in negotiations with guys like Kevin Lowe or Andre Savard, who have little negotiating or legal experience, the agents have an obvious advantage that will result in a player likely getting more than he's worth on the market. I'm suggesting that teams should keep their GMs, but make it more of a figurehead position, and then have the league certify a person or two on each team who is allowed to engage in contract negotiations. This person may be the GM, if he's qualified, or teams may have to designate or hire another person to carry out these duties. Something as simple as this could completely change the business environment in the NHL and make it a lot more stable IMO. I know most teams already do make sure they get sound advice before and during negotiations, but all you need is one team that doesn't comply, and it causes a whack of problems for the teams (i.e. Comrie's, Richards' contracts). If teams CONSISTENTLY used their leverage to the extent that the player representatives currently do, the salary structure in the NHL would be much different. The best way to prevent benchmarking based on "extraordinary" contracts is to have a program that regulates who is qualified to negotiate on behalf of an NHL team. However, the problem I see with this would be an increased amount of players demanding salary arbitration, so my suggestion would be that the players give up their arbitration rights in exchange for a decrease in the compensation that other teams would have to give up to sign an RFA.

I dunno...i'm just throwing thoughts out here left, right, and center...it's obviously a rant and not something i've thought out too systematically...so don't mind the grammar...hopefully I can find the time to develop a more organized, thought out CBA proposal sometime later this week, but for now this'll have to do.

very well said ..

finally someone who gets it !

dr

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11-09-2003, 10:06 AM
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rand
The problem being that the 23 best guys could conceivably play for Sather's team rather then Poile's.

If such became the norm across the NHL then I suspect the game is bound to lose fan support in the long run, as with few exceptions only the rich teams will ever compete for long.

Do we really want to watch a league in which we can practically lay out a teams performance by the cash the ownsership has?
It's not quite that bad yet, but it's bound to get there if the owners cannot contain their spending.
i dont think its possible that one team could have the top 23 players in the league. you think for instance, that kovalev would be happy as a 4th liner ?

i mean, someone of that 23 is going to have to play 5mins per game. and if they are playing 5mins per game, the team wont pay them superstar bucks.

reality takes care of the scenario you describe, this isnt SIM hockey

dr

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11-09-2003, 11:15 AM
  #19
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Originally Posted by Richard
I think we're all on a similar page here; the current CBA just needs to be tweaked.
This was a really interesting post but I do not think the owners are anywhere close to this. They want fundamental change.

Quote:
I'd like to see the RFA qualifying offers dropped to 80% so that teams don't have to offer pay increases to disappointing players who still have potential (i.e. Kilger).
I do think a change is required here, but I don't think you can allow a cut. There are too many players without any leverage. If a player enters the league with a three year deal in the $400,000 range, he can be offered a cut even if he does perform well. The real problem is the automatic compounding raises of 10% up to the ALS.

The qualifying offer should be last year's salary.

Quote:
This will save the teams money, but I think that the money saved will end up going back to RFAs, going to the guys who deserve pay increases (i.e. Gaborik). Paying the players who deserve to be paid well and being able to give paycuts to players who shat the bed...that's how it should be.
I don't think so. Gaborik is going to make a ton of money from hockey, but this CBA is structured so he is underpaid through the best part of his career. He will be overpaid later. This is what protects the small market teams in the NHL. Gaborik is a bargain and will be a bargain until his late 20's. He is affordable everywhere until then. After that, only winners (and the Rangers) will think he is worth what he will be paid.

The owners have to really hold the line with players like Gaborik and for the most part, they do. Even Brad Richards is reasonable. Three years from now his $4 million will be an arbitration benchmark, but there won't be very many players who will be able to convince an arbitrator they are as good as Brad Richards. And which team wouldn't be happy to pay a player that good $4 million in his prime?

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Also, I'd like to see the UFA age dropped to 29, giving the players a bit more mobility and increasing the supply of UFA players, potentially creating a more stable UFA market. With a lower UFA age, the demand for players who elect to become UFAs before they're 30 (i.e. Lapointe) won't be as high because there will be more players at a younger age on the UFA market. Basically, what I'm saying is that I think that if they lower the UFA age by one year, there will be more players out there on the market, and teams can be more selective when determining who gets the big bucks.
I disagree with this, too. The Martin LaPointes don't matter. There are not enough of them. They can be easily avoided. The only regular players who qualify for free agency before age 31 are guys who have been in the NHL for 10 years without making the league average salary. This applies to a very few players. They have to make the league very young and be underpaid for a long time.

There is no doubt that delaying free agency age to age 31 dramatically reduces the number of free agents on the market and blows the price of them through the roof. I think all players over 31 are vastly overpaid for their value. Not only are these players expensive, they are in decline. On average players lose 25% of their production after age 31.

These guys are only worth the money to teams that turn big revenues. It sounds silly, but it is actually a form of revenue sharing. A substantial chunk of the money the Blues are paying Doug Weight, for example, is retroactive payment for service Weight provided to the Edmonton Oilers.

I just did a quick count and about 35 of the top 50 salaries go to players who have been UFAs. It is easy - and smart - to keep payroll down unless you are turning big revenues. You simply don't hire expensive UFAs.

The Oilers did not let Doug Weight go. They let 75% of Doug Weight go and that isn't that hard to replace. They don't get any worse. The Blues didn't get any better either, which makes me wonder about their decision, not the Oiler's.

All the owners have to do to cut costs is to ignore the bidding wars. About 75% of Bobby Holik isn't worth $45 million to anybody, not even the New York Rangers. So why are they paying it? I don't know and I don't care.

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The best way to prevent benchmarking based on "extraordinary" contracts is to have a program that regulates who is qualified to negotiate on behalf of an NHL team. However, the problem I see with this would be an increased amount of players demanding salary arbitration, so my suggestion would be that the players give up their arbitration rights in exchange for a decrease in the compensation that other teams would have to give up to sign an RFA.
We want benchmarking. It provides a cap for each salary by age. It is the way teams and players sort out value. It is always a range. Some kind of arbitration system is required because the player's ability to move is so restricted.

The term "restricted free agent" has the emphasis on restricted and freedom is just another word for them. The problem is not that the compensation is too much. It's nothing. The problem is that because it is nothing, teams are forced to match. They always match.

If there was one incredibly stupid thing owners did under this CBA it was to deliver the RFA offers to Tkachuk, Sakic, Gratton, Ohlund, and Fedorov. All those things did is unnecessarily provide extraordinary contracts for arbitration.

The last RFA offer was in 1998. This CBA could go for another 100 years and we would not see another one. It is not collusion. The owners have individually stopped deciding to shoot themselves in the foot.

Tom

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