For a moment the other week, it looked like hockey would be back soon.
The NHL’s offer of a 50/50 split and a condensed 82 game schedule stunned the hockey world and offered hope that for all the posturing a deal to save the sport wasn’t terribly unreachable.
The sentiment lasted for perhaps half a day until details emerged that the NHL’s definition of 50/50 was built from a conservative definition of what money was being split, and the NHLPA’s counterproposals were quickly rejected and just like that we were back to square one.
It’s nice to see the framework of a 50/50 deal finally floating around but because the two sides can’t agree on the dollar figure that will be split, we’ve now lost November and the Winter Classic is hanging in the balance.
Any hopes for a quick and tidy settlement have been dashed and the panic button, by the side of any true Canucks fan, should be thoughtfully fingered right now. We’re in the abyss and who knows when or where the exit is.
In other words, it’s a good time to get invested in what should be a fantastic basketball season, invest in a Steve Nash Lakers jersey, and try to forget about hockey until it finally shows back up in your life one random blissful day.
For the players, lockouts are a weird thing.
For many, it’s akin to taking a year off and backpacking around Europe to get new experiences and find themselves or perhaps just stay at home and finally no longer have to TiVo Ellen. It can be fun if you let it.
Let’s look at some Canucks who are benefiting from the lockout which, like the infamous song, may never end.
1. Zack Kassian
The first round of the 2003 entry draft is lauded as one of the deepest ever, unless you’re a Rangers or Oilers fan. Most of that success can be traced back to the fact that the 2004 lockout forced the young talent to spend a year ripping up the AHL instead of trying to tread water in their first year in the big leagues. The confidence and experienced afforded to many of these players allowed them to step into the league a year later and kickstart their NHL careers.
Enter Zack Kassian.
If there was NHL hockey, Kassian would be up with the big club with a short leash and limited ice time. Instead, he’s beasting in the AHL right now, leading the Wolves in scoring and drawing the most praise of any player. He is, for lack of a better comparison, Bertuzzi-ing the competition.
He’s also fighting, something he refused to do last year in order to build his game as more than a grinding enforcer.
Get excited for when Kassian next suits up in a Canucks jersey, he should look nothing like the player that was scratched by the end of the playoffs last year.
2. Eddie Lack
Cory Schneider still hasn’t assumed the mantle of the Canucks number one goaltender due to the pesky fact Roberto Luongo is still hanging around and already Eddie Lack is ready to usurp, or possibly uslurp him, as the man between the pipes.
Between his stellar play and breakout interviews with Wyatt Arndtt’s fake season, Lack has a leg up on the other two Canucks goalies simply by being able to play hockey this fall. Luongo’s maintained a strong social media presence that may just turn perception on him, allowing Schneider to be forgotten goalie like a…step-child of dubious hair colour.
3/4. Jason Garrison/Ryan Kesler
Because the NHL is seemingly built on contract loopholes, those players that are injured during the lockout are still receiving their full pay.
It also takes the pressure off both the players and the team to endure the start of the season without them in the lineup. Both have something to prove when they next step on the ice; Garrison that he’s worth the money thrown at him and Kesler that he’s ready to be an effective player again and shed the diving label.
Neither would have helped by overcoming the rust of injuries off the bat in October or November.
Instead, they’ll rehab nice and easy all the while collecting some bonus money their teammates aren’t.
5. Roberto Luongo
The summer dragged on with no real movement on the Roberto Luongo situation as he proved to be a difficult asset to deal. He has value, but when you factor in his double-edged contract and double-edged playoff performances it was difficult to peg.
So the lockout not only gives Mike Gillis more time to negotiate what may be his greatest test as General Manager of the Canucks but also has the ability to change the dynamics of the deal.
Under the NHL proposal tabled the other week, all contracts longer than five years will have the cap hit applied to the team regardless if the player is still playing.
If the player is traded so is his cap hit, but if he retires the hit reverts back to his original team.
It means that if Luongo leaves Vancouver and retires years later that $5.3mill cap hit is sticking on Vancouver and not where ever Luongo ends up.
Is this a good thing? It does grease the wheels for a Luongo trade as it lessens the burden of the team taking him on and certainly it’s a winning proposition for Luongo.
For the Canucks, it could strengthen the return but if Luongo doesn’t run out that entire contract the Canucks will be eating a lot of salary for a retired player who hasn’t been on the roster in years.
Does Luongo owe the Canucks to honour the entire contract if he gets traded?
Of course not, which makes it a ticking time bomb.