July 14, 2011

Fischler Report: Down the road, Fehr should be feared

by Stan Fischler

Donald Fehr (photo: Getty)

If you’re a hockey fan, you should fear Donald Fehr.

A lot.

There’s still plenty of time before serious discussions begin about the next collective bargaining agreement.

Nevertheless, many observers already are pitching in with their comments. One of them is Pittsburgh critic John Steigerwald of the Observer-Reporter. He offers this chilling view:

“(Fehr) is the guy who gave you what is now Major League Baseball. Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the full cooperation of the Idiots Who Run Baseball. Now, he is the head of the NHLPA.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement runs out in September of 2012. Here’s what Fehr said about the salary cap:

“In my judgment, the linchpin of the labor peace you’ve had in baseball for a very long time is in fact the revenue-sharing agreement. There is no ‘cap’ in baseball, but it’s the revenue sharing agreement that made it work.”

That’s why there is nothing to fear but Fehr himself.

The revenue sharing agreement brought labor peace because the large market teams were able to buy off the mid- and small-market teams just enough to keep them happy, while the big-market teams continued to make large profits and maintain their ridiculous competitive advantage.

MLB teams are making money. If the small and medium markets were losing money the way the NHL’s small and medium markets were losing money before the 2004 lockout, the small and medium markets would have held out for a salary cap.

The NHL has several low-revenue teams which are struggling to maintain the salary floor while still making a profit. They are vulnerable to be bought off by the NHL large market/high revenue teams the way baseball’s little guys were bought off.

And you had better believe that Fehr knows it.

I know it’s possible, but I just can not picture Fehr announcing that he had just negotiated a deal that includes a salary cap.

Observations

* Brad Richards’ arrival on Seventh Avenue means that he automatically becomes a contender for the vacant Rangers’ captaincy. That doesn’t mean he’ll get it, since some media types favor Ryan Callahan for the ‘C.’

Coincidentally, the other two metropolitan teams also have captaincy issues. With Doug Weight gone from the Islanders’ playing roster, GM Garth Snow (Wrentham, Mass.) and coach Jack Capuano (Cranston, R.I.) will have to find a replacement. The frontrunners – Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit – carry excellent credentials.

Meanwhile, in Newark, GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.) – still coach-less – has a choice among Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias.

Gossip

* Now that former Boston College star Marty Reasoner has moved on to Uniondale, N.Y., the Islanders have one of the best penalty-killing combos with the Frans Nielsen-Reasoner unit. …

* Tomas Kaberle’s underwhelming performance as a Bruin was perplexing, to say the least. What might have been the Curious Case of Mr. Kaberle? The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa has some answers:

“First, he got too comfortable in Boston. Having been a Leaf for 12 seasons – where he hadn’t made the playoffs for six years – he couldn’t make the jump, physically or mentally.

Secondly, he’s a sensitive man. And when the power play staggered out of the gate, Kaberle was the target of the blame.”

In any case, Kaberle has departed Boston since the Cup victory. He will continue his career in Raleigh, where former Toronto coach Paul Maurice is the man in charge of hr Hurricanes.

* Sports is a business, even amongst teammates. When Richards signed on with the Rangers he wanted his old No. 19 – worn by teammate Ruslan Fedotenko – back on his sweater. Contrary to what’s commonplace in sports, Fedotenko parted with his digits without charging Richards a premium.

“We’re teammates,” explained Fedotenko. “What would I gain from asking him to buy the

number from me? I don’t want to pay him $500 every time he assists on one of my goals.”

* A year ago, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks were in the process of unloading 10 – count 'em, 10 – players from their Cup-winning roster to meet salary cap demands. The Bruins, by contrast, have only lost a pair from their Cup club: Michael Ryder, now with Dallas, and Kaberle.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.