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What We Learned: Maybe owners aren’t serious about concussions

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

A little-talked-about thing that will start gaining a bit of prominence: The current collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the Players' Association will run out next summer.

And what better time than that? After all, the League says it wants to get serious about protecting guys from head trauma, and do more to help those who have suffered from related problems as their careers wear on or even end. So with the CBA up, both the NHL and the PA should be able to hammer out some really profound changes that will help to make sure these guys can take care of themselves and their famil…

Oh, what's that? The two big sticking points on the horizon are the salary cap floor and the fact that all NHL contracts are guaranteed? And the owners want to eliminate both of those things?

Awesome. Way to get serious, guys.

(Coming Up: Jay Feaster's Edmonton smack talk; Minnesota fat camp; Byfuglien commands respect; Columbus looks at life without NHL; Tim Thomas may just keep the Stanley Cup; Tyler Ennis's big potential; can the Ducks overcome depth issues?; Bob Miller still king of the booth; Jonathan Huberdeau's future; Datsyuk love; Islanders tattoos; Luke Schenn update; and a terrible trade involving Jason Spezza and Drew Doughty.)

The elimination of the salary floor seems to at least make sense somewhat, since several teams around the league are losing money, and some are even doing so at absurd rates. But we've also seen in other major professional sports around North America that the teams that claim to be losing money are using some very creative accounting to make profits look like losses. And if it happens in the NBA (which is currently in an owner-imposed work stoppage) and the NFL (which just came out of its own lockout), then it would be naïve to assume that the same isn't happening in the NHL.

Such a move would eliminate certain protections players have in the league that currently help them to procure salaries commensurate to their on-ice abilities, and a League in which players start making less, on average, isn't good for the quality of the product. More to the point, it would almost certainly lead to more marginal players taking more money in the KHL.

And we've all seen how concerned that particular league is with the health of its players (hint: it's not). There, the most basic concussion detection measures, even the ones we deride here as being wholly ineffective, are not likely to exist, now or ever. The KHL's idea of a quiet room likely went out with the KGB.

But the far, far more worrying thing is that the owners want to eliminate guaranteed contracts.

Boy that just sounds like a great idea given all the lip service the league is now giving to Protecting The Players, doesn't it? That way guys who pick up career-ending injuries — like Marc Savard, just to choose a name completely at random — will be… hmm, how best to put this? Boned.

It's not that it's difficult to understand from an ownership perspective. The Bruins signed Savard to a big, long deal right before he picked up what essentially turned out to be a career-ending injury. After inking the seven-year, $28.05 million contract, he played just 54 more regular-season games in Black and Gold. And the Bruins still have to cut him those checks as long as he doesn't formally retire. Which, of course, he won't. And while insurance will cover that money, that's apparently neither here nor there.

(And this is to say nothing of guys teams want to get off the books because they simply made a bad decision in signing someone, as that type of player is far more common around the league.)

It's a good thing that the players are ready to dig their heels in over this, because if they allow themselves to be pushed around like they did in the last round of CBA negotiations, they're setting themselves and their successors up for some seriously bad times.

Frankly, if the League wants to be seen as serious about helping players who have to retire due to head trauma, then eliminating guaranteed contracts is hardly the way to do it. In fact, it's almost offensive that they would say the types of things they've said after this awful summer, while still working to eliminate guaranteed deals.

The recent NHL and NHLPA joint release on player deaths reads:

"We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare."

If it's being truthful about helping players, it should work in earnest to do so. If it's not, it's being the worst kind of hypocritical and cynical.

Getting rid of guaranteed contracts is tantamount to putting the bottom line ahead of the wellbeing of employees. It's really that simple.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks have top-flight talent. No disputing that. Of course, the real question is whether that's enough to overcome the fact that they're about as deep as a puddle. And the real answer is obviously not.

Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas brought the Stanley Cup to Burlington, Vt. this weekend. Which is interesting because he also had it at that bridge thing in his hometown, right? Why does Thomas get two days with the Stanley Cup? Is that the bonus for winning the Conn Smythe?

Buffalo Sabres: Tiny little Tyler Ennis is proof you don't need to be big in the NHL to be effective. And this interview would have been with Nathan Gerbe but no one can see him with the naked eye.

Calgary Flames: Jay Feaster on rebuilding: "I'm sorry - Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year?" Yes, right. They're being really bad and then getting all these good players like in the draft and by selling off useful players for prospects. That's how these things work. Wow!

Carolina Hurricanes: Several promising Hurricanes prospects want to follow Jeff Skinner's lead this year, but that brings one to wonder if they're going to divide the Calder three ways.

Chicago Blackhawks: Apparently eight guys (Jamal Mayers, Rostislav Olesz, Daniel Carcillo, John Scott, Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith, Brett McLean and Brandon Segal) are fighting for three fourth-line spots. Guess what, the first three guys on this list are almost certainly going to get them, with Scott as a regular healthy scratch the team carries for enforcer duties. Hope this has helped.

Colorado Avalanche: Will Tyson Barrie crack the Avs lineup this year? "To be successful at camp, I have to play my game," he said. Well he's already talking like an NHLer.

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Columbus Blue Jackets: The city of Columbus is already thinking about what business will be like in the aptly named Arena District if the Blue Jackets leave town. Now there's a healthy hockey market.

Dallas Stars: The Stars could be even closer to getting sold than we thought. The process is currently expected to be wrapped up around Christmas, just a few weeks before the team will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Pavel Datsyuk has great hands, reports everyone ever connected with the NHL in any even remotely tangible way. I just wish more people would talk about how great he is. So little respect.

Edmonton Oilers: Eric Belanger wants some stability with the Oilers. Which is good because they're going to spend the entire season firmly in last place.

Florida Panthers: Will Jonathan Huberdeau crack the Panthers lineup this season? Well, since they signed about half the NHL, I'm not sure he can, or if it's in his best interest to do so, to be honest.

Los Angeles Kings: Bob Miller, the play by play voice of the Los Angeles Kings, will be back once again, having recently signed a contract for the next two seasons. He's been with them for 40 years.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild will have to be careful not to put on weight this summer because new coach Mike Yeo runs a "fat camp" for those who come in out of shape. This includes more work, a special diet and a T-shirt that says "Blob." Bad news for Dany Heatley.

Montreal Canadiens: How will Yannick Weber be able to contribute to your fantasy team? Well, if you're drafting a defenseman like Yannick Weber in your draft, it's either insanely deep or you're terrible at fantasy hockey. Either way, he's not going to help much.

Nashville Predators: Yesterday was Wade Belak's funeral and this is all still remarkably sad and terrible.

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New Jersey Devils: Neal Broten is the Devils' best-ever midseason acquisition? Broten played 88 games over three seasons for the Devs and they won a Cup after they picked him up in 1995. But hey umm.. didn't Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the best players of his generation, just sign with them for like 15 years after they acquired him midseason? Did I dream that?

New York Islanders: The Islanders signed some tattoo shop as the team's official one over the weekend. Thinking of getting one? You can go ahead and get one that says, "This team is awful," because it probably will be forever.

New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist recently talked about the fashion industry with the Wall Street Journal but for some reason he doesn't get made fun of like Sean Avery.

Ottawa Senators: By letting fans know the Senators would be rebuilding, the organization adequately prepared everyone for what's shaping up to be a horrendous 2011-12 season. And by "the organization," I mean the on-ice product over the last two years.

Philadelphia Flyers: Max Talbot is ready to be on the Philadelphia side of the Flyers/Pens rivalry, and who wouldn't be? It means he won't be pelted with D-cells every game. Unless he has a subpar season.

Phoenix Coyotes: Hey that whole court battle over the Coyotes? Cost Glendale $5.7 million in legal fees. That's a little more than $25 per resident. You could probably just get a ticket for less than that.

Pittsburgh Penguins: James Neal has his sites set on scoring 30 goals this year, and has been training with Gary Roberts to make it happen. That's just like the new thing to do after the Stamkos sophomore goal explosion, isn't it?

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks core is changing slowly but surely as older players get muscled out, but what people should be asking is what they do when they can't replace Joe Thornton.

St. Louis Blues: There's probably going to be a bit of a fight for depth spots at St. Louis camp this year, but this difference between theirs and most teams is that some of the young guys probably have a pretty good chance of winning.

Tampa Bay Lightning: A few months ago, Steve Yzerman urged everyone on the Bolts to start wearing a visor this season. How many guys do you think will switch? None? I guess none.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke is optimistic that he'll probably re-sign Luke Schenn by the time training camp starts. Which is good news because if the deal doesn't get made, Leafs fans will have a very convenient excuse for why James Reimer is regressing so hard.

Vancouver Canucks: Marco Sturm wants to prove he can score for the Canucks this year. And after he had so much success doing it for the Capitals and Kings last year, who's to question him?

Washington Capitals: Oh hey a Russian guy in the Caps organization signed with a KHL team, but the good news is there are thousands of others ready to take his place.

Winnipeg Jets: Despite his recent arrest, it's expected that Dustin Byfuglien will "command respect" in the dressing room this year. Because if teammates don't give it to him, he will take them out on Khetanna and throw them into a sarlacc pit.

Gold Star Award

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I would like to thank the Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway for being presented by Amway. This will literally be funny forever.

Talk about embarrassing.

Minus of the Weekend

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Winner for "Least Sensitive Headline" this week was an easy one.

"Enforcers a dying breed - literally." Yeesh.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
This was the first post in the forum when I checked in, and user "Monarchist" made my job extremely easy:

to OTT:

Doughty
Hickey
Morrisonn or other $ from Buffalo

to LAK:

Vanek
Rundblad
Picks?

to BUF:

Spezza
Foligno

So great.

Signoff

In fact, your right fielder has been dead for 130 years.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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