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SBD/January 18, 2013/NHL Season Preview
After Four-Month Lockout, Many Questions Remain Heading Into Start Of NHL Season
Published January 18, 2013
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE DEAL: TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the NHL and NHLPA have "come to an agreement on players being forced to stay home for salary cap reasons this season." Teams now are "eligible to exercise an 'accelerated compliance buyout' on one player with a new salary cap hit of $3 million or more before the regular season beings on Saturday." TSN's Bob McKenzie reported in order for a player "to be bought out this week, he still must clear waivers first" (TSN.ca, 1/15). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Damien Cox reported NHL owners last week, after ratifying the new CBA, also "unilaterally decided to improve a special benefit program for former players 65 and over by 50 per cent." The NHL will increase to $3M its "annual contribution to the Senior Player Benefit," up from $2M. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "Our board enthusiastically agreed that it was the right thing to do. These are the people who helped make the game as big as it is today. We are all in their debt." Cox noted as of Monday, the NHLPA, which "improved pension benefits for current players in the new CBA, had not committed to increasing its contribution" to the Senior Player Benefit to $3M annually (TORONTO STAR, 1/15).
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: SI's Michael Farber writes the shortened '12-13 season "would have been a natural timeline" for expanding the NHL playoffs. The league could have "boosted playoff participation from 16 teams to 20." The concept "works like this: The first six teams in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. The teams that finish seventh through 10th in the conference meet in a one-game playoff, televised doubleheaders guaranteed to resonate." A 20-team playoff "at least honors actual tradition." From '42-67, the "hallowed Original Six era, four teams qualified for the playoffs, the same two-thirds ratio that would exist under an expanded post-season format in a 30-team league." But mostly it would "be a reward to fans, who adore playoffs as much as they loathe lockouts" (SI, 1/21 issue). In Ottawa, Ian Mendes wrote the NHL's lottery system "has done nothing to eliminate the culture of tanking in the league." The NHL had "a chance to change this perpetual cycle of rewarding losers" in its latest CBA. Instead, the league decided the "only change necessary to the draft lottery was to allow all 14 non-playoff teams to have a shot at the first overall pick." The fix to "the tanking problem in the NHL is simple, and it's called the Points After Elimination system." After a team is "mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they start trying to gain as many points as possible." The team with the "most points after elimination would be awarded the first overall pick" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/17).