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Rob Rossi chat transcript: Oct. 24, 2012

| Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, 3:14 p.m.

Rob Rossi: OK, dear readers, chat No. 2 is up and running. In case you missed the latest on the NHL lockout front, give this a read .

Chris s.: is it just me or does it seem like last weeks nhl cba proposal was just for publicity? i'm thinking that more and more as i see news that the nhlpa tried to schedule talks for today and the nhl rejected that. doesn't seem like they want to negotiate seems like they are a two year old stomping there feet because they didn't get there way.

Rob Rossi: Well, Chris, both sides still want to negotiate only off their own proposals. Though, they're both at least talking 50/50 in revenue split and guaranteeing current contracts. So, there has been progress. Can't say that I blame one side more than another on this, but we are to the point where the entire saga seems sad.

cullen: Would the league be willing to extend the season into late June or July to fit in a full season?

Rob Rossi: NHL has no interest in playing game in July. The Cup Final would be more widely viewed if it was played in May, but that cat is out of the bag and has been for a while. There is a point that 82 games cannot be played because the league season ends -- at least it did on the last CBA -- the last day of June and begins first day of July. Those dates could change, but not so that hockey stretches into July.

Scooter: This "non" negotiating between the NHL and the NHLPA just shows no urgency to play a season costing everyone money. Sad to see this, and sad to see no hockey this year.

Rob Rossi: Scooter, don't give up hope. The smart money remains on hockey being played this season, and nobody should rule out 82 games yet. Nothing that has transpired this week should surprise anybody with the possible exception of confirmation that owners/GMs and players were authorized to speak last week. That seemed to catch a lot of folks off guard. Rob, From my point of view as a fan it seems like both sides are too busy focusing on the PR war and throwing demands at each other. The worst part is, we all know that's not how negotiating works! I suppose the "million dollar question" is If both the NHL/NHLPA truly want to end the lockout, then why don't they sit in a room together for two straight days with appropriate representation for both sides along with a mediator to hash out a deal? That seems like the logical way to end a lockout, doesn't it?

Rob Rossi: Neither side favors a mediator because a mediator takes it out of the hands of both parties. The best way to get this deal done is for Gary Bettman/Bill Daly and Don and Steve Fehr to hole up in a room at an undisclosed location, and just hammer out the new CBA. That said, expect the mediator angle to be the media's next big talking point.

Adam: Rob, as an outside observer, I look at a lot of the key figures speaking on behalf of the NHLPA in the media (Crosby, Toews, Eric Staal) and see many similar traits. Notably, they're extremely young, never went to college because they turned professional, and grew up in Canada playing hockey where they probably were isolated from the opportunity to follow other sports (or their labor disputes). I look at some of the comments coming from these players (mainly Sid) and think to myself, "what in the world could they know about labor negotiations?" Now, I'm not saying either side of this dispute is right or wrong, but to what degree do you believe this a lot of this is based on the Fehr brothers recognizing who exactly it is they're representing in terms of knowledge and experience, and perhaps preying on that to some extent?

Rob Rossi: A well-considered point, Adam. That said, having met Crosby, Toews and Staal, and knowing Crosby for 8 years now, I can say that anybody who questions his intelligence because he is not college educated greatly miscalculates him. Mario Lemieux did not attend college and has proven himself quite the businessman.

Now, are players experts in labor law? Nope. Neither are most owners. The two men leading this dispute -- Bettman and Don Fehr -- are smart, and despite what hockey fans believe, the most qualified men on this Earth to get this deal done. It will be them, not owners or players, ultimately figuring this out.

Mike Swartz: Hey Rob, assuming this week passes without an agreement, what are the percentage chances the season will be cancelled?

Rob Rossi: Mike, if there is no deal by Thursday you can expect at least 2 more weeks and more likely 4 more weeks to be bagged. Cannot envision the NHL cancelling 82 games until January at the earliest.

MJ: Do you think the owners have killed the positive PR they got from fans when they made their 50-50 offer after they "apparently" refused to meet this week?

Rob Rossi: MJ, nothing about last week was PR for owners. They released details of their offer so that players could read it for themselves. PR, and who wins that battle, will have no impact on settling this lockout.

Alex: How significant is the move of Islanders moving to Brooklyn? Hadn't the players said league was too weary of moving teams out of situations that limited revenue? This move certainly will improve revenues for the team/league.

Rob Rossi: Hey, Alex. The move of the Islanders to Brooklyn is significant in that they are leaving a loyal fans base behind, and there is no guarantee the new Barclays Center is anywhere close to ideal for an NHL team. Brooklyn went a long time between the Dodgers (MLB) leaving and another pro team (the NBA's Nets) arriving. I suspect there is a reason for that, but the Islanders probably had no better option because their arena situation is terrible, without future, and the NHL wants to keep open markets such as Seattle/Quebec City/Toronto for future expansion.

Geno: Are the players currently playing in the KHL legally allowed to stay there if they want to?

Rob Rossi: All these KHL players talking about staying in the KHL will be playing in the NHL, if an NHL team wants them, when the lockout ends. Especially the ones with contracts, such as Evgeni Malkin.

murph27: I keep hearing of the "NHL Owner hardliners"..... can you identify who you think are these "hardliners" ?

Rob Rossi: Gladly. Look at the clubs in Boston, Minneapolis, Calgary and Washington, and look REAL CLOSE at the club in Philadelphia. That said, despite what you may read elsewhere, there are no credible indications that a majority of clubs don't back Bettman's plan. In fact, him going to 50/50 with the last offer did not please a lot of owners who weren't hardliners.

Good questions so far. Keep 'em coming or I'll send Trib columnist Dejan Kovacevic to look into your employee training methods.

EvertonStonesFan: What will a cancelled season mean to Bettman's legacy and does he even care? Also, who do you like in the WPIAL soccer playoffs?

Rob Rossi: Everton! Stones! Happiness is a win in Sunday's Derby, floor seats to the London shows, and S.E. Cupp on my TV screen everyday at 3 p.m.

Wait, what was the question?

Oh, Bettman's legacy. A cancelled season is something he wants to avoid in the worst way. As for his legacy, I urge you to check out "The Instigator," Jonathon Gatehouse's great book about Bettman's impact on the NHL.

WPIAL soccer playoffs: Sorry, but I have a rooting interest with the South Park Eagles, at least in boy's soccer. One of my true best friends coaches that club, so as in EPL, I'm all blue, all the time.

Simply Ravishing: Do you think the NHL, NHLPA, or both are not entirely negotiating in good faith? Something just doesn't smell right from the recent evidence with the owners allowed to talk to players on the NHL side and Fehr seemingly trying to stall things as many see an eventual attempt table the cap. With the egos at work, it might be time for the NLRB or a third party mediator to be brought in. Bettman and the hardline owners and Fehr just can't be trusted.

Rob Rossi: What I need right now is for all these lowdown, knuckle-scraping, holed-socks wearing losers to shut their yappers and watch as...

Sorry, that was my take on Simply Ravishing.

Bettman and Fehr can be trusted by their respective sides. Maybe that is the problem?

Matt: Is Fehr holding strong to make the owners sweat the Bettman imposed deadline of thursday? any chance a deal is made over the weekend or in the final hour?

Rob Rossi: I wouldn't keep your weekend open for news of a deal, if that's what you are asking, Matt.

JamesinNYC: How about some hockey .... how are the Baby Pens doing any standouts?

Rob Rossi: What is this hockey of which you ask, James?

Ally: This is certainly damaging the outside world view of the league. I was in the process of organising a 3 game trip from Scotland with my wife to see the Pens in November - fortunately I had not committed to anything otherwise I would have been hugely out of pocket (non refundale air tickets etc). My main grouse though is that everyone knew the CBA was ending, so why was something not negotiated earlier to allow a regular season.

Rob Rossi: Ally, there is a lot about Pittsburgh you may find entertaining even without Penguins games. Mary Poppins was just here last week!

That said, no kidding, right? It's not like this end of the CBA caught anybody by surprise. I do wonder if serious talks may not have happened sooner had Paul Kelley not still be running the NHLPA, but that ship has sailed.

Reality is that Don Fehr is a genius when it comes to negotiations and he has played this card brilliantly so far. Gary Bettman knows what he is doing, too. Sadly, guys this smart made it unlikely that this season was ever starting on time.

dave: As an owner and former player, could Mario play a major role in getting a settlement?

Rob Rossi: Dave, nothing about Mario's history as a player or owner suggests he will get involved. He isn't the Penguins co-owner with a history of dealmaking. That is Ron Burkle, who knows unions better than most, but we're ways away from him getting into this mess.

Va Pens Fan: How late can they strike a deal and still play the Winter Classic?

Rob Rossi: So come on, come down, Sweet Virginia!

Good question about the Classic. I continue to hear from TV insiders that NBC is already exploring alternative options, which it probably has to given the circumstances.

Allow this: IF the union views the Classic as a hand to play, there should also be an expectation for Bettman to take it off the table.

Jordan: Did no one involved watch the coverage of the NFL lockout. No one has sympathy for either side. Get this deal done

Rob Rossi: Indeed, Jordan, the suggestion here is to sympathize with the local business owners taking big hits because of canceled games, and the NHL/team employees taking salary cuts and perhaps soon to lose their jobs, and the arena workers who depend on those paychecks, and, to a lesser extent, the loyal fans who live and breathe with this sport.

So if you meet them have some courtesy, show some sympathy, and some faith.

Keep the questions coming, dear readers. We'll do a lightning round in about 10 minutes.

Anybody have some suggestions for The Boss, who is in town Saturday?

Meeko Makkela: Would any of the latest proposals put the Penguins over the salary cap for this season? If so, would they have to release some players?

Rob Rossi: This is KIND OF a hockey question. Which is nice.

If the cap, as the NHL proposes, is at about $59 million this season, the Penguins would be about $3 million over, but hardly in the worst spot of an NHL club. (The Flyers, folks, will be in a hunka, hunka burning trouble.)

How the Penguins get under the cap will depend entirely on what a new CBA allows for buyouts and the like. The NHLPA will want to preserve those contracts, to be sure.

Rob: They can't have an all-star break and game at this point, can they?

Rob Rossi: An All-Star Game seems unlikely, Rob. Sorry to say for Columbus, one of the more underrated good-time cities in the NHL.

By the way, HUGE score for the Blue Jackets hiring John Davidson as president of hockey operations. Exactly what that franchise needed.

laynedivision11: You said silence was a good thing. Do you think the silence this week, which most people thought would be a busy one, will lead to a deal before tomorrow night?

Rob Rossi: Love, love, love it when somebody remembers what I said. Lord knows I don't, and sometimes wish I couldn't.

Yes, Layne, if that is your name (guessing), silence will be a great thing so long as it is because the sides are taking and not addressing the public as opposed to silence because talks have completely stopped.

My experience, based off covering the 2006-07 arena talks in Pittsburgh, is that the closer this gets to dealmaking time the less we in the media will know about what's happening. Right now we're not to that point, but that is the road I'd look to follow were I looking for signs.

Brian G: Are the NHL and NHLPA still posturing? At what point do they start to take this thing seriously?

Rob Rossi: Posturing is too strong, but they aren't really negotiating with one another. This is disappointing.

OK, a musing before the lightning round begins...

I have convinced myself that political pundit S.E. Cupp can save the NHL season. She is smart, funny, and knows how to use weapons. And she digs Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I've learned all of this since my knee surgery about a month ago. I spent the next week recovering and watching my favorite channel, MSNBC -- which is amazingly funny if you can cut through the political stuff -- and catching Miss Cupp on the 3 p.m. program. Cannot recommend this viewing enough.

Anyway, I am told she is a hockey fan. I'm using this forum to beg of her some help in getting the lockout and election settled by Nov. 7.

Now back to our regularly scheduled chat.

John: Penguiin question: Do you expect any rookies to make the team?

Rob Rossi: Simon Despres has a spot to lose on the blue line. Would really like to see him get a shot at playing with Kris Letang. Could be best skating D-pair in the division, maybe the East.

Brad, Indiana PA: Is there any chance we will be free of Paul Martin if the season is salvaged?

Rob Rossi: Penguins fans should not give up on Paul Martin yet. The suspicion here is that he will bounce back this season.

That said, pending the buyout options, and the Pens' cap situation -- a chance? Yes.

Jandy: Who do you expect to be paired with Sid for the first few games, at least?

Rob Rossi: I will be -- shocked is too strong -- surprised if Sidney Crosby is not flanked by Chris Kunitz to his left and Pascal Dupuis to his right when/if the Penguins return this season.

10 minutes (approximately) left, so let's get moving.

Chris in DC: How in God's name does it make sense for the owners to refuse to meet with the players? From a PR perspective it looks horrific for the owners. Even if nothing gets accomplished, we all know that no deal will ever be made if the two sides aren't actually talking.

Rob Rossi: I've wrecked many deals by continuing to talk when there was nothing really to talk about, Chris. Maybe we should think about that dynamic?

Guest: Let's pretend we play hockey this year. Is a glaring weakness going to be the point on the power play? Letang on one is fine, but other than that I just don't see who fills that void left by Sullivan unless say Morrow makes the team which has to be almost an impossibility. (i just wanted to remember what it was like to talk about actual hockey for a change)

Rob Rossi : Rule No. 1 of any future Penguins-related chat: At least one power-play question must be asked/addressed.I'll share some advice the great Eddie Johnston shared about a power-play point man. "Move the puck, shoot the puck. It's not that hard."

Now, finding a player confident enough to tell arguably hockey's two finest players -- Sid Crosby, Geno Malkin -- to get out of his way. Well, good luck with all of that, but the mentality and personality of Sergei Gonchar was not easy to replace, eh?

joe: with all the mometum hockey has gotten the past few years plus the huge deal on nbc, seems like they are shooting themselves in the foot and killing any gains they made

Rob Rossi: Tough to argue against that, Joe. But ask yourself this: If the 2013 Cup Final pairs a huge Canadian market (Vancouver) against either the biggest U.S. market (NY) or the biggest NHL draw (Crosby's Penguins), would anybody remember the lockout?

Didn't hear anybody griping about the NBA lockout, which cost 16 real games, last June when LeBron James' Heat and Kevin Durrant's Thunder were giving basketball fans a show.

Tory: What do you think of Sid's contribution to the whole lockout situation so far? Too much, too little, just right?

Rob Rossi: Sidney is in a REALLY tough spot. He, more than anybody, wants to play. He, more than anybody, has a unique relationship with his owner and tie to his club. He, more than anybody, is a face for the union. He, more than anybody, will bear the brunt of marketing when the NHL and NHLPA do make nice. He, more than anybody, wants to get this thing settled.

I don't envy Sidney Crosby in this situation. Not one bit.

Final minutes...

Rick: The Brooklyn Islanders just doesn't make any sense. Canada needs more teams, not New York.

Rob Rossi: Don't disagree, bud. That said, with the big financial impact of expansion fees, those Canadian markets should be preserved for new teams, not old ones. Plus, keeping the Islanders near their roots makes sense, even though I have long contended the NY-area market doesn't need 3 NHL teams.

Last question:

Kevin: If you are Malkin, what are you thoughts for your future contract and how the new CBA will affect it?

Rob Rossi: Nice one to end on, Kevin.

Malkin could be hurt big time by a new CBA if there is a max length on veteran contracts and if there are different cap considerations for teams.

That said, as I've been told, Penguins owners have instructed GM Ray Shero to keep Malkin at all costs. Knowing Geno a bit (wink, nod), I'm not sweating him staying in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.

A kindly thanks to everybody. This was fun, and easier on me than watching my beloved WVU football squad. (Sigh.) We'll do it again soon.

Until then: Help us, S.E. Cupp, you're our only hope!


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