All Habs Faceoff: Galchenyuk, KHL, Lockout Issues are Debated

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After a brief hiatus, we are pleased to welcome Faceoff back to the pages of All Habs Hockey Magazine.  Faceoff is a regular feature featuring All Habs writers going head-to-head sharing their opinions on a variety of issues.  This week Chantal and Steve tackle the NHL lockout, the KHL and Alex Galchenyuk.

Do they agree? Do you agree with Chantal or Steve? Read, enjoy and don’t forget to leave your comments.

 

 

By Chantal, Managing Editor and Steve Farnham, Associate Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LONGUEUIL, QC. — Rarely does the majority of the hockey community become one on any given subject however at the moment, you would have truck loads of trouble finding any true hockey fan who is genuinely hoping for this NHL lockout to continue. Right now, nobody is winning; everyone is losing; owners, players and fans alike, not to mention those affected via the domino effect that this lockout has now caused.

No matter which camp we belong to, we find ourselves in a position where we can only hope that both parties, through serious negotiations find a way to inch closer to each other and reach an agreement sooner rather than later.

For now, we are left to fill the void elsewhere but NHL hockey remains very much on our minds. There’s no staying away from the ice cold game we love and many of us find ourselves talking very much about it on a daily basis, even if it isn’t there for us to watch.

Five topics held our attention this weekend — Chantal and I will discuss them with you here.

1.  NHL players temporarily playing in other hockey leagues

Steve: I understand the sentiment that some people have with regards to NHL players going off to play in other leagues, and how in the process they are stealing jobs from players who would otherwise be filling those positions.

I do however also understand that hockey players have to play hockey games in order to remain competitive and be at the top of their game, whenever the NHL resumes.

You could argue that players could find other ways to stay in shape and play hockey, perhaps following the example of Max Talbot and Bruno Gervais, who have organized La Tournée des Joueurs (aka The Players Tour), a series of hockey games featuring NHL players playing in Quebec minor-league arenas, where all proceeds are donated to local charities.

On the opposite side of the coin, I strongly believe that playing in a competitive league like the KHL for example is a much better alternative, allowing players to play high caliber hockey rather than play what is very much a garage-league, pick-up style hockey game.

This doesn’t mean that La Tournée des Joueurs is not a great and honorable initiative, just that players seeking other, less popular alternatives might have an advantage.


Chantal: Agree. While initiatives like La Tournée des Joueurs are a fine alternative for some players, and fans, these guys are professional athletes who thrive in a more competitive atmosphere. Goalies get to face NHL caliber shots in these friendly, non-contact games, but they might not be the ideal setting for everyone to maintain timing and mental sharpness.

Some will argue that players flying overseas is some sort of treason to their NHLPA colleagues, or that they just sell out for the money. I beg to differ. Habs Tomas Plekanec signed a contract that will earn him a nickel back home. Guys getting jobs elsewhere while locked out is not a sign that the Player’s Association isn’t united, or solidary, it’s just guys wanting to play hockey.

These players, providing they remain injury free, will be game ready when this lockout comes to an end.

2.  Markov playing in the KHL

Chantal: As was announced last week, Montreal Canadiens Andrei Markov finalized a contract agreement with Vityaz Chekhov of the KHL. Along with that announcement came criticism, question marks, and fear.

Markov has played a very limited number of games in the past few seasons, and I can understand his desire to play. I don’t believe he’s any more at risk of getting injured there as he would be here.

More importantly, for him, I think it’s essential that he plays after going through such a long and complicated rehabilitation in the last few years. It must be a huge mental battle for an athlete, trying to stay motivated while being sidelined from the game and his teammates for such a long period of time, suffering setback after setback. If he feels this is best for him, the more power to him. Go play.


Steve: Is it going to take a discussion on your use of a Blackberry and Internet Explorer for us to disagree? So far, I agree on all counts.

If Andrei Markov were still injured and not 100 per cent, it would be a different story but if a player is healthy and has been medically cleared to play, I see no reason he shouldn’t be playing hockey.

Just as you mentioned, Markov hasn’t played much competitive hockey in the past few years with his injuries and all, it’s therefor critical that he plays hockey games, in order to regain his hockey senses and hand-eye coordination, amongst other things.

For those who fear he could get injured, he could just as well get injured while training off-ice at the gym, walking his dog or washing the dishes. He needs to play.

3.  The NHL needs to listen to its fans

Steve: Many hockey fans believe that the NHL needs to listen to them and put pressure on themselves to get a deal done quickly for the sake of the fans, or at least that’s my understanding of it.

I can’t help but to believe that hockey fans are somewhat inconsequential at the moment. This doesn’t mean they aren’t important, the league and its owners need fans to generate revenue however the discussion isn’t about the fans, it’s about the billions of dollars in revenue that the NHL generates and how it should be split between its owners and players.

Fans can threaten to boycott and walk away from the game all they want, however they are victim of the boy who cried wolf syndrome. Remember the story of the little boy who repeatedly cried wolf, and when people came to his rescue, realized they had been fooled? The story ends with the boy encountering an actual wolf, but after crying for help, nobody comes to his rescue, not wanting to be fooled again.

Hockey fans represent the boy who cried wolf. In the last lockout which lasted an entire season, fans threatened to walk away but only to come back in greater numbers, allowing the league to generate an average increase of seven per cent in revenue every year since the last lockout. Walk away from the game? I don’t believe those who utter these words and the league doesn’t appear too concerned either.


Chantal: Disagree. Although I concede that the NHL doesn’t need to nor will listen to the fans this time around, I do believe that ultimately, fans do have the power.

You are correct when you say that fans have no leverage in this conflict. They can start as many petitions and protests as they want, try to mobilize through social media and flood Gary Bettman’s email, it won’t change a thing. At this time.

When this lockout does come to an end, that’s when fans will have a voice. And they could make it a strong one. Don’t buy tickets. Don’t buy merchandise. Don’t give them that much money to fight over next time. Asking fans to give up a passion is utopic, but you can enjoy the games at home with friends, wear your old jerseys and cuddle under your raggedy team blankie and maybe, just maybe, the league won’t be as eager to lock you all out again in five or six years.

Let’s see if the level of anger felt now will be maintained once this deal is done. If not, then yes, fans will be the boy who cried wolf. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…

4.  Players threatening or hinting to stay in the KHL post-lockout, serious or bluff?

Chantal: The always true-to-himself Ilya Bryzgalov said this week that he thinks some Russian players may not return to the National Hockey League when the lockout finally ends. “The KHL can’t feed all the players, but for some big players – especially those with Russian passports – it might be a threat,” said the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender.

His reasoning is that Russian-born players could play in front of their own fans and family, while earning more money than they currently do in the NHL.

Sure. If you’re a Superstar. Maybe. Otherwise, this seems like a very empty threat to me. A lot of Russian players came to the NHL because, in their own words, it’s the best league in the world, the most competitive. I understand the player’s frustration in these negotiations, but i don’t think declarations such as this one will help the process one way or another, and I highly doubt that once this conflict is resolved, the NHL finds itself Ovechkin and Kovalchuk-free. I call bluff.


Steve: Agreed for the most part. Although I do potentially see a scenario where some players would decide to stay overseas to finish off their careers, I can’t imagine this happening with any of the big name players.

There’s a reason why Jaromir Jagr decided to leave the KHL to the come back to the NHL. It wasn’t just money that drove his decision, players strive to play in the most competitive hockey league in the world, and to play against the best hockey players in the world. They want to demonstrate that they are amongst the best, and you can only do that by playing in the NHL. Sorry KHL.

So with regards to the handful of players who have come out to either threaten or hint to the possibility of staying in the KHL post-lockout, it appears to me as a simple negotiation tactic to put pressure on the owners, in hopes of having them fold and compromise further on their demands.

Will it work? So far, doesn’t look like it has.

5.  Should Alex Galchenyuk be a serious consideration to start the season in Montreal?
(If there is a season)

Steve: When Alex Galchenyuk was drafted to Montreal this summer, fans and media were almost unanimous in saying that the young player needed another season in the juniors, especially following last season where an injury caused him to miss all but eight games with the Sarnia Sting, including the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs.

Like it happens many times, I was the black sheep, or contrarian as @All_Habs would say, in stating that no matter how little games he had played last season, with what we had heard about his conditioning at the combines, he should be given his chance just like everybody else.

Now, with six games played with the Sting, Galchenyuk has nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) including six points in his last two games. Although I haven’t actually seen the games myself, the scoresheet seems to indicate that Galchenyuk hasn’t missed a beat from his 2010-11 season also with the Sting, where he picked up 83 points (31 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games.

Although I understand the arguments that with the little amount of games he’s played in the last year, a full NHL season would be hard on his conditioning, especially towards the second half of the season, however we’re now almost certainly looking at a reduced NHL schedule, if we’re going to have any schedule at all.

I only ask that if and when this training camp begins, that people don’t go into it with the preconception that he must play the entire season in the juniors, no matter how he performs at camp. If the kid can bring it, let him bring it. The Habs need it.


Chantal: Galchenyuk is oozing with talent, offensive talent, something I will agree Habs desperately need, but, I still think a full season in the juniors is the best way to go. As stated, he didn’t play much last year, he’s still developing, and I would rather have him eating up minutes in the OHL, dominating the league, than have him play limited minutes in Montreal.

If history has taught us anything, especially here in the Mecca, is that promoting a kid to the big league too fast can cause more harm than good. I still believe Carey Price was called upon too soon. You may also recall the whole Gui Gui Gui Latendresse fiasco.

With new management from top to bottom this year, it’s hard to predict which way they’ll go with this. GM Marc Bergevin has repeated many times that he has no problem letting Alex play in the OHL one more season. And who knows what new coach Michel Therrien plans to do with his roster as far as line combinations go.

The kid is thriving down there, to quote you: He’s bringing it. Let him bring it, there.


Faceoff: Chantal vs. Steve

 Chantal

60%

40% 

 Steve


Topics Debated (5)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hey guys! Just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed reading your article :)

    PS. Chantal, you still use Internet Explorer!?!?? haha ;)

Comments are closed.