But lately I've been thinking that something this bold should have been brought to the table much, much sooner to give it any real chance of gaining traction -- and remember, the timing of the talks has been at the discretion of the union. I get what Donald Fehr was trying to do while familiarizing himself with the game, the issues and most importantly, the players, but that 18-month process killed too much time.
Gary Bettman has said repeatedly over the years that the new CBA "worked for everybody." He bragged over and over how much money the league was raking in. Now, he's in the unfortunate position of trying to plead poverty again on behalf of his owners. He's a smart man -- he must know down deep how foolish he's looking. Anybody who wants to Google my name and Bettman's will find positive stories I've written about some of the things he's done for the game. But this time? He's in the losing corner, and I suspect he knows it. Talking about things like airplane fuel and -- oh, this will haunt him big-time -- the cost of team massage therapists as reasons why teams need a financial lift from the players, all of whom were signed to contracts that the OWNERS AGREED TO. I think the players are going to roll the owners and Bettman in this one, I really do.
Speaking of things I don't see happening, did you catch Bettman's reaction when he was asked about the players possibly putting the cap on the table? Say what you want about his oily speaking manner, but I don't think I've ever seen the man visibly caught off guard. Might have been the only smile of the day.
I see the endgame being the players agreeing to a deal that lessens their percentage over time, with the hope that, say, 50 percent of revenue by 2017 could be worth more in hard dollars than 57 percent of the existing $3.3 billion. If revenues are $4 billion in 2017 and the players' share is "only" 50 percent, they'll still take in nearly $200 million more in total dollars. And they'll have more incentive to grow the game over the term of those years. The players will always be the best vehicle to grow revenues. They're the people fans come to see -- not Jeremy Jacobs sitting up in his walled-off suite sipping a wine spritzer.
And Fehr is an expert at rallying players to a cause. The players fell apart under Goodenow last time because they knew in their hearts they were overpaid, and he started to become too cloistered from the meat-and-potatoes core of his constituency. Not the case with Fehr, who really has reached out to the players and gotten them to want to fight for him. That's a HUGE difference. I get the absolute sense that the owners are nowhere near as unified as the last time, and someone is going to crack come December or so.
OK, so how about we close with a lightning round. Ready? If this thing ends with a major union victory, does Bettman clear out his desk?
OK, last one: P.K. Subban. Lots of rumors swirling about talks between the Habs and Flyers and maybe one other team. Any chance that Marc Bergevin cuts ties with his most exciting player once we have a new CBA in place?