BIGGEST LOSERS: LOCKOUT EDITION

Robin Brownlee
November 15 2012 10:22PM

At this point in the NHL lockout, it's ridiculous to contemplate an end to the work stoppage in terms of winners and losers because there's been so much damage done to both sides, the owners and the membership of the NHLPA – not to mention the fan base – already.

With so much quibbling about who gets what percentage of the take and what constitutes hockey related revenue -- when the sides are face-to-face at the bargaining table, which they aren’t right now -- the bottom line is hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue have already been lost. Those are dollars that won't be recouped by owners or players. They're gone.

To compound the dollars already out the door, there's also the matter of the people stuck in the middle, the fans, who have every right to flip a middle digit at Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, take their disposable income and entertainment dollars elsewhere and not come back even when hockey does. I suspect the percentage of fans who stay away this time will dwarf the numbers who turned their attention elsewhere after 2004-05.

Those are the big picture issues facing the entire NHL. On a smaller scale, when I look at the roster of the Edmonton Oilers, any NHL roster for that matter, I see players with more to lose than others should the entire 2012-13 season be scrubbed – and we aren't far off seeing that happen.

While I don't expect hockey fans stuck out in the cold yet again to be sympathetic when it comes to the NHLPA rank and file, there's no question some players will be hit harder than others if the entire season is lost. When it comes to the Oilers, five examples stand out for me.

RYAN SMYTH

Ryan Smyth's return to the Oilers via a trade with the Los Angeles Kings was supposed to be a feel-good story and he surprised critics who thought he was near the end of the line with a hot start to last season before running out of gas.

Smyth has the benefit of a new two-year contract, even allowing for the pay cut he took ($4.5 million over the term), but money's not the issue with No. 94 because he's made a stack of it already. Time is the problem – Smyth is 36 years old now and there's a lot of clicks on his odometer.

Having talked to Smyth a length upon his return to Edmonton, I can say he was legitimately excited about being a part of young and improving roster and showing the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the ropes. Smyth leads by example, by doing what he does, as opposed to taking youngsters under his wing or making dressing room speeches. If Smyth can't play, he can't lead. Time is running out in the twilight of his career.

RYAN WHITNEY

At 29, Ryan Whitney is right in the middle of prime time for defenseman, so age isn’t the issue with him. Health is, and while the extra time he's getting to heal, recover and work out after yet another injury-plagued campaign is a positive, the timing of this imposed rest is not.

Whitney is in the final year of a six-year contract worth $24 million. He was supposed to make $5.5 million this season. Obviously, Whitney has already made an outrageous amount of money compared to all the ticket-buying Joes out there, so I'm not suggesting anybody stage a telethon for him.

That said, Whitney's wonky feet and ankles, which limited him to 51 games last season and 35 the season before, are going to cost him many millions of dollars if he becomes a UFA without a season to show he can return to form. Yes, that's a long shot, but a season on the shelf means no shot.

ANDY SUTTON

At 37, Andy Sutton was nearing the end of the road regardless of the state of CBA talks, and injuries might have spelled the end of the big blueliner's career any way, but I hate to see an honest player like Sutton unable to go out on his own terms, whatever the reason.

Yes, Sutton is a role player, a third-pairing guy some nights and a press-box scratch on others, but he knows his way around the block and there's still a trick or two about being a good pro he could have imparted to the developing players on the blue line like Jeff Petry, Laddy Smid and Justin Schultz.

DARCY HORDICHUK

At 32, Darcy Hordichuk is getting long in the tooth for guys with his job description and if he loses this season and the $850,000 that goes with it, he'll take a big pay cut as a UFA in 2013-14, if he gets an NHL deal at all.

Again, as with Sutton, I'm not trying to paint Hordichuk, who averaged all of 4:21 of ice time in the 43 games he played for the Oilers in 2011-12, as anything close to a necessary component moving forward, I just don't like to see a blue collar guy ushered out into the real world without having a chance to put up a fight.

NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN

Good riddance. Yes, I understand the sentiment. I get it that there will be far more Oiler fans fist-pumping at the thought of being rid of Nikolai Khabibulin and his four-year ticket than there will be lamenting a lost season for the 39-year-old puck stopper.

While I don't have any interest in seeing Khabibulin between the pipes for more than 15-20 games a season at this point in his career because his skills have obviously eroded, I would like to see him mentoring Devan Dubnyk as he tries to establish himself as a No. 1 goaltender for another season.

If Khabibulin goes out without a chance to play another game, that's a shame on a personal level for a Stanley Cup winner and player who has been a good pro, but I'm just as concerned how it'll impact Dubnyk. They have a terrific relationship and there's no overstating the importance of that.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 T-Roy
November 15 2012, 10:31PM
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Bought NFL Sunday ticket this year.... Don't usually do that... I think the herd mentality has hit the players. They're holding out by all accounts on issues that affect VERY few of them. I think the owners are squeezing cause they think that the fans will all come back like last time. Both parties suck

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#2 Sanaa Montana
November 16 2012, 01:50AM
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They'll live.

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#3 Rob
November 16 2012, 04:54AM
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Now we know why they tell people not to feed the bears. Before you know it they are living in your kitchen telling you how they want their steak cooked. Why are we having to go through all this every time the CBA expires? Gary loves to feed the bears, that's why.

The NHLPA thinks only they are entitled to take the lion's share of the take. I am no fan of the NHL or NHLPA and I hope they both suffer big-time. It is really unfortunate that the NHL has been entrusted to care for and grow the game we love.

This whole sickening process has turned me of the NHL. A pox on the whole bunch of them. The arena project appears to have died an un-natural death. My guess is that if Edmontonians were polled they would have over-whelmingly voted for Obama. That pretty much says it all, right there.

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#4 oilabroad
November 16 2012, 06:58AM
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Great article Robin, it hits the nail on the head in terms of who this lockout is actually benefitting on the players side. Surely none of the guys mentioned above. Not Taylor or Jordan making 60k in AHL, with fresh new 6 year deals waiting for them next season. Least of all any typical journeyman/borderline NHL player who would only play the average 100 games in the league. So who are they really representing here?? The Crosby/Ovechkins who have a big contract already which will be made whole according to the latest NHL offer? While I agree with Gregors article about this lockout costing both sides money, the ones really getting taken to the woodshed here are the players. Due to most 'stars' already having long term deals, and the tweeners not playing enough games to have it matter, I simply cannot see enough players benefitting from the small difference in HRR to make this lockout worthwhile. In fact, the Crosby's/Parises etc, will never have to deal with the particulars of this CBA as their contracts will extend into the next strike... who are they fighting for?? Let this thing go to a vote and lets get back on the ice!

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#5 Spartacus
November 16 2012, 08:17AM
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I'm with T-Roy on this; I picked the Bears as my team and throw a Monday Night Football party every week.

When the NHL comes back, I'll have it on TV, but the love affair is over.

I'm not blowing a thousand dollars to take my kids to the game and I've got enough jerseys to last a lifetime - no Yakupov jersey for me.

Sort it out or don't - I'm past the point of caring.

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#6 michael
November 16 2012, 08:19AM
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I would add Ben Eager, Belanger and Potters names to your list. Why? The longer this lock out goes on the more experience players like MP,TH and AL get playing in OKC. Along with Justin Shultz and Martin Marincin. A year long lock out benefits them in that they are playing and improving their skills and the organization is seeing them play regularly. The play of RNH,Eberle and Hall together in OKC is showing us what we could get see in Edmonton when the lock out is over. They had Lander with MP and TH as a line and they have worked together well in OKC.

Of the players you listed only Whitney has a shot at being here next season. At a huge hairct on his salary. And by huge I mean maybe he is offered 1.8-2.2.25. Any more and its time for him to walk.

The other 4 have probably played their last games as Oilers. The NHL wants a 2 week break in the negotiations. Read "We don't care if we lose the whole season". Craig Simpson on Oilers Now the other hit the nail on the head in his summation of the situation. Bettman is not in a negotiating frame of mind. He is done.He has to get it right this time or its bye bye charlie for atleast 4 of the franchises in the next few years. This deal cannot be like the last one. The owners need no more loop holes that escalate salaries. They need no more crazy second contracts for kids who have not earned them. They need less Pheonix's and Atlanta's and more Winnipeg's and Edmonton's.

This lock out will cost atleast 50 current NHL players jobs. If not more. Every roster is littered with guys like Sutton etal. Time waits for no man. And no hockey player.Time is running out on this season. And Bettman almost assuredly couldn't care less if it does.He has his mandate and the players better know its not even close to what they think is fair.

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#7 Spydyr
November 16 2012, 08:41AM
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The real losers are the people that have regular jobs that depend on game nights.

They are the ones being hurt most.Not privileged,spoiled,greedy,entitled millionaires.

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#8 Robin Brownlee
November 16 2012, 10:11AM
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Spydyr wrote:

The real losers are the people that have regular jobs that depend on game nights.

They are the ones being hurt most.Not privileged,spoiled,greedy,entitled millionaires.

No argument here.

A lot of the people you refer to are either small business folks or people working at or near minimum wage -- those who can least afford to have their income reduced or stopped altogether.

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#9 blue31
November 16 2012, 10:19AM
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Put me down on the "Don't Care" list.

Out of site, out of mind. I even rarely visit this site anymore, and I used to check in almost hourly. I tried watching the Junior game last night, but couldn't make it through the second period.

Still don't know who won, and surprisingly don't care.

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#10 Spydyr
November 16 2012, 10:34AM
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blue31 wrote:

Put me down on the "Don't Care" list.

Out of site, out of mind. I even rarely visit this site anymore, and I used to check in almost hourly. I tried watching the Junior game last night, but couldn't make it through the second period.

Still don't know who won, and surprisingly don't care.

I understand where you are coming from.

I'm trying very,very hard to not let the actions a few privileged,spoiled,greedy,entitled millionaires and billionaire affect my love for the greatest game in the world.

Sure everyone wants to watch the best hockey in the world.That is not possible at the moment.

So I'm trying to make the best of a bad situation.Playing the game helps too.

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#11 Rama Lama
November 16 2012, 11:09AM
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Declare an impass......table a fair offer to any player that wants to cross the line, start over with a union.

Enough is enough! Bust the union!

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#12 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 16 2012, 12:36PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Declare an impass......table a fair offer to any player that wants to cross the line, start over with a union.

Enough is enough! Bust the union!

i am getting to this point as well.

scrap this season, put in plans for replacement players starting next year. Let anyone who wants to cross come on over.

max salaries, max contract length, caps etc can all be laid out. if you want to play, sign here, if not, have fun in the swiss tier 2 league.

i am not one who is pro owner or anti player or whatever. i fail to see how a group of employees can try and dictate how much the owners of the company can make. if i walked into my bosses office and demanded x% of the revenue i would barely have time to finish my sentence before the pink slip slid across the table. the players, even with the concessions the owners want, can still make a ton of money to play hockey. history shows us the players get their money in the end

no player or group of players is bigger than the game itself.

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#13 HOFFFF
November 16 2012, 01:07PM
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It took 1/10th of the time to settle that little dispute the Americans had to prevent going to war with Russia. Nuclear war. Yet these bozos can't reach an agreement, and it happens every time the CBA comes up for renewal. It hasn't been that long between these last 3 work stoppages, and how many hundreds of millions have been lost in those 3? To me, that doesn't sound like smart business sense, and to still be able to pick up where they left off after they reach a new agreement tells me we are paying far too much money somewhere. Those types of loses would shutdown most corporations. Unions and business owners have tangled ever since Jimmy Hoffa threatened his first truck driver. They always will. Non-stop negotiating. Go Seahawks.

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#14 Bill
November 16 2012, 01:26PM
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How many players lost money last year, or the year before, or the year before? Answer - none. How many owners lose money every year? Everything I read indicates there are only 10 teams making money. So 67% of owners lose money every year. The NHLPA's response to that is the 10 teams making money should share their profits with the 20 teams losing money. Maybe, but how many of the 1/3 top money making players would be willing to share a big chunk of their salary with the bottom 2/3 players so that salaries were more equitable? Answer - none.

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#15 Quicksilver ballet
November 16 2012, 03:33PM
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Brownlee's been layin low this month. He must be saving the majority of this months efforts, for the, what must be the imminant end of the lockout.

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#16 MessOtto
November 17 2012, 05:41PM
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Since there is no way the fans could strike, giving up their good money and not watching the games, there is no way that they can return only to find the stands empty, so why not the next best thing? Us fans should go and give the players the silent treatment. I think they would feel sheepish with 15-20k people there quietly staring at them with disappoinment. A silent playoffs too. It would show both sides of this dispute how their projections really play out, when they've taken the wind out those that pay the bills.

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