NEWARK (SB Nation) -- Talks regarding a new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association are expected to begin in a few weeks, according to league commissioner Gary Bettman. He spoke before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
"We also look forward to finally beginning meetings with the Players' Association," Bettman said. "The goal obviously is to reach a collective bargaining agreement that can take the game and the business to even higher levels than have been reached over the past seven seasons."
"For obvious reasons, I'm not going to go into any detail on this topic since we have yet to formally begin discussions with the Union. However, I understand that the Union is now prepared to begin talks and we're in the process of trying to set up dates. My guess is in the next few weeks we will begin, either in small groups or larger groups, to set the table of what we each might want to be talking about."
The league has said numerous times that they've been ready to begin talks, but new NHLPA chief Donald Fehr has spent the last several months meeting with players and simply getting to know the league, the current CBA that governs its play and the way things work in the hockey world.
But in a seemingly impromptu press conference immediately following Bettman's on Wednesday, Fehr confirmed that those talks will begin in the coming weeks.
"I'm sure it'll be started in the next few weeks," Fehr said, "and I would not confuse sort of a big, formal kickoff session with sort of the start of bargaining because of all the informal stuff. Gary referred to smaller meetings, too. Can go on."
How does this whole thing work, though? It's not as if the two sides show up at a big table one day and start hammering out details. Fehr explained that it's a process that's worked through in a number of different ways, and that generally speaking, things are taken one step at a time.
"In the ordinary course of things, we'll have preliminary discussions," he said. "Out of that, we will get an order. We might have somebody say, all right, here's everything I'm thinking about. The other side, you might say we're going to talk about this issue, what do we think, then we're going to talk about this one, then we're going to talk about this one. There's no magic formula to it."
Fehr expressed the hope that there won't be any sort of work stoppage, citing the record revenues the league has seen this season. Meanwhile, Bettman laughed off potential lockout concerns as baseless and speculative considering the two parties have yet to actually meet in any way meaningful way to discuss the CBA.
"If somebody is suggesting it," Bettman said, "it's either because there's something in the water, people still have the NBA and NFL on the brain, or they're just looking for news on a slow day. It is nothing more than speculation at this point. There can't be any substance to it because there haven't been any substantive conversations."
Finally, those substantive conversations have what appears to be a time table.
Lakewood BlueClaws first baseman Kelly Dugan has been somewhat forgotten by many people that follow prospects throughout the minor leagues.
A flurry of physical setbacks have prevented the Phillies’ top selection from the 2009 MLB amateur draft (2nd round, 75th pick overall) from progressing through the system with any type of commanding push.
This year, however, Kelly, the son of film director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy), hopes to make enough of a splash in the Class A South Atlantic League to rekindle some of the excitement that surrounded him when he was originally selected by the Phils.
The level of instant popularity that came Dugan’s way upon joining the Phillies organization could have been credited to an image taken on draft day from the set of his father’s film, Grown Ups, which starred Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade. With the closely knit star power involved and the collection of widely-known actors all sporting Phillies caps, fans and media alike were ready to see this Hollywood endorsed ballplayer make an impact in the pros.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old Dugan, injuries have hindered his progress.
In 2010, Dugan dealt with a staph infection after being hit with a batted ball during batting practice, which resulted in him missing a large chunk of the season. The history of disabled list stints left Dugan in disbelief, like last month when he turned his left ankle badly while stepping on first base and fielding a throw on a close play. The damage to the ankle was only a sprain, despite awful looking bruises and substantial swelling. Dugan was grateful for only needing to miss about two weeks of action with his latest ailment.
“When you get injured, you can’t really move up,” Dugan told me recently. “You need to take at bats at each level and you have to show that you can produce at the level before they’re going to move you up, so you just end up repeating. It was frustrating, but it just makes me grateful that I can go out and play right now.”
Last season, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Dugan was named a NY-Penn League All-Star as an outfielder in his second campaign with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters, batting .284 with four doubles, four triples, two home runs and 21 RBI in 47 games.
His change in position this year — although he did play some first base last season — was forced by a hamstring issue in spring training. The Phillies thought it was best to place the youngster in a spot that would reduce his need to run in the field. Dugan could certainly see his defensive assignment change again if the need arises or if circumstances dictate a change.
With his own positional future lacking clarity, Dugan is focused on stepping up all aspects of his game, even at a position that supposedly provides a light workload. And he is willing to man any position so long as it means he is playing regularly.
“I just want to be in the lineup,” Dugan said. “I played first base in high school and I played outfield. So, [at this level], you just have to work [on defense] every single day… just like hitting. Just like you hit in the cage and work on your hitting, you have to work on your fielding.”
Since returning from his most recent injury, the switch-hitting Dugan has been a strong performer, posting a .275 batting average with six doubles, a triple and two homers in 15 games.
Lakewood’s manager, former Phillies All-Star Mickey Morandini, sees loads of potential in Dugan and likes that the club’s standout performer of late continues to show improvements in his offensive game.
“He’s been hitting the ball really well, especially since he’s come back from the ankle injury,” Morandini said. “What I really like is that he’s showing some pop, some power. He’s driving the ball really well, he’s hitting doubles. He hit a home run, opposite field (recently) and hit a couple other balls that almost got out of here in the gap. So, we really like the way he’s swinging the bat. He’s being aggressive, hitting the fastball real well.”
As Dugan continues to excel with Lakewood and garners the endorsements of established baseball minds like Morandini, the shine of this young star will steadily grow brighter. Perhaps one day he’ll become as well known as some of the celebrities he considers family.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can check out more content from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.
Right now is a critical time in the Ruben Amaro Jr. era in Philadelphia. His team is underachieving and in last place, the injuries are piling up and the best player on the Phillies’ roster will be absent for the next 6-to-8 weeks.
When grading his time here as the Phillies GM, we made sure we didn’t fall into the trap of factoring in things that weren’t under his control and looked at the complete picture. So here’s how we at Phillies Nation grade Amaro:
Corey Seidman: I’d give Amaro a B-.
He’s done a lot, but he’s had a ton of resources that every GM would give a kidney to have. He’s put himself in a position where there just aren’t too many fixes to make. You have to hope Howard, Utley and Halladay all get through their current conditions and age relatively well. Its tough.
Amaro took risks and was aggressive. He built a team that had enormous success from 2007-11. I’ll let the others break down each move, but Amaro’s done mostly well with trades and not too well with contracts.
Pat Gallen: I won’t put a letter grade on Ruben Amaro’s tenure a GM of the Phillies, but I will say this – it has been a ride. He acquires the best pitcher in baseball (Roy Halladay) and gets his “white whale” but deals Cliff Lee in the process.
He gets Hunter Pence from Houston, but gives up a ton of minor league talent in the process.
Amaro also gave odd contracts to Joe Blanton, Ryan Howard, and Jonathan Papelbon. (Yes, I know Papelbon has been lights out, but that’s still a ton of money for a 3-out guy, no matter how you look at it).
The previous few seasons have been easier on Amaro because the Phillies have been winning. The real work starts now with an aging roster with a bloated payroll. If he can make some moves and keep the team at or near the top of the NL over the next few seasons, we’ll look back at him as above average. But if he and the team both sink, we’ll look back saying, that wasn’t pretty.
Ian Riccaboni: For me, Amaro gets a solid B+. And to be honest, if it weren’t for the Ryan Howard contract, it would be an A.
Amaro made some tough decisions right out of the gate, including telling $15 million in payroll to stay home (Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins). Amaro’s first move, swapping the speedy Greg Golson to Texas for John Mayberry Jr., was a move that has shown some great benefits a few years removed from the trade.
Amaro inherited Carlos Ruiz behind the dish who hit .219/.320/.300 in 2008. He had the wherewithal to stick with the Panamanian. Amaro also inherited .249/.302/.402 and $5 million worth of Pedro Feliz at third from Pat Gillick that he let walk after 2009. Amaro had the cajones to let Pat Burrell walk and replace him with a player a few years his senior who had one of the most captivating first halves of any Phillie in recent memory.
He inherited a starting rotation of Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton that turned into Hamels, Blanton, Moyer, Cliff Lee, and, one of the best outside-the-box moves of all time, Pedro Martinez. The 2009 team would not have got to the World Series if those moves were not made, including but not limited to giving nothing the Phillies could have or would have used anyways to obtain Lee.
Donald McGettigan: I’m going to give Ruben Amaro Jr. a B+ grade. No, he hasn’t won the World Series, but the streak of NL East titles has remained, we made one World Series appearances, and entered the postseason in 2010 and 2011 as the favorites to win it all …the Paper-Champions… to me, that’s what you ask of your GM, to put together a roster that can win… after that it’s up to players and coaches to perform on the field.
Amaro doesn’t play it safe. Leading a franchise that has only 2 titles, he has gone out and obtained the best available talent at trade deadlines and in free agency – to try to capture that elusive 3rd World Series trophy.
Acquiring players the caliber of Lee, Halladay, Oswalt and Pence — All-Stars, Cy-Youngs, and Hall of Famers — to put around your own homegrown talent, was risky. But it was, in my opinion, a risk worth taking.
Amaro’s trades for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence haven’t hurt the Phillies. Yet. If Anthony Gose becomes the superstar he is suddenly on track to become, this grade goes a little lower. If any of the following happens: Jarred Cosart becomes an ace, Jonathan Singleton becomes a major masher, or Pence falls off a cliff somewhere between now and 2013, this grade goes way lower.
With all things considered, Amaro has done a great job assessing needs and I feel comfortable putting him at a B+, almost an A-, even with the Howard contract. The real test will be the results from this year, how Cosart, Singleton, and Jonathan Villar pan out, and how Amaro retools for 2013 – with double the payroll from 2007, it will be a major disappointment, injuries included in the thought process, if they miss the playoffs.
Ryan Dinger: For the job he’s done in his first three-plus seasons with the Phillies, Amaro deserves a C+. I arrived at that grade through the very scientific method of rating each of the moves during his tenure as GM on a scale of 1-to-5 (1 representing an F and 5 representing an A), and figuring out the average, which came out to be 3.07.
Amaro has kept the team very competitive, putting a team capable of winning a championship on the field in each of his full seasons. But, in doing so, he’s driven the Phillies’ payroll up to levels thought impossible just a half decade ago–an issue that could handcuff the Phillies regarding future moves if they stay adamant about not crossing the luxury tax threshold.
This coming off-season has all the potential to be the defining moment in Amaro’s time as GM in Philadelphia. He’s got a lot of holes to fill in the field, and how he decides to handle the Cole Hamels contract situation could go down as one of the best or worst moves in Philadelphia sports history. It will be interesting to see how he navigates through these issues, especially considering the aging roster and the bloating payroll. This winter could easily push Amaro’s grade to an A or drop it down to an F.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose ofPhiladelphia Flyers-related news and notes...
- A (spread unnecessarily across) four page story on the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades that is worth reading: [CSNPhilly]
- Then and Now: Eric Weinrich: [Flyers Faithful]
- Gary Bettman spoke at the Stanley Cup Finals last night on a variety of topics, and his comments on the Shanaban videos are telling: [Puck Daddy]
- EA Sports simulation resulted in a six game Kings victory: [NHL.com]
- Illustrated guide to the Stanley Cup: [Puck Daddy]
- Nicklas Lidstrom is holding a press conference at 11 today, reportedly to announce his retirement: [SBNation.com] [Puck Daddy]
- Anonymous Blackhawks team source reportedly says they "suggested that Patrick Kane seek help": [Chicago Sun-Times]
- The NHL's new Stanley Cup commercial: [Puck Daddy]
- And CBC's Hockey Night in Canada montage from Game One: [Backhand Shelf]
- The Canucks were caught on Google Earth outside their San Jose hotel: [Pass It To Bulis]
- Even if I disagree, a strong story on why "giving 110%" is accurate in sports: [Backhand Shelf]
- A collection of NHL team slogans of the past decade-plus, mostly embarrassingly awful ones: [SBNation.com]
- Eric got sick of moronic arguments defending Martin Brodeur as one of, if not the, greatest goalies ever. So he formulated an intelligent argument saying as such: [NHLNumbers.com]
- The top defensive pairings in the NHL shown in handy bubble charts: [NHLNumbers.com]
The Phillies finished up their series at Shea Citi Field with a 10-6 victory over the Mets to take two of three from their division rivals. They also finish up their seven-game road trip with a 5-2 record.
CLIFF CAN’T WIN
-Cliff Lee is STILL winless. Not sure how that’s possible, but it’s still the case as Lee was pulled after six innings. The Phillies started scoring, of course, in the seventh. Lee fanned seven and walked two, while giving up three runs on seven hits.
-Taking bets on when Cliff will win his first game…
-Other than Raul Valdes, who struggled in the ninth and had to be pulled with two outs, the bullpen did a fine job. Antonio Bastardo struck out one in one inning, getting the victory, while Jose Contreras fanned two in his inning of work. Jonathan Papelbon had to come on to finish it off after warming up a couple of times in the bullpen.
JIMMY, SHANE, and CHOOCH
-Before we get to how great the offense was over the final three innings, they were pretty bad over the first six. Dillon Gee was pretty good, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits.
-How awesome is Carlos Ruiz? The dude is locked in in a way I’ve never seen. His pinch-hit homer in the seventh tied the game and kicked off the string of nine runs over the final three frames.
-This was Jimmy Rollins finest game of the year. We’ve been waiting for this kind of game from him and he delivered, going 3-for-5 with a three-run jack in the six-run ninth inning. It was an absolute bomb for his second homer of the season. Let’s hope he can get on a hot streak here. When he’s firing on all cylinders, it usually means the Phillies are as a whole.
-Shane Victorino went 1-for-4, but knocked in three runs on a sac fly and a two-run single.
-Ty Wigginton went yard and is giving the Phillies some power where it has been lacking. He’s been a fine pickup. And he’s also hot, going 6-for-11 in the Mets series.
STANLEY CUP FINALS: GAME 1 DISCUSSION THREAD
Do it for Simon. And Kevin Westgarth's isthmus-like facial hair.
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