The NHL announced Friday that it was canceling this season’s Winter Classic, the league’s premier regular season event. Even though the game was going to be played in Michigan between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, it still sends a shock wave through the rest of the league.
Without the marquee game, the NHL has no reason to expedite the negotiation process and sign a new collective bargaining agreement. With no fire under their feet, they can play the waiting game with the NHLPA. That strategy seems to be Gary Bettman’s go to move in negotiations.
The longer this drags on the worse it becomes for the Dallas Stars. Dallas is in an awkward transition period with their roster right now.
In the offseason, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk signed a pair of over-the-hill forwards in Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. One year playing overseas is one more valuable year their 40-year-old players lose.
These guys can’t exactly rebound from injuries like players half their age.
Jagr is currently under a one-year contract, so if he ends up being ineffective once the NHL hits the ice again, it won’t be more than a one-year hit.
Whitney, on the other hand, is signed for two years. If he misses a season then the Stars could ultimately have a 43-year-old playing on one of its top lines.
Many people believe that age is only a number, but when that number is on your favorite team’s roster, it can be worrisome.
On the other end of the spectrum the Stars are wasting time for players in their prime. Loui Eriksson (27) and Jamie Benn (23) are Dallas’ premier players in what should be their best years.
Both have many more years of good hockey left to play. However, if anyone says they are OK with watching elite players miss a year during their prime, they probably aren’t being honest.
Adding to the age problem is all the new faces that were brought in during the offseason. It will take some time for everyone to build chemistry, and they have to do so while coach Glen Gulutzan implements a scheme that is new to three of Dallas’ top six forwards.
If more regular season games suffer the same fate as the Winter Classic, the Stars, like many other teams, will lose their foothold in the city’s sports landscape. The Stars already struggle having to compete with the Cowboys, Rangers and Mavericks. The lockout only makes things tougher.
With the Cowboys being America’s Team, the Mavericks two years removed from a NBA title and the Rangers making two trips to the World Series in the past three years, there is stiff competition.
Since NHL games aren’t being played, most of the roster is playing hockey elsewhere. That means there is a very slim presence in a town dominated by teams with recent success in the postseason—minus the Cowboys.
The Winter Classic was the best chance to get a deal done quickly. With that out of the way there is a strong chance that this lockout will drag on further and further.
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