Much of what Nonis says is true

AL STRACHAN

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Unfortunately for Dave Nonis, he has a higher profile than his hockey team right now.

The Vancouver Canucks are struggling, but even three days after Nonis offered his opinions of free agency at a chamber of commerce meeting, hockey people are still debating the merit of his remarks.

You should know, for starters, there was no debate about his comments at the National Hockey League's head office. The rocket would have been fired up Nonis' posterior within seconds of his remarks reaching New York.

When Nonis said the free-agency system is "a joke" he said, in effect, that the collective bargaining agreement, which codifies free agency, is also a joke and, therefore, by extension, the NHL executives who negotiated it.

If there's one thing commissioner Gary Bettman is consistent about, it is his insistence that you don't criticize your product.

Nonis didn't stop with free agency -- he went on to say he hated the schedule. Most hockey people do, but you're not supposed to say it.

As it happens, though, Nonis will be somewhat vindicated on that front. The heavily unbalanced schedule was the brainchild of New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who feels it builds rivalries.

Nonis said, quite accurately, that playoff matchups build rivalries and the whisper around the league is that next year, divisional games will be reduced to 24 from 32. Teams will play divisional rivals six times, not eight.

But what really upsets the New York office is Nonis' assessment of the impact of the CBA.

"You are going to see movement among players every single year," he said.

That's exactly the opinion that was expressed here on June 21, the day after the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. Perhaps Nonis missed it, his direct involvement with active hockey having ended some two months earlier.

But whatever the case, his observation is accurate. The CBA creates churn. Players will come and go without any sense of loyalty.

What Nonis doesn't seem to grasp is that's exactly what the league wants.

When you have 30 teams in your league, you don't want dynasties and one team being dominant for four or five years. For every team that is dominant for a long period, there's a team that is a cellar-dweller for the same period.

You want every team to have its brief Icarus-like moment, fluttering hopefully up toward the sun before it comes crashing down in flames.

Your commitment is not to great hockey, it's to cash. And in theory, this recurrent optimism keeps fans coming back.

The problem with that system, as far as people like Nonis are concerned, is that if players are moving, they're doing so because they can make more money elsewhere.

Nonis doesn't think that's a good thing.

A player's productive career is usually about 14 years. The owners have players locked up for at least half of that, and Nonis thinks that's not long enough.

He bemoaned the fact the Pittsburgh Penguins could lose Sidney Crosby when he's 25 after they've "put seven years of development money into him."

Development money? As in salary to fill your building?

The NHL teams decided they wanted this salary-cap system. They passed it off to the public as a means to save the small franchises, when in reality it's nothing more than a scheme to make the owners richer.

If teams can't keep their quality players like Crosby because they have too many of them to fit under the cap, then maybe people like Nonis shouldn't have pushed so hard for a cap in the first place.

With no cap, the successful teams can afford to keep their star players.

As the adage goes: Be careful what you ask for.

You might get it.


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