Olympics prime NHL bargaining chip

Canada's Sidney Crosby poses with his medal after winning gold after over time action during the...

Canada's Sidney Crosby poses with his medal after winning gold after over time action during the gold medal men's Olympic hockey game between team Canada and team USA at GM Place in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. (QMI Agency/Andre Forget)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

It's best for the game for the NHL to shut down for a couple of weeks so its players can compete for Olympic gold in 2014.

This time around, it may very well be best for the NHL, too.

Since the players love to be part of the Olympics -- and good on them for not only one wanting to play but actually becoming involved in the games by supporting other athletes -- agreeing to let them skate in Sochi, Russia, could be a perfect bargaining chip when the pending CBA battle heats up.

With luck, agreeing to partake in the Olympics helps bring a solution to what has the makings of a shutdown.

Otherwise, the NHL's participation isn't worth a whole lot.

Sure, it's a great to have those skaters, the world's elite, going head-to-head, and with so much pride on the line, because the calibre of play can't be beat.

But it sure doesn't do all that much for the NHL as an entity.

First off, all of the best players in the game are more at risk for serious injury.

Secondly, the condensed NHL schedule makes the season even more of a strain, therefore more potential for injuries due to reduced rest time.

Thirdly, the return on such an investment -- most notably, television audiences in the U.S. and butts in the seats during the season -- has not been all that big. Yeah, it takes time to create a generation of fans, but the process hasn't set the world on fire.

It's nice every time we get to hear about improved TV ratings south of the border, but the league is constantly investing all kinds of time, energy and dollars for those viewers.

At some point, everybody involved must have some serious intellectual honesty about how worthwhile it's been.

But in this case, if it helps prevent a lockout, by all means, go, and be prepared for the 2018 event in South Korea, even with the issues both events bring.

FLAMING C-NOTES

Welcome to the Sea of Red Sven Baertschi. If the Flames 2011 first-round draft choice, summoned on an emergency basis because of all the injury woes, can live up to the expectations, the Flames may as well put a "S" on the front of his sweater instead of a Flaming C and give him a red cape ... That said, it's fun to finally see a Flames first-round draft choice with actual offensive talent get to this level. We're talking about a team whose first-round picks from 2004 through 2009 have combined for a total of 84 goals. In that span, the Flames drafted 44 players, five of them goalies ... Friday's clash with the Winnipeg Jets will see the Flames surpass 300 man-games lost for the third time in four seasons. Here's a quick breakdown of the team's health post-lockout: 2005-06, 209 games; 2006-07, 251 games; 2007-08, 130 games; 2008-09, 329 games (Rhett Warrener accounted for 82, Wayne Primeau 57 and Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano 24 each); 2009-10, 139 games; 2010-11, 363 games (Raitis Ivanans had 81, Daymond Langkow had 78 and Adam Pardy had 52).

HOCKEY TALKY

Craig Button, the former Flames GM and current analyst mentioned the records of teams which fired their coaches this season, noting it before the Toronto Maple Leafs played their final 18 games. In their first 18 games after gassing a coach, Anaheim and Carolina posted 6-9-3 records, Columbus went 6-10-2, Los Angeles 10-3-5, Montreal 6-10-2, St. Louis 12-2-4 and Washington 9-8-1 ... It's amazing to think the Dallas Stars are 9-0-1 against Canadian teams this season. The surprising Stars have six more clashes versus clubs from north of the boarder, including two against Calgary and Vancouver ... You have to love the promotion held by the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night. To mark the return of Jeff Carter with the Los Angeles Kings, the Blue Jackets changed name bars on any sweaters with "Carter" on the back to "Johnson" since Jack Johnson is now wearing the No. 7 Carter had before pouting his way out of Ohio ... Great line from Winipeg Jets forward Tanner Glass regarding his team's salute to fans after games: "Have you seen our home record? It's the least we can do." ... During a year eight coaches have been fired, the voting for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year could be the tightest of all the awards this season. A great case can be made for Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis), Paul MacLean (Ottawa), Claude Noel (Winnipeg), John Tortorella (New York Rangers), Glen Gulutzan (Dallas), Kevin Dineen (Florida) and usual contenders Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh), Barry Trotz (Nashville) and Mike Babcock (Detroit).

YOU DON'T SAY

"We've seen all kinds of Bryz this year. He's never the same. He's all over the place. But the last couple of weeks, he's actually been a great teammate." -- Philadelphia's Daniel Briere to CSNPhilly.com


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