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Snell’s comments show lack of perspective during time of rapid change – Sportsnet.ca

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Self-assessment is an important trait in navigating life and an essential one in negotiations. Blake Snell is lacking it.

He’s a very good pitcher but he’s not someone who unilaterally impacts the profit margin of his MLB team or the league as a whole. So, the suggestion that he won’t play unless he makes his full salary is misguided, misinformed and out of line with what’s going on in the world around him.

On his Twitch channel Wednesday, Snell made his feelings clear. Citing the elevated risk of playing in this atmosphere, he said taking a pay cut “is not happening.”

“I gotta get my money,” continued Snell, who’s slated to earn a $7.6 million salary in 2020. “I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay?”

The 2018 AL Cy Young winner went on to say “Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less pay. I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay? And that’s just the way it is for me.”

“Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that? Like, you know, I’m just, I’m sorry.”

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark has recently pointed out that owners agreed in March to pay players a prorated portion of their 2020 salaries. A lot has changed since March.

If that agreed-upon plan goes through, Snell would get around half his salary for half the work. Owners are seeking a further reduction since those games will almost certainly be played without fans.

Plus, MLB owners are looking at additional expenses during a season in which big-league rosters are expanded to 30 per team and many additional logistics must be taken into consideration. When you factor in the additional costs of COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment, and additional accommodations, you’re adding an inordinate expense to your business without adding any additional guaranteed profit.

Under the owners’ proposed plan, players would get more if revenue somehow goes through the roof. Is a better alternative MLB owners deciding they can’t afford to pay salaries without ticket income? In that case, they could close shop and mitigate their losses for a year or more. How many players in their prime would be calling the owners cheap and greedy in that scenario? How many fans would be outraged?

To be fair, Snell is right: he is risking his life. And if he chose not to play due to the health concerns, I would get that and would be 100 per cent supportive.

Fellow player Sean Doolittle articulated the nuance of that risk well and the concerns are valid.

But Snell is conflating two separate issues here. If it isn’t safe to play, the players are not going to be playing – that’s a non-starter. These negotiations are happening under the assumption that it is safe to play.

When Snell signed his five-year, $50 million contract last spring, there was no accounting for the health risks he’d face in a global pandemic. This is not danger pay. So, for him to say he should get his full salary because of a health risk is nonsensical because that health risk had nothing to do with his willingness to accept the number he signed for.

What did impact it was his understanding of the revenue the team and league was making off of the labour of the players. Well, that revenue is inevitably now going to go down. And if you don’t believe it’s going to go down? If you don’t trust the owners? That’s why you tie salaries to revenue. Then you’re partners in the highs and lows.

It would be one thing if he said a 50/50 split isn’t fair because players are assuming 100 per cent of the health risk. That I’d understand. The owners can watch from the comfort of their homes while players risk their health. But he didn’t say the revenue should be more tilted to the players. He said he wants the contract he signed for. Well, the reality is we don’t live in that world anymore.

With that in mind, there’s already outside pressure for players to take less.

“I’m disappointed in many ways that players are holding out for high salaries and payments during a time when everybody is sacrificing,” Governor of Illinois J. B. Pritzker said recently.

Even former player Mark Teixeira isn’t holding the company line.

“You have people all around the world d taking pay cuts. Losing their jobs, losing their lives, frontline workers putting their lives at risk these are unprecedented times and this is the one time that I would advocate for the players accepting a deal like this,” he told ESPN Tuesday. “A 50/50 split of revenue is not that crazy.”

What Snell fails to understand is the privilege he has, even after a relatively modest season in which he posted a 4.29 ERA in only 107 innings. Almost everybody in society has had to make some concessions the rest of the world is making. Really the rest of pro athletes are. MLB teams are laying off employees and Snell is upset he has to split profit with the organization?

Some will argue Snell has a skill and he should be paid what the skill is worth on the open market. I agree. Anyone should leverage their power to secure as much economic wealth as they legally can. But Snell isn’t just making his salary due to his skill. Part of the reason Snell makes as much as he does is due to the fact he pitches for an MLB team. Over the course of generations, MLB teams have built up infrastructure and marketing that helps bring in revenue.

Snell could ask to be let out of his contract tomorrow, yet he’s not going to be paid more money to pitch overseas than he is in the MLB. The KBO’s Doosan Bears or Kia Tigers could sign him tomorrow and he’d make max $1 million a year, the top salary for the three foreign players any team is permitted to sign.

The players’ distrust of the owners is real. And I get it. But this is a time in our history where everyone is being asked to think collectively and not individually. Is it better for the health of baseball if the players hold their bargaining chips but sit at home? The 1994 strike badly crippled baseball and that was at a time when the North American economy was booming.

Again, I’m not arguing a 50/50 split is fair or correct. But it’s not like the idea is insulting. Marvin Miller fought hard and wanted a free market system with no cap and no floor. But if that comes at an expense of a World Series again, that’s not an opportunity either side will be able to recoup in the future.

Traditionally players take the heat, and generally I’m pro player in labour negotiations. The common man has more in common with the player, who is an employee than the owner who is an employer. I don’t often side with billionaires against millionaires.

Yet if players aren’t willing to concede at all in talks with the league, we’ve got a bigger issue on our hands and we likely won’t have baseball this year.

And then what will Blake Snell do then? Not something that’s going to pay him millions.

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Trophy Tracker: Vezina – NHL.com

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To mark the end of the regular season, NHL.com is running its fifth and final installment in the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, the award given annually to the goalie adjudged to be the best at his position as selected by the NHL general managers.

Tuukka Rask turned 33 on March 10, but the Boston Bruins goalie isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Rask once again was among the best at his position this season, going 26-8-6 in 41 games. He led the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average, was second with a .929 save percentage (minimum 20 games played), and was tied for second with five shutouts.

He also was second in even-strength save percentage (.939) and allowed the fewest goals (85) among the 22 goalies to play at least 40 games this season, 10 fewer than second-place Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.

A panel of 18 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Vezina Trophy at the end of the regular season. The consensus was Rask was the League’s top goalie by a large margin; he received 80 points and 10 first-place votes. Connor Hellebuyck (68 points) of the Winnipeg Jets and Andrei Vasilevskiy (56 points) of the Tampa Bay Lightning each received four first-place votes.

From Jan. 2 until the season was paused because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus on March 12, Rask went 11-4-1 with a 1.84 GAA and a .938 save percentage in 17 games. His play helped Boston win the Atlantic Division and the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best record in the League; the Bruins finished 44-14-12 with 100 points. It was the third time they won the award (1989-90, 2013-14).

Rask said he’s hoping to put an exclamation point on this season with a Stanley Cup championship. Rask was the backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011. He was the starter when Boston lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

“I just try to do my job as good as I can every night, give us a chance to win, and then what comes with that, it comes,” Rask said. “But maybe in the future after I retire and look back, you kind of appreciate yourself more, see what you did.

“This city is known for winning championships and your success is measured by winning championships, and I’ve gotten to the Finals with the team twice as a playing goalie. Didn’t win, but I think it’s still a great accomplishment to reach that point, to go to the Finals. Obviously it would be nice to be known as a champion in those years, but it didn’t happen. We just have to live with that. I think I’ve played a good career so far, and hopefully there’s some more years left and even maybe a championship in the future.”

The Bruins also won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals this season. Rask and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage in 31 games) combined for eight shutouts and helped Boston allow 167 goals, a League-low 2.39 per game. It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Jennings Trophy (1989-90, 2008-09) and the first time for Rask. Halak won it in 2011-12 with the St. Louis Blues.

“[Tuukka’s] proven that he’s one of the top goalies in the League,” Halak said. “He competes in every game, in every practice. He wants to win. That’s the ultimate goal. Obviously we are on the same team, he wants to play [and] if I said I didn’t want to play I would probably be lying. I also want to play, but at the same time we are a team and we want to win as a team.”

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 80 points (10 first-place votes); Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 68 points (four first-place votes); Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 56 points (four first-place votes); Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 26 points; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues, 15 points; Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets, 8 points; Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 points; Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks, 5 points; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 3 points; Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers, 1 point; Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche, 1 point.

NHL.com staff writers Amalie Benjamin and Rob Reese contributed to this story

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Maple Leafs' Tavares sees camp with Keefe as 'added bonus' of NHL's plan – Sportsnet.ca

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As the calendar creeps closer towards June and the tally nears four months without live hockey in North America, silver linings for Canada’s favourite game on ice have been hard to come by.

The NHL offered one earlier this week, with commissioner Gary Bettman unveiling the framework of the league’s four-phase plan to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic if it becomes safe to do so. But the multitudes contained in that “if” are still daunting. The novel coronavirus does not care when the NHL would like to come back, after all.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares knows how many hurdles remain, how many hairpin turns could send the league back to square one, but still believes there’s a “really good chance” hockey is played this summer. So leave it to Tavares, that even-keeled, blue-and-white wearing optimist, to look deeper into hockey’s foggy future and find another light hiding within, too.

“We’ve got to be looking forward to what’s ahead, an opportunity to kind of reset here,” Tavares told Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman during Sportsnet’s #Ask31 Live on Thursday. “[It will be] a good opportunity to get a training camp under [head coach Sheldon Keefe], which we never really got.

“So kind of a little almost added bonus is, with a new coach, you get to really implement a lot more things …and really get those true reps that you need. Which you really can’t get in the season, especially as the season goes on, and the wear and tear, and the rest becomes very valuable. I think that’s definitely a benefit we’re going to get.”

Coaching a team with Stanley Cup aspirations is never easy, and assuming the role mid-season as Keefe did adds another layer of complexities to the mix — implementing redesigned lineups and systems on the fly, all while knowing there’s less room for error because there are fewer games left to be played.

In the 39 games he’s spent guiding the Maple Leafs’ on-ice performance, Keefe has gone 27-15 while ushering in a more free-wheeling — albeit not always consistent — offence that made use of Toronto’s wealth of offensive talent and saw them score the fourth-most goals in the league during his tenure, while posting the second-best power-play success rate.

If that’s what he could cook up in half a season on short notice, there’s at least the chance the time off to examine the ingredients in Toronto’s cupboard and a mini-camp to sample how they mix together could yield a more enticing final product.

Earlier Thursday, Friedman reported that players were informed Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan — the phase which includes training camps — won’t start before July 10. So that “added bonus” and any of its potential benefits is still a ways away for Tavares, Keefe and the rest of the Maple Leafs.

And if Tavares’ optimism is well-placed, if camps can be held, hockey can return and a Stanley Cup can be played for, there will be at least one more new face potentially joining him on the Maple Leafs: OHL standout Nick Robertson.

“I can imagine being in Nick’s shoes and just your hair standing up on end, getting an opportunity to be part of the team in a unique situation like this — an opportunity to help us win a Stanley Cup,” Tavares said.

Expectations accompany opportunities like that, certainly. And nerves, probably. Putting on a Maple Leafs jersey means wearing the hopes of a championship-starved fan base too — not a simple experience for an 18-year-old, to say the least.

Tavares is no stranger to shouldering that weight. He chose it, after all, deciding to sign with Toronto as a free agent, and with that familiarity comes advice for how to navigate it.

“You’re here for a reason,” Tavares said. “You shouldn’t feel that you need to walk on egg shells. You need to be yourself, you need to play like yourself. Never take anything for granted, you gotta go out there and work and earn it — that’s what playing at this level [means].

“…There’s a reason why you’re here and what brought you here, so don’t forget those things. And be yourself. You’re a part of the team, you’re a part of our group, and you mean as much to our team and our success as any one of our core guys.”

Watch Thursday’s edition of #Ask31 Live with John Tavares in its entirety below:

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NHL.com writers vote Leon Draisaitl as Hart Trophy winner – Oilers Nation

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Leon Draisaitl is the winner of the 2019-20 Hart Trophy — at least, that’s what the writers for NHL.com think.

In a survey conducted by 18 NHL.com writers, Draisaitl was given 19 more voting points than his next closest competitor, Nathan MacKinnon.

Draisaitl won the Art Ross Trophy this year as the NHL’s top scorer after posting 43 goals and 67 assists in 71 games.

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Not only that, but he was first in points per game (1.55), assists, and power-play points, with 44. Draisaitl led all forwards in time on ice per game playing 22:37 a night.

The actual vote to determine the Hart Trophy winner will be conducted in a poll completed by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Here’s a look at how the voting broke down:

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Leon Draisaitl, Oilers, 83 points (12 first-place votes); Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 64 points (four first-place votes); David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, 45 points (one first-place vote); Connor McDavid, Oilers, 34 points (one first-place vote); Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers, 30 points; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 6 points; Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 2 points; John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 1 point; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, 1 point; Brad Marchand, Bruins, 1 point

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On Twitter: @zjlaing

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