There have been few players as obvious on the front lines of the NHLPA as David Backes. Sure, Sidney Crosby's been getting a lot of the attention recently as a possible savior, along with Penguins owner Ron Burkle. Ryan Miller's even gotten a share of attention for alleged shouts in the direction of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. But right there at the table has been the captain of the St. Louis Blues.
Backes has been a solid and dependable interview regarding the talks, and as he mentioned to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he's unhappy with how they ended up:
"I mean start at 8 and leaving at midnight was an early night. They were long days. It was very promising, as there were no leaks going out. We had a willing partner ... making real progress."
"It’s a kick in the groin where we went from Thursday at 3 until Thursday at 10 p.m," Backes said. "But I was optimistic and I guess I still am. Ebbs and flows, I guess. We’ll all see where it goes."
Backes was in attendance the first couple days of talks, and felt very much that the two sides were coming together towards an agreement. But, as we've all found, getting a good feeling about the CBA talks is a very bad idea. Regardless of how well things seem to be going, there's always a way for them to get off-track, as we saw Thursday night in press conferences where Donald Fehr reiterated Backes' hope of progress and Gary Bettman go apoplectic over such a notion.
Neither side is headed up by anyone particularly likable -- Bettman and Fehr are two very divisive characters. But for the players and the owners to be this close again right before they throw their hands up, well, it's maddening. I agree with Backes -- it's bizarre that they're not playing hockey. At the same time, it's about par for the course.
Backes' frustration is echoed by NHLPA executive and former player Mathieu Schneider, who gave a tremendous interview to The Hockey News' radio show. If you would like to understand the concessions given by the players and the pushback from the owners, that's the place to go. As it stands, it's amazing that Backes' claim of the contract lengths being this week's straw that broke the camel's back could be the reason for the hold up. I'm not discounting Backes (I believe him 110%), but the owners, via their teams' general managers, are the ones who have been signing players to absurd and cap circumventing deals. I'm pretty sure that what a lot of the owners are pushing for are measures to protect the collective whole from a few guys who ruined the spirit of the last CBA. That's well and good, but you have to use a little common sense here, which has obviously been in short supply thus far.