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TOFTE –  As expected the National Hockey League CBA extension was put to a vote by the NHLPA membership and has been ratified.

The vote was a unanimous one from the ownership and league side of the negotiation and the vote on the players side was 502 to 135.

Only a simple majority was necessary for its passage but the PA vote had a 78% vote to accept.

The tally on the players side was of interest to me and I wasn’t expecting unanimous approval from them.

I’ll have to take a flyer though at this time as to why there was some dissent on the players’ side. That hasn’t been identified as of yet.

For myself, I’m thinking that perhaps it came down to a matter of the new CBA extension being linked to whether  the much-discussed Stanley Cup tour-ney would be held.

I have been on record as stating that they are two separate matters and should not have been tied to one another.

Since both parties agreed last September to not “opt out” of the CBA that was in place, the season continued forth with both the league and the PA working behind the scenes on extending the agreement that was in place prior to last Friday’s vote.

Without the COVID pandemic coming into play the Stanley Cup tourney would have already been held and in the history books, and the two parties would either still be working toward extending the CBA that was in place or piecing together a new one altogether.

So, the pandemic drastically alters life as we once knew it, and the league and PA do work out an extension with one caveat; if the PA doesn’t agree to an extension, there won’t be a tournament.

Perhaps I’m looking for contention where there is none, or maybe, just maybe, the 135 players who voted against ratification are feeling just as I do.

What does one have to do with the other?

Somewhere in the near future I’ll offer up some opinion on the new deal, but since I am still sifting through the details I am not prepared to do so yet. I will give an immense amount of credit to both sides here though. Both have quietly and diligently went about their work behind the scenes so to speak.

Compared to the very public and very rambunctious dialogue we were witness to in the MLB-MLBPA negotiations, the hockey guys did a fantastic job.

I can only imagine that the two parties did not agree on everything, that only stands to reason, however, that they kept it “in the room” speaks volumes to me about the quality of the relationships there and professionalism involved.

Until I can obtain a better feel for what was agreed upon, what I can say at this time is a job well done to all involved. I am very glad this is settled and that we have some on-ice action in sight!

WITH THE STANLEY CUP tourney slated to kickoff Aug. 1, it’s time to begin analyzing some odds and deciding who the favorites are, who could go a round or two and who a sleeper. “dark horse” candidate for a Cup victory might be.

Phase 3 training camps can begin Monday the 13th. Clubs are allowed expanded rosters as a result and due to the time off since the March 12 suspension of competition many players who were out on IR at that time could very well be ready to play again and their presence could alter their clubs’ opportunities to advance.

Just off the top of my head, I’d look at the return of Jake Guentzel to the Penguins lineup for one. He isn’t the biggest, strongest, fastest etc, player in the show, but based on a recent discussion I had with a former player who played Twin Cities summer league hockey with him, he is usually the smartest guy on the ice when he is out there. Put him out there with Sid Crosby and you’ve got trouble on your hands.

The STL Blues will probably have elite-level scorer Vlad Tarasenko back in the lineup, boosting their chances at a repeat.

In fact, if you review each team’s official IR list dating back to the ces-sation of play on March 12, there are several clubs that will be returning some elite-level talent that could boost their overall odds of tournament advancement.

As for the WILD, at the time of the shutdown, they only had one player on IR and that was D-man Carson Soucy. It’s my understanding that he is back in order for a return to play from a physical standpoint and the team record with him in the lineup is much better than without. The overall quality of his level of play boosts an already strong blueline for the veteran club.

Having said that, the WILD will be facing the Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying, best of five round. A lot of veteran handicappers are favoring the Canucks in this series.

OK. I can see that and understand why.

The skill level of some of their young talent puts their team at a high level of play. The netminding of Jacob Markstrom gives them a chance in any game they are in.

If you were to break down their 19-20 schedule, it’s a mixed bag. They were good out of the gate in October at 8-4. They floundered in November with a 5-10 record.

December featured some big wins against some top teams and then some losses for an 8-5 month. January was quite good at 8-3, February came in at a 5-7 clip, featuring two losses to the WILD and March was at a 2-3 clip prior to the league wide shutdown.

With both teams having played 69 tilts at the time of the shutdown, Vancouver had a one point standings lead over the Wild.

Who will do what with which to whom?

Van’s top line is one of the best in the league, with some questions on their overall depth at forward. The Wild have some skill too, but have more experience.

Likewise on D for Van, but the overall nod on the blueline goes solidly to the Wild. Van can fill the net while the Wild seemingly have to plug away to get 3 to 4 goals per game.

Van is the faster team, giving them a better transition game, but the Wild can go up against that by playing a superior 5-man unit game.

Van is erratic in their defensive play and that’s not good in a playoff fight when everything is turned up a couple of notches.

Between the pipes, I like Markstrom a lot, while it remains to be seen whether the Wild will lean to Dubnyk or put Big Al out there to do battle.

The first game will be of epic importance, there will be no mulligans in these shorter series… PEACE

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