Top Shelf: Lockout already taking its toll on some

It may only be a few days old, but the NHL's lockout has begun claiming victims.

On Tuesday, the Florida Panthers announced an undisclosed number of layoffs, and they're not the first team to do so. The Ottawa Senators also made layoffs, while the Vancouver Canucks are reportedly cutting salaries and shortening the work week for its full-time employees.

Even the league office is feeling the crunch. According to a report from the Canadian Press, league employees will be placed on a four-day work week beginning Oct. 1 and they'll receive only 80 percent of their salary. League commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy Bill Daly also have declined their hefty salaries for the duration of the lockout.

On the other hand, there is the case of Alex Ovechkin. News came in Wednesday that the Washington Capitals star winger has agreed to play in his home country of Russia for a pretty penny. His agreement with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) will reportedly pay Ovechkin just under $6 million, or 65 percent of what his NHL contract would be worth this season.

Yet, for every Ovechkin, there are dozens of NHL players who won't be making millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars this season. While those players clearly will be better off than the countless office workers and team employees who'll sacrifice their jobs during the lockout, it's still a fact that the work stoppage will hurt some players more than others.

The truth is there are haves and have-nots on both sides of the lockout, adding depth to a debate that is usually framed as a clash between the monolithic NHL on one side and the NHLPA on the other.

Relatively speaking in relation to the real world, the have-nots among the owners are the league's smaller market teams. From the outside, it appears they have a larger say within their faction than their counterparts on the NHLPA side -- the journeymen or borderline minor leaguers -- possess against the star power of guys like Ovechkin.

Of course, the reason the small-market owners have a voice is because Bettman is their biggest supporter. After all, the NHL expanded to places like Florida and the southwestern United States under this commissioner's watch and he is on a mission to make life easier for these clubs, many of which are on tentative fiscal footing to say the least.

While Bettman is on a mission to help the struggling clubs the owners of more lucrative teams are said to be on the same page. But that's according to the commissioner, of course, as individual owners have been prohibited from sharing their thoughts on the lockout.

Meanwhile, on the players' side, the fact that Ovechkin and other stars can earn serious money playing somewhere other than the NHL is a good sign for their unity. It may not do any good for the one-dimensional enforcer with little appeal to European clubs, but for the most part if the high-profile players are happy, then that would seem to be a good sign for overall NHLPA unity.

Presently, there seems to be a constant flow of big names announcing their decision to play in Europe and that's not a good sign this labor strife will end anytime soon.

And it's not only Ovechkin who is using Europe as a Plan B. Players like Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash and Jason Spezza also are heading overseas while the owners are left looking like jilted lovers forced to watch their partners get on with their lives.

Now it seems the only way this lockout will end in time to salvage the start of the season is if the owners capitulate and drastically lower their terms. They may have to do that eventually, but with so little progress achieved to date, it's hard to see the owner's caving before the season is scheduled to start on Oct. 11.

After losing big in the last labor negotiations that cost the NHL its 2004-05 season, the players seem dug in and ready for a long lockout. The feeling that the NHLPA has been winning the public relations battle against Bettman and the owners can only make their position stronger.

Perhaps, as more regular folks are laid off by NHL teams, the millionaire players will be forced to share a larger chunk of the blame, but there's no guarantee that would force their hand anyway. The players easily could rationalize those lost jobs as a symptom of the owners' greed and not lose any sleep over it.

Both the owners and players are currently relying on tunnel vision to view a complicated issue that requires a much wider perspective. A more comprehensive frame of reference will have to come with time, but, unfortunately, when that will happen is as unclear as the status of the 2012-13 NHL season.