Top Shelf: When no news is bad news

The term "bottle episode" is used to describe a half-hour or hour of scripted television that confines its setting to one location.

For the most part, bottle episodes exist to save money as the fixed setting allows for a smaller budget. However, the bottle episode also can serve as a way for characters to work out existing issues and pull together toward a common goal.

One common bottle episode trope is locking characters in a room and not letting them leave until they work out their problems with each other. It sounds like a storyline the NHL's owners and players should embrace, but, unfortunately, the two sides barely can bring themselves to share the same room these days.

Since last week's brief window of optimism was slammed shut, neither side has formally met to try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

The NHLPA wanted to meet with the owners on Thursday, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly shot that down, saying if they didn't like the league's last proposal and didn't have a new one of their own, then he is "not sure what we would be meeting about."

The fact that neither side seems ready to back off their recent proposals is not good news for the prospects of a full 82-game season. In order to complete the entire 2012-13 schedule, the league says it must start play by Nov. 2, which is a little over a week from now.

It seems unlikely that would happen even if the two sides were sitting down and talking, but the lack of formal meetings makes the situation bleaker.

The most frustrating aspect of the current state of the labor battle is that no momentum is being made on the core economic issues, which are the only problems that stand in the way of a new CBA agreement. Instead, the players and owners are too busy bickering about sideshow issues to tackle the real problems like defining hockey-related revenue or addressing whether or not existing players contracts will be honored,

The sad truth is even though the original start date to the 2012-13 campaign passed weeks ago, the NHL's labor negotiations have failed to gain traction in any substantive way.

Perhaps if this were television, locking commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Donald Fehr in a room until they agreed on a new CBA would solve all the problems. Meanwhile, back here in the real world they won't even sit down at the same table.


In a move that seemed inevitable in the long run, the New York Islanders officially announced Wednesday the team will move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season.

The timing of the announcement is the only thing surprising about this bit of news. The Islanders' lease at the much-maligned Nassau Coliseum runs out after the 2014-15 season and optimists hoped owner Charles Wang would make another attempt at getting Long Islanders on board to build a new arena.

In the end, the obstacles Wang faced in getting a new home for the Islanders built in Nassau County were too great and he instead opted to agree on a 25- year lease with Bruce Ratner, the majority owner of the Barclays Center.

Wang fought for years to make the once-great franchise a bigger draw on Long Island, but his crusade fell on deaf ears. The old building derisively known as "The Mausoleum" became an albatross for the club and the deteriorating edifice was home to smaller and smaller crowds.

The only team to draw smaller crowds than the Islanders last season was the Phoenix Coyotes, a club so troubled that it's been owned and operated by the NHL since the franchise declared bankruptcy in 2009.

Considering the Coliseum was keeping the Isles' stuck in a vicious circle, a move anywhere other than Long Island makes sense. But that doesn't mean the team will draw any better in Brooklyn. After all, it still remains to be seen if the borough will support the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, who are making the move to the Barclays Center this season.

Unlike the former New Jersey Nets, Wang says his team will keep the New York moniker instead of its city name to Brooklyn. For Wang's sake, hopefully that doesn't send the wrong message to the Brooklynites he is hoping to win over.