While both the NHL and NHLPA have held conversations in thelast few days, there are still no formal plans for both sides to meetface-to-face. That should change in the coming days with a deadline to cancelthe entire regular season waiting ahead in January. It appears as though a 48-game shortened season is the only option available to the NHL.
The shortened schedule is the exact same blueprint that theNHL rolled out when a labor stoppage cut into the regular season in 1994-95.That season ended with the New Jersey Devils winning the Cup, and in a pieceof positive news absolutely nobody views that campaign as an asterisk-worthysham.
The Devils swept the Red Wings at the conclusion of anexciting Stanley Cup playoff season, and ended that campaign on June 24. Itsexpected that an abbreviated NHL season would once again reach into late Juneby the time a Stanley Cup champion is crowned.
The sham element is one of the major concerns as things getclose to the witching hour in CBA negotiations. The NHL is expected to drop anyscheduled games outside of the conference, and could end with the Bruinsplaying as many as seven games against their divisional rivals in Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.Those that played in the 1994-95 shortened NHL campaign remember it as some ofthe most exciting hockey the NHL has ever seen.
There were no dead periods that inherently crop up in an 82-gameNHL season, and instead every game was deemed important with each team hangingin the playoff picture for the duration of the year.
In essence it was an NHL sprint rather than the typicalmarathon.
"The 1994-95 shortened season was like a sprinttowards the playoffs," said Bruins President Cam Neely, who had an amazing16 power play goals during that shortened campaign that ended for the Bruins inthe first round of the playoffs against the eventual champion Devils. "So it'llbe just that, I don't know how many games if we do end up playing how manywe'll be able to get into the schedule, but it'll be a sprint to the playoffsand everybody will know that. It's just a matter of what kind of condition theplayers are going to be in because it's going to start off fast and furious."
The danger is that most everybody could see the benefits ofdropping the NHL regular season down to 60 games on a regular basis. Just lopoff the months of October and November, and drop the NHL season right into theheart of winter just prior to the holidays. That will never happen, of course.The NHL owners want the box office from an 82-game regular season, and it wouldbe impossible to reach last years 3.3 billion in revenues if a quarter of thehockey season was erased from existence.
One thing weve all unfortunately learned during a currentNHL lockout that reached Day No. 100 on Saturday: Its all about the bottomline money in the end.
But the potential excitement for an abbreviated NHLseason is one of the few positives that might arise from the CBA morass thatsplayed out after the last three months.