As expected, the NHL canceled another round of games, those scheduled Dec. 15-30 on Monday. The league made the announcement after a report earlier in the day from TSN's Darren Dreger.
The move is perhaps overdue, seeing how the league's last cancellation left games on the schedule as soon as this coming Friday. But after talks broke off Thursday, we knew there was no way it would be possible for a season to begin that quickly.
Stating the obvious, it also means the hopes for games to be played in 2012 aren't totally gone. After all, they could play games on New Year's Eve.
This latest cancellation brings about a couple of questions. Is the fact that the NHL decided to go with only two weeks -- instead of four weeks and into the middle of January -- a good sign? The case can definitely be made. If there were zero optimism that a deal could get done, they might have taken a bigger chunk of the schedule. Then again, the NHL's M.O. during this lockout has typically been to cancel two weeks at a time, so this doesn't deviate a whole lot from the script.
Perhaps equally important/pressing is the matter of a supposed drop-dead date. Will this be the last cancellation we have before the Big Haircut, or is the fact that it was just two weeks good enough to last through one more round of cuts?
That one is tougher to answer. Thus far, the NHL hasn't wanted to give an absolute deadline for a drop-dead date; commissioner Gary Bettman would only commit to saying that 48 games is the bare minimum the league would stand for to get a season in. So there could be one more round of cancellations before you can kiss the entire season goodbye.
Consider that in the 1994-95 season (or technically the 1995 season), a 48-game schedule was played after a deal wasn't reached Jan. 14. We could be looking at the same scenario.
It's important to note a distinction here. Obviously canceling these games is a necessity at this point and a mere formality. If/when a new CBA is reached and a season can happen, the schedule won't just pick up where it left off anyway. There will be a new schedule that will likely be completely devoid of cross-conference games to the point where we wouldn't see any East vs. West until the Stanley Cup Final.
The cancellations bring the total games lost count to 527 this season (excluding preseason games but including the Winter Classic). That accounts for 42.8 percent of the season
There are no talks scheduled as of now, so a Dec. 31 start date can be realized. But the two sides have been in communication and hope that talks could resume soon. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly affirmed those hopes to NHL.com.
"Trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet," Daly said in regard to resumption of the negotiating process.
Just another week in the NHL lockout, 2012 edition, soon to be 2012-13 edition, where hopes for anything greater than a 48-game schedule (if we get a season at all!) die with each passing day.