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NHL lockout: Daly thinks season will happen; expects more cancellations

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

NHLLockoutThere are a lot of questions to be answered with this NHL lockout. The biggest of all, obviously, is whether or not the league will play hockey this season.

Believe it or not, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says yes.

In an interview on Sirius XM radio with Elliotte Friedman on Wednesday, Daly was asked if he believed there would be a season and was told he couldn't cop out with an "I don't know." His answer was in the affirmative.

At the same time, Daly also said you can expect another round of canceled games this week -- a round that would likely take us to a final season-ending date.

Here's the audio from Sirius XM/Elliotte Friedman.

Bill Daly says there will be an NHL season

So ... Merry Christmas?

There are so many ways to read this. The first is to take the approach that he's stating the obvious. As bad as it has seemed at times, not many have truly thought the entire season is in jeopardy of being wiped off the calendar.

But on the other hand, Daly is expressing a surprising level of optimism from the NHL side of things. It was earlier this month, when negotiations broke off in pretty ugly fashion in New York, that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, with Daly at his side, expressed frustration -- no, anger -- with union head Donald Fehr for getting hockey fans' hopes up for a season when the sides remained divided on many issues.

Then there is the angle of what this might do to any further negotiations. Specifically, is the union sitting back right now tapping its fingers together while creepily saying "Excellent" with this? It would seem to be easier for the union to stick to its guns and try to call the NHL's bluff here. There are a lot of people who believe the owners have had it in mind all along to take this to the brink before settling, trying to get as much from the players as they can. That's the cynical approach to be sure, but sometimes it's hard to deny it as a possibility.

Then again, it could just be Daly's personal belief that something will get done and it's not necessarily the plan among the owners. At this point, who really knows?

I've remained a believer from the beginning that the season wouldn't be canceled, but I wouldn't take this and run to the bank. A lot could happen, and the entire season could be wiped out. It's particularly interesting to compare this to Daly's statement earlier on Wednesday in another radio interview (gee, you would think this guy is on a book media tour or something) where he said that a drop-dead date, while not definitive, would likely be sometime in mid-January.

Remember, they still have some bridges to cross before we can think about dropping the puck again, but it is certainly interesting to hear this level of optimism from Daly. While his answer might not have necessarily been surprising, it was the fact that he said it that is surprising. You would expect that in a situation like that, Daly would have offered up the traditional "no comment" or something to that effect.

Only in the NHL, it seems, can we have the same guy giving us dread -- a drop-dead time frame -- and such hope in the same day. The roller-coaster ride continues.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @StubitsCBS on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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