Despite last week's negotiations falling through and the two sides failing to reach an agreement, there is still hope that the NHL will agree in time for half a season.
TSN's Darren Dreger reported today that the NHL will cancel games through December 30th, which is much more optimistic than the originally proposed January 15th date. Although cancelling games is never a good sign, the fact that the NHL is only cancelling up until the 30th shows some sort of hope that the season will start soon.
Cancelling up until the 30th gives the opportunity for the season to start on New Year's Eve, which would give the NHL a 13-game schedule for opening day.
The NHL has already cancelled the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, so starting on a holiday would give it some sort of momentum going into 2013.
According to Sportsnet, the NHL lockout is currently on it's 86th day and has cancelled a total of 388 games, losing nearly $600 million in player salaries. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing as 2012 comes to an end and January may be the final chance for fans to see the NHL this season.
NHL.com's Dan Rosen wrote today that the NHL and NHLPA are working on scheduling a meeting for next week, but nothing has been confirmed. If they want to start the season by the end of the month, they will have to make significant progress by next Friday.
If that doesn't work, January 15th may become the final date before the NHL loses the season. The 1994 lockout ended on January 11, 1994 and the season started nine days later on January 20th, allowing the league to have a 48-game season.
Having 48 games ultimately means that any team could have a chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup, but it is still better than having no season at all. There is no doubt that hockey fans would rather see the Columbus Blue Jackets win the Stanley Cup than not have a winner at all (well, maybe).
Despite the public arguments and constant setbacks in negotiations, these talks are going much better than they did during the 2004 work stoppage. Both sides went months without talking during the last lockout and at least Daly and Fehr are working to make something happen every week.
Everyone is certainly frustrated up to this point, but only cancelling games up until the 30th gives hope that an agreement is right around the corner. Having 48 games is a lot better than zero, but the NHL has a little more than a month to make that happen.