If the NHL and the NHLPA don't start speaking the same language by September 15, the 2012-13 season will not start on time.
Once that deadline comes and goes, fans and players alike (even some coaches) will have to prepare for the possibility of an entire year without NHL hockey.
But fret not—the cancellation of the upcoming NHL season would give you extra time to do activities!
However, aside from having extra time for such delightful activities as grocery shopping, socializing with real people and working for money, there are perhaps three things a Leafs fan can actually look forward to in the event of a full-blown lockout.
Silver lining No. 1—Nathan MacKinnon
The summer after the cancelled 2004-05 NHL season, a lottery was held to determine the draft order for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Each of the 30 teams got three balls to start off with.
For every playoff appearance a team had during the 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, they'd get a ball taken away.
For every first overall pick a team had in the corresponding drafts, that was another ball taken away, down to a minimum of one ball per team.
The draft order for the first round was determined once all 30 teams had been chosen and all the duplicates discarded.
The second round order was the inverse of this (i.e. the 30th team from the first round picked first in the second round), with the order alternating back and forth for the remaining rounds.
The Penguins had no playoff appearances in the aforementioned seasons and only one first overall pick during that time (Marc-Andre Fleury, 2003).
Fast forward to 2012.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had no playoff appearances in recent memory. The only time the Leafs have ever picked first overall was 27 years ago, so no worries there.
If the 2012-13 season gets erased and a draft lottery of this nature is held again in 2013, the Leafs will have a nice advantage over most of the other teams in the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes.
Could Leafs Nation tolerate the loss of an entire season if it meant the acquisition of MacKinnon, possibly the most talked-about draft prospect since Crosby himself?
Silver lining No. 2—Toronto Marlies
When the Marlies made the 2012 Calder Cup Finals, they enjoyed a level of attention and relevance in Toronto they'd never before experienced.
A full-blown lockout could be a small blessing for the baby Leafs because the Marlies hysteria we saw a few months ago during the AHL playoffs could carry forward to their upcoming season.
Sure, a number of NHL players might choose to play their lockout hockey in the AHL, but there are positives to be had.
The Marlies get a huge boost in popularity and Leafs fans get their hockey fix while also keeping their eyes on Leafs prospects.
It's also a great opportunity for fans who are used to only watching NHL-related programming to familiarize themselves with their favourite team's minor league affiliates and the minor leagues in general.
And who knows? You might even start paying attention to non-North American hockey (assuming, of course, you don't already)!
Silver lining No. 3—Bragging rights, sort of.
On the bright side of a potential lockout...next year it will only be 1 year since the lockout the Leafs will have missed the playoffs.
— Bloge Salming (@blogesalming) July 16, 2012
I laughed and cried at the same time.