But that could soon change.
Optimism is at its September high this weekend, as the two sides began talks Friday and have sessions planned for both Saturday and Sunday, as well.
Donald Fehr, players' association deputy commissioner, sounded upbeat in a Thursday interview with NHL.com's Dan Rosen. Per Fehr:
We have agreed on an agenda of topics that we think can lead to productive discussions and agreement, and we hope that it will be constructive to the overall process. We're 100 percent focused on not missing any regular-season games and, hopefully, we can achieve that objective.
Neither Fehr nor ridiculed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have sounded that positive since July, as once-encouraging press conferences have given way to heavily scripted public relations pleas and scathing attacks on the opposing side.
Now, however, talks may be resuming with vigor. In order to preserve the regular season's extremely tentative Oct. 11 scheduled opening day, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) agreement must be reached soon—very soon.
That increasingly abrupt deadline, which has seemed like a somewhat inevitable but nonetheless distant D-Day throughout the summer, may be putting a bit of cooperative sense back in these two sides' minds.
Will the NHL play a shortened regular season in 2012-2013?
Don't be surprised to see Fehr and Bettman, along with an enormous entourage of for-intimidation-purposes-only backers, meet for upwards of eight to 10 hours over the course of the long weekend. A productive and lengthy Friday meeting could prove crucial in keeping future discussions fruitful and salvaging the entirety of the 82-game regular season.
The odds of an upcoming agreement are not high, and have never been high.
But this weekend's climax could be something to build on.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 420 articles and received more than 700,000 reads.