NHL Lockout: 6 Positives of a Shortened Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

NHL Lockout: 6 Positives of a Shortened Season

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    After Bill Daly and Steve Fehr met over the weekend to discuss the issues preventing the two sides from reaching an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there was a hint of optimism regarding the negotiations.

    The two met for hours (source: TSN.ca) and are speaking again Nov. 6 (source: New York Post). That's a lot better than sitting in silence, as the two sides had done for two weeks.

    There's hope that an agreement can be reached and there will be hockey this season.

    There will not be a full 82-game schedule. Too many pages have been pulled off the calendar for that to happen.

    However, a shortened season is not the end of the world. There are many positive developments that will come into play that may make the regular season more exciting than usual for coaches, players and fans.

Intensity

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    A reduced schedule means that the value of each game will have more meaning than it does in a standard 82-game season.

    Teams won't be able to look past a three- or four-game losing streak at the start of the season knowing they can make up for it at midseason or the home stretch.

    Mental preparation will be the key and each team will need to come with its best effort nearly every night.

    Coaches and players talk about consistency during an 82-game schedule, but nearly every team will take a few nights off during the year. That can't happen with a shortened season.

Schedule Change

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    The NBA played 66 games last year after the league locked out its players. The NHL played a 48-game schedule in 1994-95 after suffering through Gary Bettman's first lockout.

    When the league plays a shortened schedule, it can't just pick up from where it left off when the lockout comes to an end.

    The schedule makers will have to make major adjustments so teams are playing meaningful games.

    It's quite likely that interconference games will be eliminated, depending on the exact number of games that will be played.

    It is probable that Eastern Conference teams will only play games against Eastern Conference rivals, and the same holds for Western Conference teams.

Coaching

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    Coaches will be out of their comfort zone during a lockout-shortened season.

    Instead of playing two or three games per week during the regular season, they will play three or four games each week.

    That means coaches will have to lighten up in practice so they don't wear out their players during the busy schedule.

    The smartest coaches, like Detroit's Mike Babcock, will make adjustments so their teams can survive and thrive, while those who refuse to make changes will have problems.

Underdogs

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    Over a long 82-game season, the breaks tend to even out. The good teams rise to the top of the conference while the average and below-average teams sink toward the bottom.

    A shortened season may provide an opportunity for an underdog to have its moment and shock opponents.

    A young team like the Edmonton Oilers may be a year or two away from legitimate title contention. However, in a shortened season, a team with young legs like the Oilers may be able to get off to a good start, build momentum and overcome its inexperience.

    A shortened season may give an underdog team a chance to thrive.

Conditioning

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    Whenever the season starts, teams will certainly go through a shortened training camp before competition begins in earnest.

    That means there will be a few practice sessions before teams start competing in regular season games. However, when it comes to conditioning, players will have to do that on their own.

    They won't have the opportunity to come to camp and play their way into shape.

    The teams who have the most players who have worked on conditioning on their own or by playing in Europe during the lockout will have an advantage over the players who spent their time eating donuts and laying on the couch.

Fan Interest

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    A short season means that the playoffs will seem like they are right around the corner.

    As a result, fans will enjoy the regular-season action that much more because they know that each game will get them closer to postseason hockey.

    Also, while it will be hard for players to compete in three or four games per week, it will be great for fans who are being denied early-season games.

    They will have great games to attend or watch on television nearly every night of the season.

    That's a hockey-gasm that most fans will love once the lockout comes to an end.