The NHL is finally back on ice and the league will commence with a 48-game season beginning on Jan. 19.
NHL sends memo to clubs indicating no camps before Saturday (and may not open until Monday), 48-game season to begin Jan. 19
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 7, 2013
However, it's possible that the season could start even sooner:
NHL sent out memo to teams tonight saying Jan 19 puck drop is most probable, however if ratification process goes fast, Jan 15 still in play— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 7, 2013
We still don't know what the matchups will be like. We will know that on Thursday or Friday:
The #NHL would like to have a schedule out by Thursday or Friday at the latest. Don't forget they've got a lot of work to do to sell tix.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) January 6, 2013
That said, we can discuss how a 48-game schedule affects teams...in particular, how it will affect teams in a negative way.
One of the hallmarks of a typical NHL season is that there aren't many back-to-back games. This gives teams and players a chance to rest after a brutal, grinding game.
That likely won't happen this season. They have to fit in a lot of games in a short amount of time and there will simply be more back-to-back games. It's an inevitability.
Teams will have to deal with tired players but will have no choice but to press on. This will lead to more injuries and more struggles.
Will the Shortened Season Be a Problem?
Additionally, teams have to be on their best behavior the entire season. A sloppy game or two could really hurt playoff standing. Even worse, a five-game losing streak could be the difference between the playoffs and sitting on the couch watching them.
That means teams will have to come out of the gate strong. But that's easier said than done, especially considering that training camp will only be a week.
Teams with a lot of new parts, like the Minnesota Wild, might find it hard to jell and could start the season slow. That could be disastrous—any slow start could mean missing the playoffs.
Finally, it's possible that some players didn't take their conditioning as seriously as they would in a normal offseason. If they come into camp out of shape, a 48-game season will be brutal on their bodies. They might never find the time to catch their breath and recover.
A 48-game schedule is not ideal, but it is better than nothing. There will be consequences to it and one of them is the negative impact it has on teams. The teams that can manage it the best will be the teams who are left standing when all is said and done.