October 4 marks the 19th day of the NHL lockout. The regular season is scheduled to open in one week, and judging by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly’s comments following the last session Tuesday, October 2, no end is in sight.
He talks of needing both parties to be willing to compromise for a deal to be reached as though only the owners have the high moral ground in compromise. But just as the players association (NHLPA) is unwilling to give up 24 percent of their salaries for the second time in eight years, owners are unwilling to pay the contracts they signed them to. That makes both inflexible, not only the NHLPA.
Owners talk about nine figure profit losses by the cancellation of exhibition games. Players are without their seven-figure incomes. Still, it is the fans that are not spending from their five-figure incomes hurting the worst.
No hockey fan wants a lockout. But fans of the San Jose Sharks might not mind as much as those of many other teams.
No hockey team is neither helped nor hurt immensely or exclusively by the late start to the season. However, all one has to do is witness how differently some teams responded to the condensed NBA season to see how it may affect some teams more than others.
Like most other teams, the NHL lockout brings positives and negatives to the Sharks. But the good outweighs the bad, so we can take a look at the pros here. (For you negative types, here is a link to the the biggest fears San Jose should have.)
For starters, the Sharks have more mileage than most teams. Many teams have had the trip to Europe, but that is one burden some teams have not had to take on. Few teams travel as far to reach many NHL venues as San Jose, either.
Then there are all the playoff games. Going into last season’s playoffs, the only team that had played more games since the lockout (or including the season before it) than San Jose was the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks could use a break, and starting late can only help. They are one of the oldest teams in the NHL, so playing fewer games is also a good thing. They do not need the gel time because they are experienced enough and the core has been intact long enough that they are familiar with one another.
The one place San Jose did make changes was in the coaching staff. Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson were major additions that do need time to get used to head coach Todd McLellan, and vice-versa. But since coaches are not locked out, they can at least put their heads together in preparation for the opening of training camp.
The potential pitfall for older NBA teams is unlikely to be an issue, either. The NHL cannot compact the season as much as the NBA. In addition, it is likely many of the games the Sharks lose would be in other time zones, compensating for some of the attrition through a reduction to their travel burden.
Finally, the Sharks have been a streaky team. They generally are very good for half the season. Last season and in 2008-09 it was the first half, but in every other season under general manager Doug Wilson, San Jose has been among the very hottest teams in the NHL at the end of the season, starting anywhere from December to February.
With any luck, the lockout will skip the entire bad part of the Sharks season.