If you haven't heard by now, the gloves appear to be heading towards the ice in the NHL CBA negotiations.
With the PA still working on their counteroffer, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that he is willing to lock out the players rather than go for another year under the current agreement.
As the guys at Puck Daddy point out, it's not certain that the season will be affected, but it's pretty reasonable to suspect things will not get going exactly on time.
For a lot of fans, this would be a painful slap in the face, particularly here in Columbus where so many have been anticipating the chance to show off the city by hosting the All Star Game festivities. It would also serve as one last kick after the nightmare of last season, by preventing fans from getting a chance to put the past behind them and see some hockey. There's also the potential financial pain both to the organization and the businesses in the Arena District who are counting on 41 home dates to boost their revenue.
With all that being said, however, there are some potential silver linings in that cloud.
If, and I repeat at this point it is only an IF the Blue Jackets are preparing for a lockout, one would think that Scott Howson and the front office are looking at the angles.
In terms of development, a lockout could be a blessing in disguise for players like Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson, not to mention some of the team's young defensive corps. As more experienced players flock to Europe, the Jackets could easily maneuver to put a number of the "kids" down in Springfield, where they can take on top line duties against a better than average level of competition until the NHL returns to action.
Giving the Johan a chance to be a #1 center while not requiring him to face defenders like Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara seems like a pretty good deal in our favor. How about letting Tim Erixon and John Moore play on a pairing to see if they might develop some chemistry?
It's not all perfect - obviously, in the event of a lockout, Ryan Murray would be sent directly back to the WHL - but it might be a great way to build some guys up.
Another area of potential benefit is the fact that a year would automatically be knocked off every contract. Like the development angle, there are downsides (guys like Artem Anisimov would go directly to RFA status, for example), but it would instantly zap the Steve Mason contract off the books - and get rid of another year of the Mike Commodore buyout.
If Vinny Prospal wanted to go forward with the transition to a coaching / front office role, it would also provide time for some on the job training before potentially retiring once the NHL "officially" gets back in business (I'd call it pulling an Eric Lindros, but nobody's trying to make him go to Quebec.)
The other interesting wild card would be the NHL draft.
In the case of the 2005 draft, the NHL determined the draft order by lottery, weighting the odds by playoff apperances and 1st overall picks for the last three years. Given Columbus' track record, one would think this could shift things in our favor, and while there would still be an element of chance, at least we know Edmonton wouldn't be walking away with the pick THIS time.
With all this said - please put me in the camp of people who absolutely do NOT want to see a lockout. Even a shortened season would be frustrating, especially since the people who will be hurt worst are the arena and area business employees who will never have a voice in these negotiations. I hope in my heart that somehow, they'll pull a rabbit out of the hat and let players report for training camp.
But you must prepare for the worst, and if we learned anything from this past season, it's that you must to find ways to turn your struggles into an advantage.