As we keep waiting to see what happens with the lockout, news gets grimmer and grimmer. The latest blow was the totally expected yet somehow painful cancellation of the first batches of pre-season games, including the planned "Hockeyville" game between the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs in Stirling-Rowdown, Ontario.
Yet there are a few small reasons to hold out hope, even now - and it comes from the plans that players themselves are making.
Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski have both announced they will be staying in Columbus rather than going to Europe. R.J. Umberger, Steve Mason, Brandon Dubinsky, and Derick Brassard are also staying in North America, if not locally, but have not come out and made a statement one way or the other about their intentions.
Vinny Prospal has debated returning to the Czech Republic, though as of today he is still in Columbus. Artem Anisimov has signed to play in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl while locked out, and there has been some talk that Sergei Bobrovsky might join him, though I've yet to see that be made official. (Edit: Just after this was posted, Dmitri Chesnokov reported that Bobrovsky has signed a deal to play for SKA.)
Should they go, they'll need to wait for the IIHF to process their transfer cards, which has been a roadblock for several NHLers who have already made the leap overseas. Fedor Tyutin seems like another player who is likely to go East if the lockout looks to go on for too long, but for now it seems he's waiting to see what happens.
Meanwhile, Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, Tim Erixon, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Michael Chaput, Oliver Gabriel, John Moore, David Savard, and rest of the team's AHL eligible talent have been assigned to play in Springfield, while Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner and Oscar Dansk have reported to their CHL clubs.
Aside from the guys moving to the AHL, there's really been no mass exodus, and reports from Aaron Portzline and others indicate that a sizable core group of the team still practice daily over at the Ice Haus. They seem to be hoping that, just perhaps, this lockout will a relatively short one, and it doesn't make sense to make commitments elsewhere that they'll be walking away from before too long.
It's not much - in fact, it's about as paper thin of a hope as you could ever hold on to.
But it's something, so grab tight, and hold on.