We now have our drop-dead date. The NHL announced on Thursday afternoon that they've canceled the regular season schedule through Jan. 14, assuring us that if there's an NHL season, it will be the 2013 season, not the 2012-13 season.
More importantly, the cancellations back up the long-held assumption that a season will not begin after mid-January. The next round of cancellations will not just be another two week period -- it will certainly be the entire season. By canceling games through the middle of January, the league has outlined its drop dead date to save the season.
In a lot of ways, the cancellation of these games is rather meaningless. We've known for at least a month now -- perhaps longe -- that the current NHL schedule is irrelevant. When and if the season begins, a new schedule will have to be reworked. It's not as if a settlement would see the league pick up the current schedule on Jan. 15. A brand-new schedule would be drawn up.
Both Bill Daly and Gary Bettman have insinuated and have explicitly said that the season will not begin after mid-January and that a 48-game schedule is the shortest the league would play. It now seems as though the NHL and NHLPA have about 25 days to reach a settlement before the year blows up completely.
A total of 625 regular-season games -- 50.8 percent of the season -- were scheduled for October 11 through January 14. We're in Day 96 of the NHL lockout.