The NHL hasn't publicly announced any changes to its stated goal of starting the season on Jan. 1, but it's becoming clear that's probably not going to be possible.
The league and the NHL Players' Association are still at odds over finances, with the NHLPA wanting to stick to the memorandum of understanding that was agreed to by both sides before this summer's return to play, while owners want to make some changes now that it's clear there still won't be fans to start the season and possibly much longer than that.
There are also still logistical issues to sort out, like travel, division realignment (an all-Canada division looks likely), the schedule, and whether or not there will be a short-term bubble situation.
Appearing on our sister station WGR in Buffalo, Sportsnet's Chris Johnston explained that some teams may not even be allowed in their arenas right now and said he doesn't think a Jan. 1 start is going to happen.
"I can't speak to every jurisdiction around the NHL, but in Quebec, for example, the Montreal Canadiens aren't even able to open their practice facility," Johnston said. "So if a deal was reached financially where training camp was opening in two weeks, I don't think the Canadiens could actually have training camp in their own city. I saw Santa Clara County in California has booted the [San Francisco] 49ers out. I think that would impact the San Jose Sharks if they were looking to do something in their arena in the near future. I think that Jan. 1 date, while I believe the league was sincere in wanting to get it going that soon, I don't think that's going to be possible. ... As a result, this might drag on a little longer than anyone else would like."
While none of this is great news for the league as a whole, a delayed start would actually be pretty good news for the Bruins.
That's because two of their best players -- Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak -- underwent offseason surgeries and wouldn't have been ready for a Jan. 1 start.
Marchand underwent a sports hernia repair and has been on track to return in mid-January, while Pastrnak underwent a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair that is expected to keep him out until mid-February.
"If it does get pushed back, it allows them more time to heal," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy acknowledged Tuesday on Dale and Keefe. "They’re on schedule, probably a little bit ahead of schedule. … If it does get pushed back, it is a benefit in terms of those two players."
Cassidy went on to point out that a later start could mean a more condensed schedule and more back-to-backs, which might create a need to rest some players at times in order to ensure everyone remains fresh and healthy.
Still, the less time you have to go with Marchand and Pastrnak out of the lineup, the better. Picking and choosing when to rest them is better than having to play without them for a month or a month and a half straight, all while throwing depth players into bigger roles they may not be ready to handle early in the season. You don't want to fall in a hole early and have to make up points in a shortened, condensed season.