At this point the only remaining alternative to the season being canceled is a condensed schedule of, most likely, 48 games per team.
Louie DeBrusk knows what that’s like from his days with the Edmonton Oilers in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign.
“There are going to be some players that have let their guard down just a little bit,” DeBrusk told Sportsnet. That’s particularly true of guys that haven’t played in another league during the work stoppage.
In a 48-game season, any rough patch has the potential to sink a team, so getting out of the gate quickly will be critical. To that end the Edmonton Oilers might have an edge if the season is salvaged.
“Obviously biased a little bit,” DeBrusk admitted, “but you have to understand that they have a young nucleus that are all playing. Your best players high-quality hockey and meaningful hockey right now and when things turn around — if they do — and they go back to work, these guys will be ready to step right in and have an impact, so they’re going to be tough out of the gates.”
Because the Oilers’ core players are so young, most of them were eligible to play together in the AHL and the one noteworthy exception, Nail Yakupov, found work in the KHL instead.
For the most part though, DeBrusk thinks it will be the veteran teams that benefit, especially the ones that had long, grueling playoff runs. The Los Angeles Kings seem like an obvious addition to this category.
The New York Rangers are also noteworthy given that they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals and the lockout has provided Marian Gaborik with plenty of extra time to recover from his shoulder injury.
Of course, we’ll never find out if those teams end up excelling under these unique circumstances unless the NHL and union come to an understanding in the not too distant future.