Sunday was set to be Day 113 of the dumb, stupid NHL lockout. While there will be time to examine the most senseless work stoppage in the history of sports, we've focused enough on boardroom talk; let us move to matters that don't require us to consult a lawyer.
It's been a while since we've done that. You remember Jaromir Jagr is in Dallas now, right? Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and members of the Minnesota Wild? And Rick Nash isn't in Columbus anymore? It's been that long. The Staples Center rafters are itching to raise another banner.
Details on the 2013 NHL season will be announced in the next few days and with training camps set to open up later this week things this time around will be a sprint, not a marathon. In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the biggest questions now that the lockout is finally over.
Is Roberto Luongo destined to be a Toronto Maple Leaf?
Even during a lockout, when no transactions could be made, Luongo could not escape the never-ending trade rumors that have followed him. Sportsnet's John Shannon reported in October that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillies had agreed on a deal that would send the netminder to Toronto once the lockout ended.
Well, here we are. The CBA is set to be ratified in a few days and then player movement can restart. Does Luongo have a bag packed already? Cory Schneider signed a three-year deal with the Canucks in June and the Maple Leafs could really use a goaltender. Or is Luongo's presence too vital for the Canucks in a 48-52 game season to part with? Is it a match made in heaven or another rumor gone bad? If the deal is indeed true, let's hope Burke doesn't tell Luongo to change anything about his fantastic Twitter account.
What teams benefit from a short season?
Looks like the Los Angeles Kings won't have to worry about experiencing the dreaded "Stanley Cup hangover", huh? Every team has had a long enough off season that the only question will be who is in the best shape at the start? Many players spent the lockout either in the minor leagues or in Europe, but plenty of others have just been skating on their own with teammates. Teams like Edmonton and Carolina, who have had a number of youngsters playing in the AHL during the lockout, could shoot right out of the gate. Same for those with strong presences in net. With teams playing a compressed schedule, the need for a strong backup will be incredibly important.
How will new coaches adjust to a shortened schedule?
Bob Hartley (Calgary), Ralph Krueger (Edmonton), Michel Therrien (Montreal) and Adam Oates (Washington) will all take on new gigs this season as head coaches. In a perfect world they would get a normal training camp to build line chemistry and begin implementing their individual systems, but instead they will have to begin the education as soon as possible. Only Krueger will have had a head start having been an assistant with the Oilers since 2010, while Hartley and Therrien have been around the block in their NHL coaching careers.
New faces in new place. How will star players succeed in their new surroundings?
Zach Parise, Ryan Suter. Rick Nash. James van Riemsdyk. Luke Schenn. Jaromir Jagr. Jordan Staal. Those are just a few of the bigger names who will have a new address this season. There won't be a lot of time for introductions and chemistry building on their new rosters, but these players will be relied upon to help lead their individual teams to success. Parise and Suter, along with Nash will be the most-watched "players with new teams" considering what the Minnesota Wild invested in the pair and the package that the New York Rangers gave up for the former Columbus Blue Jacket franchise face. In the Rangers' case, they're Stanley Cup contenders and Nash will be looked upon as the "final piece". For Parise and Suter, they may not be Cup contenders yet, but they acquisitions signaled the beginning of change in the Wild organization, once owner Craig Leipold is hoping pays off in a title.
What becomes of the toxic relationship between Gary Bettman and players?
The vitriol directed at Bettman from members of the NHLPA was unbelievable. From Kris Versteeg labeling him and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly as "cancers" to Ian White calling Bettman an "idiot" to the numerous other NHLers taking shots at the NHL leadership, the emotions of these CBA negotiations were incredibly high all throughout the process. No one reached Chris Chelios levels of comments, but had this gone on a little longer maybe it would have. So where does that relationship go from here?
A cooling off period is in order and maybe once the games begin the hate will level off, but after a contentious few months, is there any salvaging the "mistrust" between the players and Bettman? He gets booed louder and louder every year when he hands out the Stanley Cup every June, but could you imagine the decibel level when the commissioner walks out on to the winning team's ice this year?
Who needs to get under the new salary cap ceiling for 2013-14?
Teams will be able to spend up to $70.2 million (pro-rated) on their roster for this shortened season, with the cap floor set at $44 million. Beginning with next season, the ceiling will lower to $64.3 million. As of right now, eight teams -- Boston, Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary, Philadelphia, San Jose, Chicago, and Buffalo -- are all over that number, according to CapGeek. Factor in teams being able to use up to two compliance buyouts after June with that money not counting against the salary cap and you can count on an active off-season with plenty of buzz. There might actually be a "Free Agent Frenzy" for once.
How are the fans "made whole"?
While the players and the league fought it out in a boardroom (and through the media), the fans, as usual, were left out in the cold wondering when their favorite NHL teams would return to action. Going through a lockout for the second time in eight years has potentially broken the relationship between some fans and the NHL. It remains to be seen what attendance numbers will look like when the games return, but the damage has been done and it's now up to both the league and players to work together to bring back those lost fans and rekindle the love from the diehards that have grown disgusted yet again.
There's talk that NHL GameCenter Live will be free for this season as an enticement. That's nice and all, but getting butts in the seats with lower ticket prices and major community efforts by players should be the focus to repairing relationships going forward.
That and a promise we won't be going through this s--- again a decade from now.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy