VANCOUVER — Don’t throw out that 2012-13 NHL schedule just yet.
Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis thinks the regular-season schedule the NHL released this past summer will be closely followed when — or if — the lockout ends.
“Because of the complexity of creating a schedule we are kind of presuming they will start from that point, keep the current schedule and then make up some things toward the end if possible,” Gillis said this week on his regular appearance on Vancouver sports radio station Team 1040.
“I don’t know what that means at this point, we haven’t been given any details of possibilities of starting last week or next week or December or any time. I would presume just because of the body of work schedules would have to resemble the ones that are currently in place depending on when play begins.”
If the current negotiations do happen to yield a settlement in the next week or so, Dec. 1 is a date that has ben bandied about as a possible start to a condensed season of 65 or 70 games.
A Dec. 1 start would suit the Canucks nicely if the NHL did indeed stick to its current schedule. They’d open the season with a five-game homestand starting Dec. 2 against the Anaheim Ducks. In fact, they’d play seven of their first eight games at home.
The NBA did things differently when it settled its lockout last December. The NBA rewrote a new 66-game schedule that began Christmas Day and ended April 26.
The Canucks were quite happy with this year’s schedule, one Gillis called the best the team has had during his tenure.
A weeklong training camp would likely precede the start of a new shortened season. Some in the Canuck camp believe such a camp would include two pre-season games, likely against the Calgary Flames and-or Edmonton Oilers.
But Sportsnet analyst Doug MacLean thinks pre-season games would be a tough sell for the league coming out of a lockout and trying to repair relations with an angry fan base.
“I will be shocked if there is any pre-season, I really will,” MacLean said in an interview Thursday. “I just can’t believe first of all they’d subject the fans to it. And secondly, I can’t believe they’d take the time. Time is going to be of the essence here.”
MacLean was on the coaching staff of the Detroit Red Wings the last time the NHL played an abbreviated season in 1994-95. He remembers how tough it was to get players ready for that 48-game sprint of a season.
He thinks player conditioning will be a huge issue.
“To be quite honest, it’s a tough situation because I’m talking to teams right now and a lot of guys are not even in good shape,” he said. “It’s a bit of an issue. I talked to a couple of European coaches and they said guys have come over there and some of them have been in terrible shape.”
Former Canuck coach Marc Crawford, now coaching the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League, called out Gilbert Brule for his lack of conditioning after Brule left the team recently.
NHL training camps, whenever they start, figure to be sparsely attended.
“You are only going to bring 26 guys to camp,” MacLean said. “You are going to bring your team and you may bring three or four American Leaguers at best just to protect yourself with injuries.
“But it is going to be an intense seven days of just team readiness. Not a training camp as much as a real system-oriented, let’s-get-back-to-work type of setup with conditioning obviously a big part of it. If you are not in shape when you get there, seven days isn’t going to get you in shape.”
The Canucks, with only Jannik Hansen (Finland) and Dale Weise (Netherlands) playing overseas, have fewer players than most teams actually playing some competitive hockey during the lockout.
“You can skate with your buddies two or three days a week and you can lift (weights), but it’s not like when you are with your personal trainer and in an intense situation from mid-June until the first of September,” MacLean said. “It’s not even close.”