Consequences of a 40-game season…

Steve Ott matches up against Patrick Kane in Game Three of a playoff series that would have happened if last year was only a 40-game season

The cynic in me suggests that the NHL won’t, or can’t, be fixed, and the cynic in me also says that the NHL and PA will come up with a deal that allows the league to keep the Winter Classic but shelve the lean revenue months of the season in a cost-cutting move.

Which opens an excellent door. In walks chaos. With the season cut in half, the potential for numerical randomness in the standings and stats pages doubles. Take last season at the 40-game mark, for instance. Neither Los Angeles nor Phoenix were in playoff position at the 40-game mark. Rather, Minnesota and Dallas held those last two spots before.

So we’d have an entire different Western Conference Final, which leads to new stories being spun. The narrative no longer praises the genius and foresight of Dean Lombardi into buying into two troubled assets in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, or the entire Phoenix Coyotes organization for their ability to succeed in tough economic conditions.

Meanwhile, the red-hot San Jose Sharks, winners of nine of 12, go into the playoffs as the #1 seed, facing the Nashville Predators, who are about to catch fire and win ten of their next 11 regular season games. If that hot streak applies to the playoffs as well, perhaps the Predators are a Conference finalist after many years of knocking on the door.

The Stars and Wild, 6th and 7th seeds respectively, are about to see their fortunes plummet, leaving Chicago and Vancouver with easy series’ victories. With the season so tightly packed, the Canucks don’t have an opportunity to have a falling out with former first round-selection Cody Hodgson and he’s never traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo have their own problems. While they’ll finish the season with a respectable 21-14-7 record in the final 42 games, they’ve gotten off to a brutal 18-18-4 start, closer to lottery contention than the playoffs. They didn’t finish low enough in the standings after 82 games to cost anybody their job, just low enough in the end to shuffle some pieces about.

However, 11th in the East and a mere point-a-game pace represents the clubs’ worst finish since the 2003 season.

The Edmonton Oilers finish fourth last in the conference, ahead of Carolina and Anaheim. The Ducks end up beating Columbus in the NHL lottery and wind up with Nail Yakupov, marking the Ducks’ first elite offensive talent selected in the draft since 2005.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this short season, is that the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t hang around long enough for their bubble to burst. They finish in the 8th spot, losing out on the tiebreaker to their provincial rival Ottawa Senators and face the New York Rangers. The Leafs, dominant at Madison Square Garden in 2011-12, would make some noise against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blueshirts and even if they wouldn’t win the series, they make enough of a statement to turn Toronto back onto its Leafs.

Then, you get more variation with individual player shooting percentages, PDOs and general managers make outrageous contract offers to poor players in the next summer. Basically, a shortened season will represent a boon for the arrogant statistical community because variance that hammers itself out after 82 games all of a sudden doesn’t. There will be about a dozen Jordan Eberle debates next summer. (Hey, better than negotiation updates)

Happy Thanksgiving. This is the weekend that traditionally marks the start of the NHL schedule, and this year it doesn’t. Maybe the Americans will get Thanksgiving hockey openers this year…