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What We Learned: Cautious optimism in the NHL lockout gets us nowhere

Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

I'm super-sure that it's just a coincidence that the day the NHL cancels the Winter Classic, formally and officially and forever until next year anyway, news of its bending on the make-whole provisions earlier in the week hits the streets.

I'm also really certain that it's purely by chance that the day after, Steve Fehr and Bill Daly shack up in an undisclosed location, like the President and his Cabinet during a national terror alert, and sit around having a frank discussion about Core Economic Issues that everyone else has been dancing around but never actually touching for months now.

[Also: Why it's OK the NHL canceled the Winter Classic]

Just like, as Larry Brooks points out, it's really weird and quite a nice bit of happenstance that the league came out with an not-actually-50-50 proposal after that focus group garbage about "shared sacrifice" got outed on Deadspin.

The point is that you have to take all this stuff with the smallest grain of salt ever recorded by science. Some might say it's a positive sign that they got Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr out of the negotiation process since they won't be in a position screw it up. But at the same time, we also don't know what those two — who we can all probably agree are way more likely to scream a lot and hold their breath and stamp their feet over the slightest concession — will have to say about whatever Daly and the younger Fehr bring back to them.

Not that either went into the clandestine meetings having been unschooled in what their superiors wanted to discuss and float to the other side, but these simply aren't formal meetings.

And certainly, none of this is a harbinger that despite the cancellation of the Winter Classic and the league's odd, ongoing refusal to similarly nix the All-Star Game, any real progress is being made.

Remember the story of Bill Daly and Ted Saskin, the predecessor to Steve Fehr's predecessor's predecessor (I think? It's hard to keep track of all the NHLPA hirings and firings at this point), hammering out the framework of what eventually became the old CBA well before the 2004-05 lockout actually ended, briefly referenced here? They apparently had it all more or less figured out, but it still took months to resolve everything.

[Nick Cotsonika: Wayne Simmonds won't let racist incident ruin Euro trip]

Now, admittedly, the league's situation, and financials, are in far better shape than they were in 2004-05, so there's probably less work to do overall; but nonetheless, it's strange how anyone but the exceptionally desperate can see a light at the end of this tunnel.

(Coming Up: Wings fans done with NHL; Bruce Boudreau has Halloween in perspective; Taylor Hall's big hit; Mattias Tedenby's sick goal; Erik Cole is pessimistic; BizNasty, scoring god; is Jake Gardiner untouchable for the Leafs?; Lindy Ruff is nervous; and a blockbuster trade proposal between Chicago and Edmonton.)

Let's think about it like this: What do we actually know about the make-whole proposal the league sent to the NHLPA on Tuesday?

Basically that the owners are willing to take on the cost they were previously insisting the players covered out of their own pockets. We don't know what other conditions that offer came with despite the entire hockey world resting its head the rails to hear whatever might be coming down the tracks. But we can make a pretty reasonable and safe guess that there were indeed conditions attached.

Put another way: Why on earth would the league make that kind of giant "concession" (referring of course to what we're told their absorbing make-whole is, and not what it actually should be, which is to say, "a thing the owners should be doing without question") and ask for nothing at all in return from a stone out of which it has been trying to squeeze blood and tears for months now?

[Watch: Puck Daddy's Harrison Mooney in parody video 'Call The Union']

It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense; and, again, as Brooks says, it's pretty plainly an attempt to save face with the fans who have even the slightest idea of what "make-whole" even means, which is relatively few in the grand scheme of things.

Even those who are merely "cautiously optimistic" here seem to be so because they want so badly for hockey to come back that any positive news, no matter how much spin it comes with, is greeted with hosannas.

Reality dictates that there's a long way to go if there will be hockey this season, and attempting to look past that just because Daly and Steve Fehr ordered some pizzas and played Mall Madness all day seems like something that just sets up everyone — the players, the fans, the media, etc. — for disappointment.

At this point, the only sign I'll accept as a positive in these negotiations is when Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr sign the new agreement, and make sure they do it in pen so there are no take-backs. We've been down this road too many times before to start believing everything we read just because we want to.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Gotta love Bruce Boudreau. He didn't go trick or treating this year, but said if he had, he would go as "a fat, bald Irishman." What a guy.

(WireImage/Darren McCollesterBoston Bruins: You guys said you DID want to see a picture of Jared Knight dressed as Wilma Flintstone, right? Have fun trying to sleep tonight.

Buffalo Sabres: Lindy Ruff says he's never too comfortable in Buffalo because he knows he could get fired at any minute. Buddy, your teams have made the playoffs two of the last five seasons and only been actually good in one of them. You're bulletproof. Live it up.

Calgary Flames: Roman Horak is off to a decent start for the Abbotsford Heat, scoring 10 goals in nine games. Should be noted, though, that those 10 goals came on just 34 shots, so that pace isn't especially sustainable either, given that it's no longer 1985.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Charlotte Checkers opened the season with a nine-game road trip and did pretty well with it, going 6-2-1. They outscored opponents 36-23 in that time. And that 33.3 power play sure has helped.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Rockford Ice Hogs will wear this jersey on Nov. 16. It may be the greatest thing in organized hockey history.

Colorado Avalanche: Speaking of Rockford, the Lake Erie Monsters lost to them 6-3 on Saturday despite leading 3-2 through 40 minutes. Going 0 for 11(!) on the power play and just 3 for 6 on the kill will do that to you every time though.

Columbus Blue Jackets: This is the kind of article over which I would cry myself to sleep every night if I were a Jackets fan.

Dallas Stars: Expert analysis about the lockout's effect on hockey in Dallas: "It could help or hurt the team long term." Great.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: As of this writing, almost 40 percent of respondents say they're "done with the NHL for good." When Gary Bettman read this in his office, he giggled for 45 minutes straight and wiped his tears of laughter with $100 bills.

Edmonton Oilers: Interesting question: Given that he's not playing in the NHL this season, would Edmonton release Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Canada's World Junior Team? Steve Tambellini says he hasn't really put much thought into it.

Florida Panthers: Hate to break it to you, but playing against the talent in the Norwegian league, Jack Skille should be putting up three points a night every night.

Los Angeles Kings: Good news if you're a Manchester Monarchs fan. Jonathan Quick might make some rehab appearances for the team in the coming days. Easy W's.

Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund are both out at least a few weeks with two injuries suffered in a game on Friday. The Brodin hit looked particularly bad. Taylor Hall really lined him up.

Montreal Canadiens: Erik Cole thinks there probably won't be a season at all. Hey, me too!

Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz knows all too well the life of a hockey fan right now. "When you just sit around and stare at the walls and think 'I hope the two sides are talking today, have you heard anything?' it goes very slowly. What I've learned is to stay busy and make it productive."

New Jersey Devils: Real nice goal by Mattias Tedenby in the AHL the other night. Skip to 14 seconds in.

New York Islanders: Ryan Strome is having a great season in Niagara, scoring 28 points in just 18 games, including two goals this weekend, tied for the OHL lead with Boone Jenner.

New York Rangers: No Henrik Lundqvist still hasn't signed anywhere, and by anywhere, I mean "with Frolunda." It's the only team he'll play for, and he's already back in Sweden.

Ottawa Senators: A number of Senators recently signed up to participate in a charity hockey tour that will allow fans to see a game for $20, and raise money for a city mentoring program for First Nations kids.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Adirondack Phantoms might have played their best game of the season, and even killed a late 5-on-3 that lasted 1:58.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 87 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Tomas Vokoun is off to the Czech Republic to play during the lockout and this is only notable because it's really easy to forget he signed with the Penguins in the offseason. "Ohhh yeah, that's right," I say every time I read that.

San Jose Sharks: Owen Nolan recently sold his 1,157-acre ranch on the outskirts of San Jose to the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department, probably in hopes of meeting Leslie Knope.

St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko continues to rip it up in the KHL. A goal and two assists in a 9-2 win over Donbass Donetsk, and he now has 21 points in 22 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos is using the lockout to continue training with Gary Roberts, which means he's going to come back as a robot this time.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Repeat after me: The Leafs aren't trading Jake Gardiner. The Leafs aren't trading Jake Gardiner. The Leafs aren't trading Jake Gardiner. The Leafs aren't trading Jake Gardiner. Or are they? No they aren't. Probably?

Vancouver Canucks: Alex Edler and Jason Garrison are back skating but haven't technically been cleared so let's hope their doctors and team officials don't read the newspaper.

Washington Capitals: Hershey had just 115 penalty minutes in their first nine games of the season, but added 50 to that total in the 10th. Like Rockport, they gave their opponents 11 power plays, and that includes FOUR two-man advantages. Bridgeport went 3 for 11, Hershey lost 3-2.

Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec is still sporting that sub-.900 save percentage in the KHL. It's almost amazing at this point.

Play of the Weekend

St. Lawrence's Kyle Flanagan had a pretty decent goal. Note that it was against Alabama-Huntsville, but still. Kid is on six goals and nine assists in just six games this year. No fair.

Gold Star Award
Getty ImagesOn the real, though, if you didn't click it above, this was some must-read stuff from Larry Brooks about the challenges make-whole presents and why the league as-is isn't remotely set up to handle them.

Minus of the Weekend
@MK24xHere's how bad the EIHL is: Paul Bissonnette scored a goal and added an assist in his very first game there.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "jumptheshark" is doing just that.

Sam Gagner
Magnus Paajarvi
Anton Lander
first-round pick in 2015

for
Dave Bolland
Brent Seabrook

Indeed.

Signoff
Did you make this dressing? 'Cause it tastes like garbage.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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