As the week goes on more updates are slowly filtering in from the NHL side of things; today deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that he expects the CBA ratification process to be completed by Saturday, giving teams the green light to open training camps on Sunday, January 13th.
While no opening night schedule has been confirmed as of yet, the Saddledome is booked for a Roughnecks game on January 19th so it appears the Flames will begin the season on the road. Peter Maher said today that the team expects to face off against the Oilers at Rexall Place:
However, the shortened season featuring exclusively intra-conference games poses a roadblock for the League's plan to have all 30 teams in action on opening night, with an uneven number of teams in each conference.
According to Bob McKenzie (via Broad Street Hockey), this is how the schedule for each team breaks down:
Each team plays: 4 games vs. two Divisional opponents (8); 5 games vs. two divisional opponents (10); 3 games vs 10 Conference rivals (30).
Each team plays: 4 games vs. two Divisional opponents (8); 5 games vs. two divisional opponents (10); 3 games vs 10 Conference rivals (30).— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 8, 2013
This format would see the Flames play 18 games within their division and 30 games against Western Conference opponents. Who the Flames see more of within their division could have a heightened impact on their success in this 48-game season. The Flames actually faired pretty well against their division last season, winning the season series against Minnesota, Edmonton, and Colorado and tying (albeit technically winning on the basis of points) the series with Vancouver. The caveat here is that the Northwest has not exactly been a bastion of competition over the course of the past few seasons; the Canucks are likely expected to win the division handily again this season and teams like the Wild have improved over the course of this lengthy offseason with the addition of the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Meanwhile we all await the exact moment when the Oilers transition from pity-worthy bottom-feeders to ass-kicking scoring machines skating circles around Dennis Wideman and Cory Sarich.
The Flames again find themselves in the position of having to adapt to a new coaching staff, new players, a new routine, and a new system. The shortened season forces players to be on their game right out of the gate and for a team like Calgary whose older star players sometimes require a little extra time to reach full speed, this could present a problem. Combined with the opportunity for injury presented by the rustiness of not having played in a NHL game since early April, this could mean that the Flames' roster could be wide open to a number of young players, and that's part of what makes this shortened season so exciting. Get on a streak and anything could happen.