Now that the NHL lockout is over (it is over...right? Is this a dream?), everyone keeps asking us and them what the New York Islanders schedule. The only thing that can be said for certain now is that it will be at least (and probably only) 48 games long and will be heavy on Atlantic Division opponents.
Which, if recent seasons are an indication, means that on most nights the Islanders will face not just better but tough opponents.
Granted, as we watch some players flee the division over the summer it was fair to wonder if the talent drain, and the Islanders' slowly improving young talent, was enough to balance the Atlantic scales some. But to excel in any division you have to learn to beat up your brothers, and the Islanders haven't done much of that lately in a division that often sends four members to the playoffs, including the last time the Isles went to the dance.
However the 2013-13 NHL schedule shakes out, it won't be known until the actual paperwork on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is settled. Not surprisingly -- given the length of such documents and the hair-splitting tendencies of the recently warring parties -- that is taking a while.
Incidentally, for similar reasons many of our burning roster and training camp invite questions will just have to wait, as teams need to see what their operating rules are before they can make such decisions. But in the meantime you can have some fun submitting your guesses in our First Islanders Roster Pool -- a play off our traditional game night "First Islanders Goal" pools*.
(Or, you can participate in this awesome Sound Tigers auction for Sandy Hook.)
*They aren't actually "pools" in the traditional gambling sense. There are rules and fine print and stuff for things like that. So we just give you good karma and total consciousness on your deathbed and other things that are not recognized as actual prizes by the government. As far as you know.
Conventional wisdom says to cut on travel and complexity in the compressed 48-game schedule the league will hold intra-conference schedules. Cutting out opponents from the other conference leads to a healthy dose against your own. Hopefully that doesn't lead to the simplest breakdown [(4 x 7 = 28) + (2 x 10 = 20) = 48] because who wants to see any team that often? But other scenarios, such as that mentioned in point #3 of Elliotte Friedman's latest 30 Thoughts, leaves one feeling, well, imbalanced.
We'll know soon enough. According to multiple reports and Gary Bettman's own pre-deal warnings, bet on play beginning by Jan. 19. If you had tickets for yet-to-be played games, most of those dates will be preserved. Beyond that, the lawyers still have to do their thing, the governors have to hold their kvetch-and-vote, and the players have to vote to ratify the agreement too.
Oh, P.S.: Hockey!