Today we begin a multi-part preview of the 2013 season. Welcome back to hockey!
Now that the lockout's over, everyone wants to know: When is the puck going to drop? And when will the Kings finally be able to raise their banner?
Rumor had it that the season could start as early as the 15th (to squeeze in 50 games) instead of the 19th (for 48), but even Bill Daly concedes that the 19th is the most likely. If that holds, everything points to the Kings playing their home opener that Saturday.
The official schedule can't be announced until the new CBA is ratified, and this will take a few more days. First, the owners and their representatives will vote tomorrow at a Board of Governors meeting. Then, the players will cast their votes during a two day period online, wrapping up before Saturday. These are expected to pass, but until then, the NHL schedule is entirely speculative. They can't even formally announce training camp.
But as a condensed season has been in the works for a long time, many key dates have already been outlined by sources. Here is what the 2013 season might look like -- subject to change, of course.
Projected 2013 NHL schedule
(*Updated with new sources 1/10/13)
Jan. 13th – Training camp opens (medicals first)
April 3rd – New trade deadline
April 27th – End of 99-day regular season
Early May – Playoffs begin (16 teams, not 20)
Late June – Playoffs end
**2013 NHL draft (originally scheduled June 28-29th) may be pushed back**
July 5th – Free agency begins
A few notes on how this schedule affects the Kings:
- The Kings will play all 48 games within the Western Conference. They, like all Pacific division teams, will benefit from a less grueling travel schedule. No more road trips to Florida and New York in February!
- A start date of the 19th gives Kopitar that much more time to heal. While the Kings are more equipped to handle the loss of their #1C this time around, the fewer games missed the better.
- It was rumored that 20 teams would be let in the playoffs instead of the traditional 16, but that idea has been spiked. This means less margin for error in a shortened season, but personally I'm glad there hasn't been a change. I think the Kings can make the top eight, and they're used to end-of-season sprints anyway.
So, we might want to circle the calendar in pencil. Go Banner!