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Top Shelf: Wasted days and wasted nights

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With over half the 2012-13 campaign sacrificed to the NHL's most recent labor dispute, it's almost time to kiss another season goodbye.

Unlike Rodney Dangerfield's character in "Back to School" the owners and players are clearly not disciples of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas as they seem more than content to "go gentle into that good night."

Forgive my foray into poetry, it's just that as the calendar heads toward January it's hard not to get a little dramatic when thinking about the sad situation currently plaguing the NHL.

There has been no progress to report on any fronts since the last round of talks broke down over two weeks ago in New York City. Those meetings allowed optimism to bubble to the surface for a moment but gridlock is presently the order of the day.

The league's latest round of cancellations bring the total number of games on the scrap heap to 625. It also means the regular season has now been wiped out through Jan. 14, leaving precious little time before the entire campaign is put out of its misery.

Sure, the last time the league forfeit a season to labor strife in 2004-05 the season wasn't officially scrapped until mid-February but there are few people who believe the NHL will wait that long to cancel the 2012-13 campaign. With both sides running out of ideas and options we could be less than a month away from the NHL pulling the plug on the entire season.

Yet, despite this late hour there has been almost nothing substantial to report on the lockout front since talks fell apart earlier this month. The hockey media is so desperate for positive news that somehow NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly answering in the affirmative to the question "will there be a season this year?" was supposed to pass for optimism.

Fittingly, Daly managed to throw cold water on his own comments when he clarified his answer to that question.

"I only had two choices: Of course, I was going to answer 'Yes,'" said Daly. "Yes, I do (have optimism). That's more my nature. I don't understand to a large extent why we're where we're at. I still think at the end of the day we should be able to get deal."

Of course, Daly and his boss Gary Bettman may know something we don't about the prospects of a new CBA being hammered out in time to save the season. But with no talks currently scheduled and only a few telephone conversations between the two sides in the last week, how can we have faith that there is progress to be made before it's too late?

Also on Friday, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reported that the NHLPA voted "overwhelmingly" to give the union's executive board the power to file a disclaimer of interest should it choose to do so.

With the league already filing a class action complaint against the union, it seems inevitable that this squabble will soon enter the legal hell stage. That's where the next CBA is determined by a series of lawsuits rather than actual negotiating between the owners and players.

I don't know about you but the impending tsunami of legalese is already causing my eyes to glaze over with boredom. Lockouts aren't exactly exciting to begin with but taking this battle from undisclosed locations to courtrooms in New York and California isn't going to be the opposite of fun.

Perhaps more legal wrangling ultimately could lead to the completion of a new CBA but few people have ever turned to the courts for a quick solution. There is no doubt that hurling lawsuits at each other could eventually force a conclusion to this petty fight but it's also possible that the process would be too slow to save the season.

Despite the gloom hanging over the NHL these days there seems to be no sense of desperation as both the players and owners still seem confident the other side is ready to cave.

The Thomas poem mentioned earlier clearly endorses "carpe diem" but sadly the concept of seizing the day seems foreign to the NHL owners and players. If Dangerfield's Thornton Mellon were here he'd tell them to "rage against the dying of the light," but I doubt they'd listen anyway.

12/21 16:10:54 ET