From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, and if a deal with the players' association isn't reached soon the whole season could be lost.The league wiped out all games through Dec. 30 in its latest round of cancellations.Already, 422 regular-season games had been called off through Dec. 14 because of the lockout, and the latest cuts on Day 86 of the NHL shutdown claimed 104 more. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game were canceled earlier.In all, the 526 lost games account for nearly 43 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11.The cancellation of just two more weeks of the season, however, could perhaps signal hope of a deal to begin play in early January. Negotiations between the league and the players' association broke off last week, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday the sides are trying to restart talks this week.Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that nothing had been completed regarding a meeting with the union.Whenever the sides do get back together, they will need to work quickly on a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week, after the most recent round of negotiations, that a season must consist of at least 48 games to protect its integrity. That's the same number of games played during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.The 1995 lockout ended Jan. 11. The season then began nine days later and lasted until May 3. That marked the only time the NHL season has stretched until May. Each team played 48 games, solely within its own conference, which is likely the model the league would follow this time if a settlement is reached soon."When it gets to the point where we can't play a season with integrity, with a representative schedule, then we'll be done," Bettman said on Thursday. "If you go back in history, in 94-95 I think we played 48 games. I can't imagine wanting to play fewer than that."Depending on who was asked last week, the message was either the sides were close to a deal or nowhere near one.Players' association executive director Donald Fehr said Thursday night, after three straight days of negotiations, that he believed an agreement was close, only to change his position moments later when the NHL rejected the union's most recent offer.Bettman disagreed that a deal was near and then angrily announced the league was rescinding every offer it had put on the table since the start of negotiations."I would say it was expected," New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron, the team's union representative, said about the lost games Monday in an email to the AP. "We continue to stand behind Don 100 percent and the work our negotiating committee is doing and working hard to get a deal done."Neither Fehr nor his brother Steve, the union's special counsel, had a comment following the NHL announcement on Monday.The NHL and the players are trying to avoid the loss of a full season for the second time in eight years. The 2004-05 lockout, that eventually produced a salary cap for the first time in league history, was the first labor dispute to force a totally canceled season in North American professional sports.The season was called off Feb. 16, and an agreement was reached on July 13. The lockout ended nine days later, after the deal was ratified by both sides, allowing for the following season to begin on time. That agreement reached then was in place until this year, and the current lockout began right after its expiration on Sept. 16.
There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.
But what if there were more spots?
An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.
And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.
But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.
Mark Emmert on the CFP: “I'd like to see all five of the conference champions get in the playoff.”— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 7, 2016
Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.
This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.
With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.
The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.
And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.
That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?
Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.
But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.
Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?
CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.
From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]
While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.
"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.
Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead