Edmonton Oilers' NHLPA player rep and captain Jason Smith isn't as certain as Vincent Damphousse the 2004-05 NHL season is a lost cause, but he's not optimistic there's time to salvage the campaign. "I'm going to stay half optimistic something can get done until the season is officially cancelled,'' Smith said yesterday.
"There's still a lot at stake, but there's obviously not much time to get a deal done. I'd like to keep hope it's a possibility. I'm not completely convinced there won't be a season, but it doesn't look good.''
Damphousse, a member of the NHLPA's executive committee, held out no hope yesterday that the season can be saved after discussions in Chicago and Toronto between union president Trevor Linden and team representatives produced no progress in negotiations. "I'm convinced there will not be a season,'' Damphousse told Canadian Press.
There's been speculation commissioner Gary Bettman will put forward one more proposal before canceling the season.
Former Oiler Todd Marchant, the Columbus Blue Jackets' rep, said yesterday Bettman might as well cancel the season now if an 11th-hour offer contains a salary cap.
"In the players' mind, we have a thought on what the timeline would be for us to still be able to have a season,'' Smith said. "Only the people from the league know what their drop-dead date would be. What that date is, who really knows?''
While optimism wanes with each passing day, Smith says it's premature to write the schedule off until there's some determination as to what constitutes a season.
"We've heard different schedules. Everything from 24 games to 36 games,'' Smith said.
"So much of it is speculative. Only they really know what their finish line for a schedule would be.
"I'm sure they have scenarios for everything up to 30-game schedule. I'd think you'd need to play at least that many games to call it a season, in my mind. What do you consider an official season?''