It is official, the NHL has locked their players out.
The NHL has shown that they are not afraid of having a lockout in the past. For instance, there was a lockout during the 2004-05 season and it cost the league the entire season. Also, keep in mind that during the last lockout, Commissioner Gary Bettman was still in charge, so precedent has been set by Mr. Bettman.
Alexander Ovechkin is already playing in Moscow.
Anze Kopitar is currently skating over in Sweden.
So what does this mean for hopeful fantasy hockey owners? Simply one thing, more injures.
Several other key NHL players are now playing hockey in their native countries, which at least will keep them in shape. However, what about the dozens of other players that are unable to play in any sort of competitive leagues during the lockout? They will certainly be at a disadvantage for the upcoming season, as players sitting at home will not be in as good of shape as the privileged few who have been able to play around the world.
Lockouts not only keep players and coaches from getting paid, but it also keeps them from getting into game-shape. If the NBA and NFL lockouts have taught us anything it is that a lockout can lead to a record numbers of injuries, due to players suffering nagging injuries that could have been avoided by them using the proper training facilities.
If we do finally have a 2012 fantasy hockey season, it will have countless numbers of hamstring and ankle injuries throughout the year, all but killing any chance of having fantasy depth. It is hard to expect the entire NHL to come into the season in shape, especially with the preseason being completely canceled, so there will be injuries. Granted NHL players have notoriously been the toughest athletes in the sports universe, but it is hard to skate effectively with a pulled hamstring or sprained ankle.
One way to avoid suffering the inevitable fantasy casualties during a lockout shortened season is it to completely stay away from the older veterans. The older players in the league will by much more susceptible to these sorts of injuries, so if anything, try to stick with the youngsters.
Fantasy commissioners may also want to add a couple extra bench spots, or even an injured reserve, to help counteract the record number of injuries we are about to see. It is better to try to address this now, as opposed to in the middle of the season, when half of all fantasy leagues will have a team full of IR candidates.
There will only be a 2012 season, if the NHL and Players Association can actually come to some sort of agreement, so fantasy owners may be waiting until 2013 to dust off their draft boards. I remain confident that they will eventually drop the puck in 2012, but it will likely come much later than they had originally planned. Fantasy hockey fans should stay patient and continue building their cheat sheets, to if anything else, stay prepared.