There was never any chance that a new collective bargaining agreement was going to materialize over the summer.
No one should be surprised at where things stand -- talks at a standstill, with the expiry of the CBA looming next week and the subsequent lockout. That was always going to be the way this played out. Neither side was going to show its true hand until it was really on the clock.
At least the summer negotiating sessions weren't a total waste. That was a stark difference from the summer of 2004, when in the face of obvious Armageddon -- the owners willing to scrap a whole season to get their salary cap -- the summer sessions were a pure charade.
Not this time around.
"I think it's been different in a lot of respects," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday. "At least with respect to a lot of the issues that need to be discussed and worked out, we ploughed a lot of ground in that area and made some progress. I think we have some tentative agreement to some things, we have teed up issues in other areas -- so from that perspective we had a good summer of negotiation.
"Each side was also able to express where they are on the economics of the deal. Some of the system issues, those still need to be resolved. There hasn't been a lot of movement on those issues. And they are the critical issues to setting off all the dominos. We're focused on those issues exclusively right now."
While they remain far apart on the key economic issue -- the percentage the players will get in the new CBA -- both sides used the summer sessions to get ahead in other areas.