I wonder how the American government would run if the nation's laws shut down every 5 or 6 years while the Republicans and Democrats hammer out a new deal. Of course, it would take forever because both sides would have to invariably agree to everything.
Granted, the process isn't like politics or legislation of laws, but in comparing this CBA system to systems that people actually depend on, you wonder why they continue to use such an out-of-date model that has already cost the NHL tons of money.
The fundamental problems behind the CBA system are as follows:
1) The Lion's Feast Goes Ignored: The NHL often comes to the bargaining table with years of stifled anger towards their organizations losing money, and as a result, play exceedingly difficult at the negotiating table while the PA blames the NHL for signing that bad deal and still keep the wealth (even if they themselves feel they received the lion's share). So the PA demands that the sides forget history because history favours the PA while the NHL want the negotiation tables immediately tipped in their favour to make up for lost revenue. This is worse and worse the longer these CBAs last because years and years can't be made up for lost revenue.
2) Too Much Needed To Be Done: Now we all complain about how stupid it is for the two sides to wait until the last six weeks before the lockout to get a deal done, but what's even more dumb? That they have to draw up a whole new agreement, so they choose this one time to try to fix everything and so all rules are drawn up permanently until the next CBA, and if they're fundamentally flawed the first year, well there's five more years of it to go! Meanwhile, the rule they could be arguing over might only be a five to ten minute discussion, and system intricacies require all cogs in them to work, otherwise the whole thing can shut down.
3) Differences in Philosophies Have No Arbitrator: Bettman and Goodenow's fundamental disagreement about the salary cap is what caused the last lockout. Can that be avoided? No. It can't be. You want to think it can, but it can't. You see, Bettman is the NHL commissioner and Goodenow was, at the time, the Player's honcho, and no judge or arbitrator could declare a fair deal. Now Fehr and Bettman are on the same divide, Fehr thinking that the richer NHL teams should help the poorer ones, Bettman thinking the owners are paying the players too much money. Who says which is right and which is wrong? Nobody. The difference in religions also have the same impasses, because both sides wouldn't be able to agree on an arbitration logic because a religion IS an arbitration logic (ie, philosophy).
Well I'm not certain if there's "the" solution, but suppose you wanted to address these fundamental flaws.
First you'd have to draw out a way to arbitrate differences in philosophies that would serve as a constitution. The best constitution you could come up with is a third party league of fans (we'll say a group between 100-500) people that understand economics (way more than I do at least) that can say "We consider it more just that the league must institute a salary cap" and so these impasses don't exist and seasons can always start on time.
Second you'd have to scrap the fact that these things last six years. It's the same as if a big clock in the city is broken, then people are going to stop relying on it to tell time. When something is broken, it needs to be fixed immediately. That way we don't see the NHL punching the PA in the gut with insulting offers that want to force players to play for a franchise for ten years before unrestricted free agency. If they only last one, then lockouts every fall are the dominant fear, but they're far less likely to happen as players and the NHL will only have a few subjects to negotiate rather than burning up the existing CBA and drawing up a new one. That way, if a bad deal is in place, the players/owners won't be feasting while the other side suffers to bring that suffering to the table six years later and negotiating in anger and resentment rather than in the interest of justice. The philosophy behind negotiating should be "tinker" rather than "gut".
I'm not suggesting what should or shouldn't be fair because that's for them to decide, but I am prodding at the juvenile way they handle these negotiations and play these gossip games with each other. NHL games should not be lost as a way to gain a morale advantage in a negotiation.