Darryl Sutter isn’t in the excuse-making business.
But even the longtime Los Angeles Kings coach couldn’t help but wonder what the NHL was thinking in implementing a mandatory week’s bye for each of its 30 teams this season.
For those who thought the time away from the rink would refresh the players and rejuvenate them, guess again. Teams that have come off their bye week are 4-12-4, and the ones with the losses have been outscored 60-23 in their first game back.
The Kings were one of the victimized. Los Angeles came off its week away from hockey as flat as possible. The Kings surrendered two early goals to the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 16 at Staples Center in a 5-2 loss.
Afterward, Sutter tried to be diplomatic.
“I think we were expecting a little bit of perhaps rust at the start,” he said. “When we play Phoenix, I’ve said it about the special teams a lot when we play Phoenix. Tonight they had a power-play goal early that got them the lead. When you get two, it’s tough.”
The bye week was negotiated by the Players Association with the NHL in return for the 3-on-3 format in the All-Star Game. The schedule is a two-year experiment, though if the league allows its players to participate in the 2018 Olympics, the schedule would revert to the one used in previous Olympic years. That means another compressed schedule, but there wouldn’t be a week off during the season.
The San Jose Sharks, who were leading the Pacific Division a week ago, were one of seven teams to get the sabbatical this week. But they were looking forward to five days off.
“For us, it’s perfect,” captain Joe Pavelski told the Gackle Report. “You get your Christmas break in December, your All-Star break in January and now (the bye week). The timing has been really good. It breaks up the schedule a bit.”
But Pavelski is clearly in the minority. Too many back-to-back games. Too few practices. Loss of momentum for the teams that were playing well. Those are the main complaints from players and coaches.
You can guarantee this will be a hot button topic among the league’s general managers when they meet in Florida next month.
“There’s certainly a strong possibility that we’ll change the way we schedule the bye weeks to the extent we have them next year,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com. “The feedback that we’re getting from club executives and players has definitely set into our determination in that regard.”
Cory Ward and Zach Pochiro have been playing in the ECHL this season. But the Las Vegans recently were promoted to the American Hockey League.
Ward, a 23-year-old forward, moved from Manchester to the Syracuse Crunch. In 50 games with the Monarchs, he had 13 goals and 29 points.
Pochiro, a 22-year-old center who was traded from St. Louis to Edmonton before the season in the Nail Yakupov deal and had started the year playing for Norfolk, is now with the Bakersfield Condors. He had three goals and 34 points in 34 games with the Admirals.
“SLAP SHOT” AT 40
It was 40 years ago that the hockey humor movie “Slap Shot” debuted in theaters across North America and quickly morphed into an iconic sports flick.
Starring Paul Newman as Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach of the minor league Charlestown Chiefs, and with a cast of misfit hockey players struggling to survive in a Pennsylvania steel mill town that was suffering an economic downturn, it brought out the best and worst of the sport. The arrival of the dorky looking but fighting Hanson Brothers sparks a miraculous turnaround that ultimately sees the Chiefs win the championship.
The NHL Network has been showing the movie periodically in the past week. Unfortunately, it’s the edited PG version.
How classic is “Slap Shot”? Any player and hardcore hockey fan can recite most of the lines in the movie, word for word.
“Who own the Chiefs?”
“Putting on the foil!”
“Old time hockey. Like Eddie Shore.”
As for the movie’s characters, who doesn’t love Ogie Oglethorpe? Or Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken? Or announcer Jim Carr? And wouldn’t we all love to watch a game in a place called the “War Memorial”?
So Happy Anniversary “Slap Shot.” Remember, it’s all about capturing the spirit of the thing.
Steve Carp’s weekly NHL notebook appears Sundays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.
WEEK’S THREE STARS
1. Filip Forsberg, Nashville. Consecutive hat tricks for the Predators’ leading goal scorer.
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago. Four goals and five points for the week as the Blackhawks win three straight.
3. Josh Bailey, New York Islanders. Four points for the week to help the Isles start 2-0 on a nine-game trip.