What a pain: the short schedule will magnify the time lost to injury by key players such as Kings center Anze Kopitar. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
By Stu Hackel
About the only thing one can say with certainty about the upcoming NHL season is that nothing is certain.
Each of the 30 NHL teams has specific concerns heading into the truncated 48-game schedule, but there are some questions every one of the will face. In our Friday post on training camps, we noted that NBC’s and SI’s Pierre McGuire has studied shortened seasons and it’s worth repeating the five things he believes teams need in order to be competitive: 1) very good goaltending; 2) a four-line attack; 3) a coach with an understanding of work-to-rest ratio so players don’t break down and risk injury; 4) avoiding prolonged losing streaks of five games or more; and 5) creative coaching.
That said, here are some of the major themes that could potentially color the competition in the mad dash to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
1. The Schedule — Only once before in the post-World War II era has the league played a 48-game slate — in 1995 due to that season’s lockout. Of all the wild cards in what could be a wild season, this is the biggest. Every aspect of the game will be impacted by the shorter, compressed schedule. Instead of 82 games in 183 days, or one game every 2.23 days, we’ll get 48 in 98 days, or one every 2.04 days. With play restricted to each team’s own conference, each contest means more since they are all essentially four-point games.