The NHL instituted bye-weeks this season as a kickback to the players, in exchange for their agreeing to skate their hung-over asses off in a 3-on-3 All-Star Game tournament format. But the byes are also for the sake of player safety in the regular season, although there’s been some debate about that.
The byes’ overall affect on the 2016-17 season continues to be a point of contention. The condensed schedule had been blamed for an uptick in injuries for some teams; Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock went as far as saying that the bye weeks were bad for player safety: “You’ve got so many games in such a short period of time and you’re jamming in more. To me, the more days rest you can have by not playing back-to-backs and jamming it in the healthier you have a chance to be I believe.”
Of course, when you have diminished lineups and tired athletes, it might contribute to the uptick in scoring we’ve had this season: 2.74 goals per game on average for each team, threatening to be the highest we’ve had in eight years. Even if the hockey’s not the prettiest.
Again, the ultimate aftereffects and fate of the bye weeks will be sussed out in the summer. But one thing is clear this season: Teams coming off the bye are usually saying ‘bye bye bye’ to a victory.
(An aside: Kudos to the guy who played JT in the Britney Spears LIFETIME movie who, at the very least, got that nasally Tennessee accent down.)
Through Saturday night’s games, teams coming off the bye in the NHL are 3-12-4. That includes regulation losses for the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens; a shootout loss for the Washington Capitals and an overtime loss for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Here’s a list of the teams coming off byes, the length of their byes and their results:
- Arizona Coyotes (5 days) WIN, 4-3 vs. Winnipeg
- Calgary Flames (5 days) LOSS, 5-0 to Arizona
- Carolina Hurricanes (5 days) LOSS OT, 2-1 to Colorado
- Chicago Blackhawks (6 days) LOSS, 3-1 to Edmonton
- Colorado Avalanche (5 days) LOSS, 4-1 to Anaheim
- Edmonton Oilers (5 days) LOSS, 5-1 to Chicago
- Florida Panthers (5 days) LOSS, 6-3 to Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Kings (6 days) LOSS, 5-3 to Arizona
- Montreal Canadiens (5 days) LOSS, 3-1 Winnipeg
- Nashville Predators (5 days) LOSS, 5-2 to Minnesota
- New Jersey Devils (5 days) LOSS, 4-1 to San Jose
- New York Islanders (5 days) LOSS OT, 2-1 to Colorado
- New York Rangers (5 days) LOSS, 4-2 to Toronto
- Ottawa Senators (5 days) LOSS, 1-0 to Washington
- Philadelphia Flyers (5 days) LOSS, 4-1 to New Jersey
- Pittsburgh Penguins (7 days) WIN, 6-2 over Tampa
- Tampa Bay Lightning (6 days) LOSS OT, 4-3 to Dallas
- Toronto Maple Leafs (5 days) WIN, 4-2 over New York Rangers
- Washington Capitals (6 days) LOSS SO, 3-2 to Detroit
So why are teams so bad off the bye?
You can see the rust on them. Players are completely off for at least four days; there’s practice on the fifth day if there’s a game on the sixth day, but otherwise they’re off then, too.
The results speak for themselves: Remember that 2.74 goals-per-game average league-wide this season? Teams coming off the bye are generating 1.95 goals per game in their first games back, with 10 of them scoring one goal or less.
So they’re still mentally checked out. And we’re seeing a certain “first day of school/last day of class” syndrome.
In their games immediately before the bye week? Teams are now 14-6-0 with a 3.05 goals-per-game average, including the Dallas Stars’ 4-3 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
(Gold stars to the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins, who won their games immediately before and immediately after the bye. Overachievers!)
So players are just like us: Put a vacation in front of them as a carrot, and they leave it all on the ice; ask them to come back from five days of ‘everything but hockey’ and pretty much the only ones doing well off the bye weeks are the gamblers betting against the rested teams:
A $10 parlay against the five NHL teams coming off the bye tonight — the Hawks, Caps, Predators, Canadiens & Lightning — returned $472.80.
— Mark Potash (@MarkPotash) February 19, 2017
Well, at the very least, maybe the NHL figured out a way to get people to finally bet on hockey …
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