Kenyon Clevenger The Hockey Writers
How the NHL Can Fix the Bye Week
It is becoming more and more obvious each week that the NHL’s mandated bye week is not that great of an idea. It was implemented this season as a new plan to allow players to take a break from hockey for five days. This rest period has its good side but the bad side has overshadowed all the good.
Bye Weeks Have Been an Issue
The plan likely sounded great on paper before the season. However, teams’ performances on the ice following their break have been abysmal. Only four teams have managed to gather two points in their first game following their break. All five teams coming off their bye week last week lost on Saturday to sink the overall record to 4-12-4 this season.
Why have teams struggled fresh off their bye week? It’s simple: because they’re not fresh. Five days away from the ice can be good on the players in terms of spending time with family and friends. But if the record above is any indication, the NHL needs to either make major changes to the bye week or scrap the whole concept of it.
I’d imagine the NHL will make changes and here’s a few ideas they could consider.
Shortening the Time Off
I think it’s a great idea for players to want to take a break and spend much-needed time with their family and friends who make a lot of sacrifices for them during the hockey season. Players could use a few days to get away from the ice and not think about hockey too much. They must have liked the idea because they signed off on it in the first place.
They definitely didn’t foresee the negatives to the break, though. The break can ruin any momentum the team had generated and no matter what, it slows down teams as a whole.
If five days is too long, the NHL could certainly contemplate just cutting down the length of the bye. Instead of a whole week, just have a couple “bye days”, if you will. Players still get their time away from the ice but a shortened break from hockey makes for a better chance of keeping the hockey legs game-ready.
Only Play Teams Also Coming off Their Bye Week
If the NHL wants to keep the length at five days, it would be fairer for teams to play their first game following the bye week against another team coming off theirs.
This could create for some scheduling conflicts but it can’t be argued that this wouldn’t be more justified. My thought is that an even amount of teams take their bye week during the same time and play one of those teams in the first game out of the bye. Pretty simple.
Get Rid of the Concept
For teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets who take their rest period later in the season, the bye week has caused a lot of games to be crammed into the last six to seven weeks. The Blue Jackets now play their final 24 games in 44 nights and finish the season with seven games in the last 11 days.
It seems to be counterproductive to give players a lengthy break before taking on a large load of games to finish out the regular season. And for teams that make the playoffs, they might be exhausted given their late-season break.
To avoid the tight schedule to end the regular season for numerous teams battling for the postseason, the NHL couldn’t go wrong by eliminating the break entirely. The bye week expirement has been more of a failure than a success so don’t expect the same system to be around much longer. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the NHL waved “bye-bye” to the bye week before the 2017-18 season.
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