Thursday, 14 August 2008

It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer

by Jes

(Yes, I used to listen to Ace of Base when I was a kid)

One major factor in why it is hard to have true dynasties in this day and age is the "Stanley Cup Hangover".

I'm not talking about the morning after drinking champagne from the holy mug, but rather the fact that the Stanley Cup Finalists often experience a drop-off in their record during the next season, especially early in the season. The fatigue builds such much that it is harder for the Cup finalists to repeat their great exploits from year to year.

With the seasons getting longer and finishing later, the summer time break for NHL teams has been getting shorter and shorter. Is it any wonder why the Ducks, who also had to put up with a long trip to-from London, faltered so badly last season?

Over at Empty Netters, the excellent MSM blog over at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Seth Rorabaugh crunches some numbers and we see that the Pittsburgh Penguins have the shortest summer break out of all the teams.

After winning the Cup on June 6, 2007, the Ducks enjoyed a brief 115 days off before starting up again on Sept. 29 in London. That was the shortest offseason for any NHL team. The Penguins will own that distinction this offseason by having only 122 days off since losing the Cup to the Red Wings on June 4.

Now, his calculations do not factor in training camps and pre-season games, so the summers for the Pens and Wings will be even shorter than indicated.

Life in the NHL is physically brutal, and players have to work harder, faster, and take more physical punishment then players from 15+ years ago. Every player has to maintain a strong off-season training regimen, leaving few players with a true chance to take a long break from physical activity and fully recover.

It should be no surprise if the Wings and Penguins start the season slowly and have problems later in the year with fatigue. The Wings, especially, might run into problems as their roster has more older players than the Penguins.

Who should really benefit? Take a team on the upswing who had a long off-season, and I figure they will start off gangbusters. How about the Blackhawks? They added some big names, and have had lots of rest. The Capitals, too, could be primed to make another jump ... although their defence corps still sucks.

So, how can a team beat this hangover and succeed year after year?

For one thing, they could stop making these fricking long trips to Europe ... really, these jaunts really seem to do a number on the two teams who participate.

Like Seth points out on his post, the Penguins experienced a rather high turnover for a Cup finalist, which means the newer players will be somewhat fresher and help compensate. The Wings? They experienced very little turnover. Perhaps cycling some fresh players in the depth positions can keep the team's skill level intact while helping offset the fatigue.

It would be foolish to think the Wings and Penguins won't be very good next season, but one must strongly consider the factor of the "Stanley Cup Hangover" when making predictions.

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