Sep. 26, 2016
Is the NHL bye week bad for teams?
Since 1990, the NFL has used a bye week as a way to give teams a week without a football game. It is an opportunity for players to practice, rest and get a break from the physical demands of games all at once.
The NHL adopted its own bye weeks this season with a similar thought process in mind. Teams first started getting their week off on the first week of 2017. Though it is called a bye “week,” the NHL can give a team as few as five days off, but some have gotten more than that. So far, it is hard to say if the bye week is good or bad for teams.
Let’s look at the teams that have already gotten a week off of hockey. The defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, had their siesta week from Jan. 1-7. Pittsburgh won its first game back on Jan. 8 but has lost each of its three games since to be 1-3 since their mid-season vacation.
Prior to their break, the Penguins had won five of their last six in a 12-1-2 December. All three of the games that Pittsburgh’s current three-game losing streak have all come in regulation, something that the Penguins had not done since losing four consecutive regulation games from Dec. 14-19, 2015. Those four games were the first four of head coach Mike Sullivan’s career. Between Dec. 19, 2015, and Jan. 12, 2017, Pittsburgh went 75-26-13 (including the postseason), but never lost consecutive regulation games.
When the Penguins began the bye week break on Jan. 1, they were second in the tight Metropolitan Division with a 25-8-5 record. The Washington Capitals have since passed the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets for first place by winning nine straight games since Dec. 31.
To make things worse for the Penguins, their captain, Sidney Crosby, has not scored a goal in any of the four post-bye week games after lighting the lamp in all but one of the six games prior to the break. By no means is this a knock on Crosby, but it shows that the bye week cooled him off slightly.
Including the Penguins, six other teams have completed their bye weeks. Here’s a graphical look at when each team had its break, its record in its five games before the bye week and how it has done since then (as of Jan. 15):
Too much rest?
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Early evidence suggests that teams have come off their bye weeks with a little rest. Of the seven teams to have taken a bye week thus far, four of the seven teams lost their first game back from vacation.
The NHL’s bye week may seem awful for most so far, but consider the case of the Philadelphia Flyers. After winning nine consecutive games, the Flyers have gone 3-8-3, including a shell-shocking 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday in which the Flyers gave up four third period goals.
Perhaps the bye week could not come at a better time for Philadelphia. After such a hot stretch, the Flyers have lost their way. With a week off, they have the opportunity to get away from the game and chance to reset.
23 teams have yet to take a bye week, so the early trends may not hold true. However, if they do, look for the NHL to cut down its bye week. The best idea seems to be to mandate at least three days off. Five can be too many. It is important for players to get rest, but so far, all the bye week has done is slow down the majority of the teams.