Ramblings: Singing the Bye Week Blues (Jan 9)

by steve laidlaw on January 9, 2018

 

The NHL Bye Weeks are here to ruin your season. 13 teams play only one game this week and over half the league with two or fewer. Next week isn’t much better.

Worse, the week after is All-Star Weekend so we’ve got three very thin weeks in a row. Basically, January is a write-off. I don’t know too many providers who offered the option, but the move was to combine January 8-21 into one matchup week, and then combining January 21-February 4 into another would have been the way to go. Head-to-head has some element of randomness, but the bye week and All-Star effects are perhaps a little much.

Of course, if you aren’t in a head-to-head league the impact is muddle, but what of all the extra back-to-backs shoehorning an extra five to seven days in the middle of the schedule forced? I don’t know that we can measure the exact impact of these factors since every team is facing them, but they clearly exist.

In a season where every team plays 82 games across 26 weeks each team should play just under three games a week. Subtract a week and we get these back-to-backs. Add in breaks for holidays, All-Star Weekend and other issues with scheduling like arena availability and you get a schedule riddled with back-to-backs.

I also don’t know that these long breaks actually doing anything for the athletes. They still have to play the 82-game schedule. Playing it in a more compressed fashion means playing more games in a compromised state, not less. A week isn’t enough time to completely shake off an injury, even a mild one.

Worse, is the “use it or lose it” effect. A week away from skating hard is going to reduce the maximal output of these athletes. Asking them to go zero to 60 is impossible. After All-Star weekend, players will have had three breaks of at least three days in a month’s span. I’d never give them any breaks longer than two days. All that stopping and starting? Sounds like they are asking for injuries.

Consider the plight of the New York Rangers who go from a back-to-back, to six days off, to another back-to-back. Someone is pulling a groin.

I didn’t even mention how insane the schedule has been for the Senators who have been in a tailspin since heading over to Sweden. The Avalanche’s fate hasn’t been nearly as miserable, so the anecdotal evidence is spotty, but you cannot tell me that this is something you want for your favourite team. And of course, the nincompoops in the Oilers front office are begging to be next in line.

Be rid of the bye week and any other events forcing teams to take extended breaks that can only be made up by packing the rest of their schedule even tighter.

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With only one game on the schedule we get William Nylander highlights. Watch him cross-up Josh Anderson:

 

And this snipe:

 

Nylander has scored five points in the 10 games that Auston Matthews has missed, and 25 in 33 otherwise. Mind you, that with-Matthews pace is for only 62 points, so he hasn’t hit all new levels, but this has been his best season in terms of 5-on-5 scoring, where he is averaging 2.15 points/60, clearing the all-important 2.0-points/60 barrier. However, with that 5-on-5 spike has come a decline in power play scoring. More time with Matthews plus some improved PP results could lead to a big second half, but perhaps his point-per-game breakout will have to wait until next season, his fourth (cue trumpets).

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You can’t call the Columbus power play a complete dud any longer. They are 10/59 with the man advantage since the start of December, a mediocre 16.9%. In this stretch Pierre-Luc Dubois is the team leader with seven PPP, but Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones are just behind with six apiece.

Jones has fully usurped the #1 defenseman slot from Zach Werenski. He is up to 16 points in 20 games since the start of December, high-end stuff.

Panarin looks like a great bet for the second half, he is trending up with 20 points in 19 games since the start of December. Adding Dubois to his line and improving the power play has done wonders!

If you’ve been following along you know how smitten I’ve grown with Dubois and he keeps proving himself to be a great option. He is locked in as their #1 centerman. Since November 20th when he was jumped up the lineup Dubois has skated under 15 minutes only twice. He has eight goals, 18 points and 61 SOG in those 24 games. That’s quality production.

Do you have to get in on Dubois now? Not necessarily. Between now and the All-Star break no team plays fewer games than the Blue Jackets with five. They have just two remaining this week and then hit their bye, but it’s almost a double bye as they have another four-day layoff built into their schedule after returning on January 18. It’s a crazy schedule quirk that makes you want to divest yourself of just about every Blue Jacket after Friday’s game against Vancouver.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s December record screams opportunity to me. He went 4-6-2 with a 3.46 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage, helping to bring his season-long numbers back to reasonable levels. Use this opportunity to get in on the best head-to-head goalie out there.

I’d normally take his monthly splits with a grain of salt, but Bobrovsky has managed to peak in March every year, right in time for head-to-head playoffs. The only year he didn’t was the year that he was hurt. He has a .932 save percentage in 73 games in March. Once again, he’ll be forced to ratchet it up for a Columbus team in the thick of a playoff hunt, but one that should be getting players back healthy and one that has it’s #1 centerman improving with each passing month. It’s building again. Ignore the signs at your own peril.

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Last week, I featured the Blues’ struggles without Jaden Schwartz. Today, I get to announce he’s making strides to a return:

 

It’s been four weeks since he first got hurt, an injury that was supposed to cost him at least six weeks. It’s starting to look like he’ll be back before the All-Star break, but who knows? The Blues hit their bye week after tonight’s game, and don’t return until next Tuesday in Toronto, which is right about the five-week mark. The cautious approach would have him wait until after the All-Star break, but players are making a habit of tossing caution out the window and of re-writing injury timelines.

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Doesn’t sound like it will be long term, but Carolina’s Sebastian Aho is battling injury and may not go tomorrow night. As one of only four teams playing four games this week Aho was the top option to provide an advantage, but this injury obviously derails the situation, right as their top line was getting hot again.

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Adam Lowry is questionable to play for the Jets tonight, which would be his second straight game of absence. Brendan Lemieux was recalled though no guarantees he sees time. Jack Roslovic was recalled after Mark Scheifele went down, but it took Lowry’s subsequent injury for Roslovic to get a look.

Roslovic skated 7:57 on the fourth line in his NHL debut, but did see time on the top PP unit with Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Co. All things considered, not the worst opportunity.

Lowry’s injury has derailed my plans to mine his use on the top PP unit during this shortened week. Hopefully he plays the Jets’ remaining two games.

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We are probably beyond Cody Franson having fantasy value, but he was waived by Chicago yesterday. He led the team in Corsi-For%, but this is nothing new for him. He has posted above-average possession numbers at every stop yet cannot bag a permanent home. He is a flawed player, but I suspect he could help a lot of teams in a small role.

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Check out my latest fantasy hockey stock market post for Sportsnet.

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The countdown is on. The Mid-Season Guide comes out on Friday. Make sure to pick it up to help you take home the trophy!

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.