Worst season in NHL history?
This Tuesday evening, the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights will play one of the rare significant games among the 1,312 scheduled on the schedule. By winning, the Stars would confirm their place in the playoffs as well as those of the Nashville Predators and the Los Angeles Kings. A victory for Dallas would complete the playoff picture in the West.
Incredibly, the preceding paragraph summarizes the level of
suspense generated by NHL hockey since the beginning of October. In other words, nothing happened.
In the East, 8 of 16 teams were dropped after 30 games, and there was never a shadow of a possibility of a playoff race. Moreover, the eight teams from the East who have won a place for the spring tournament have amassed 100 points or more, something that had never been seen before.
It’s phenomenal to see such disparity in a league where the standings are artificially squeezed by bonus points awarded to teams that lose in overtime or a shootout. Especially since an extremely strict salary cap prevents the wealthiest teams from enjoying a significant advantage over the less well-off.
Many people have been impressed by the fact that the number of goals scored has been particularly high and the attacking exploits have been numerous this season.
On average, NHL teams have scored 3.14 goals per game. We have to go back to the 1995-1996 season to find the last season during which the attackers were so prolific.
In these offensive festivals, the Florida Panthers particularly distinguished themselves. Their average of 4.16 goals per game is the highest since the Penguins of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr who, still in 1995-1996, scored no less than 362 goals.
Moreover, as the last days of the calendar pass, 11 attackers have reached, or have a good chance of reaching, the 100-point plateau. Once again, we have to go back to the 1995-1996 season (13 forwards with 100 points or more) to find similar statistics.
The catch is that these offensive feats were achieved due to the collapse of a large number of organizations.
No less than eight teams have defensive records below -50. The Canadiens and the Arizona Coyotes are also leading the way with respective differentials of -107 and -110. In the history of the NHL, there have never been so many mediocre teams in a single season.
Some of the teams that dragged the devil by the tail in 2021-22 also seem to have fallen victim to last season’s compressed schedule and the very short offseason that followed the last playoffs.
As mentioned earlier, the Golden Knights are on the precipice and in serious danger of being kicked out of the playoffs. If that were to happen, it would be the first time in modern NHL history (since 1968) that three of the four teams that made up the playoffs four would be excluded from the spring tournament the following season.
In 2021, the four participants in the Stanley Cup semifinals were the Golden Knights, the CH, the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Physical trainer Stéphane Dubé, who has coached NHL players for more than 20 years, remembers predicting that this season was going to be extremely difficult for teams that had had long playoff runs in 2021.
I had told my partners that I was not looking forward to seeing the amount of injuries that the teams who had played until the end would suffer. However, the Canadian really surprised me by surpassing the 700 missed games. I didn’t think it was gonna get this badhe admits.
According to the NHL Injury Viz website, the unofficial NHL injury record previously belonged to the Kings, who saw their players miss 629 games during the 2003-04 season.
According to the Man-Games Lost website, the Golden Knights rank 6th in the NHL with nearly 500 games missed due to injury. However, in terms of the amount of injuries suffered by key players, Vegas ranks 2nd behind the Habs, according to the NHL Injury Viz site.
The last playoffs ended on July 7, and the players reported to camp the second-to-last week of September.
When the 2021-22 season started, players who had long playoff runs hadn’t even finished healing their injuries from the previous seasonnotes Stéphane Dubé.
I often worked with guys who had participated in the final. And even though their summer was shorter than everyone else’s, at least they had time to heal. Their physical preparation was not optimal, but they were at least healed before returning to the game.
Last season, taking into account an essential three- or four-week break after the playoffs, players were allowed only six weeks of transition between the two seasons. It’s appalling.
It was also fascinating last summer. Players who came back to practice and had played long enough in the playoffs were completely shattered. They were burned. In addition, they were discouraged that the next season was going to start so quickly.says Stéphane Dubé.
The Islanders were spared injuries. But they weren’t ready when the season started. It was an 11-game losing streak that quickly put them out of the playoffs. When they pulled themselves together, it was already too late.
According to Stéphane Dubé, when we take the above into account, we can only admire more the fact that the Lightning managed to qualify for the playoffs this year.
The Lightning have talent, that’s for sure. But the fact that this team has found the energy to make the playoffs again after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in two miserable years like the ones we’ve just been through, it really impresses me.he said.
In addition to physical fatigue and injury, there is an important psychological dimension that comes into play when athletes are overstretched. You have to have the chance to recharge the batteries at some point.
In the case of the Stanley Cup champions, the renowned physical trainer points out, however, that the long rehabilitation of their best forward, Nikita Kucherov, probably had a positive effect.
The Lightning players were also exhausted when the playoffs started last year. But they welcomed their best player just when it mattered. Kucherov hadn’t played all season. He was fresh and alert, and that was a big addition to them. I’m not sure they would have won a second Cup in a row if Kucherov hadn’t been so well rested.
However, Kucherov has also played relatively little this season. The same phenomenon could occurthinks Stéphane Dubé.
The NHL is winding down the final days of an extremely lousy season, the two defining events of which were a sex abuse scandal involving a Chicago Blackhawks coach and player and a withdrawal from the Olympics.
It’s time for this to end.