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The Sports Daily > The Pensblog
The NHL schedule sucks and this bye week is bullshit

The Penguins are currently enjoying a seven-day extended break between games in their schedule. It’s a new idea from the league that essentially gives every team a bye week at some point in the season.

So with the Penguins turn being this week, Phil Kessel is in Miami. Evgeni Malkin is on Instagram, posting pictures from a pool, somewhere, who knows where it could possibly be. And others are, presumably, doing the same: Just enjoying the time off.

Johnathan Bombulie wrote an article about this in yesterday’s Trib. Some of the quotes he obtained from the players were, predictably, all in favor of the break:

“This week’s going to be great,” said defenseman Ian Cole.

Cole added: “This team is a very mature team that can handle themselves very well. No one’s going to go to Cancun and have a spring break. We do take care of ourselves and recover. It will be very beneficial going forward.”

“Those three-in-fours and all the back-to-backs do take a toll on your body, and we’re not even halfway through the season,” winger Bryan Rust said.

Now the best point brought up in the entire article referred to the Penguins current state: They’re banged up. So in essence, the break would, on the surface, be coming at the perfect time for the Pens. It’s arguable, but it’s a point.

A counter point: This break in the schedule is stupid and it’s really going to fuck things up for the Pens down the stretch. 

Here’s why:

We are roughly three calendar months into the season. The Penguins played three games in four nights exactly two times in December. They did it three times in November, and just once in early October, for a grand total of six. They have played in back-to-back nights a total of seven times so far. So yes, it is totally fair for the Penguins to be thrilled about this break.

However…

After this break, they will play three games in four nights a total of five times. They will also be forced to play in back-to-back games five more times. So while the demands in the second half of their schedule aren’t quite as horrendous as the first half of their season, it won’t be getting much easier. That’s the good news, I suppose.

The bad news?

March has 31 calendar days, and the Penguins are playing hockey on 16 of them. Nine of those games are on the road, including the Western Canada trip. We’re not going to complain because we aren’t the ones who have to actually go do this, but holy shit that’s a lot of hockey.

It will never happen — the loss of revenue would be far too drastic for anyone involved with managing the NHL to ever consider it — but it’s time to start talking about shortening the season.

Two things you can assume a shortened schedule would accomplish right away is that it would reduce injuries and increase the quality of play. If nothing else, moving the start of the season ahead and pushing the end of the season back would at least keep teams from having to do ridiculous things like playing three games in four nights or having 12 times in a season. 82 games is just way too much, especially when you consider how long the playoffs can drag out. Do the Penguins really need to play the Devils five times in a season? Does anyone really want to watch that match-up more than once, anyway? Not sure; don’t think.

There are barriers, sure. The World Cup. The Olympics. The All-Star game. All of these events throw the schedule for a loop and, understandably, would cause teams to have to jump these hurdles. But as it stands now, the NHL schedule may as well have been drawn by a four-year old with a blue crayon.

It needs a lot of work, but it can be fixed. All it needs is someone within the League’s front office to first give a shit about the players, which, as we know, is a long shot at best.