Hockey is a tough sport with a long season, at least at the NHL level. It's not "soff" (to quote Michel Therrien sort of) like baseball. In the regular season, it's 82 games of blocked shots, abuse in the crease, surging by defensemen, fighting off checks, scrums, slashes, face-washes, battles in the corner and general fatigue. The season starts in early October and lasts until early April.
Then if you're lucky, you get to play in the postseason. It's all those things we described in the first paragraph, just with more intensity. Assuming you're successful, the playoffs can last until early June. Your season can last nine months potentially. And a longer season leads to a shorter offseason and less time to recover from a grueling marathon.
That's a challenge the Penguins face heading into the 2008-09 season. It was a challenge the Ducks faced last season after winning the Cup in 2006-07. As Dan Wood of the Orange County Register recently pointed out, a shorter summer in 2007 for the Ducks probably helped lead to their disappointing first-round loss in the 2008 playoffs to the Stars.
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 the Ducks had other matters to deal with in their short offseason such as the quasi-retirements of stars Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne and a summer full of mugging for the camera with the Cup so their situation was hardly identical to the Penguins'. Additionally, they essentially started the season on a five-game road trip with two games in London and three more in opposing NHL arenas.
One advantage the Penguins have over the Ducks is the turnover they experienced in the offseason. If there is a benefit to losing players such as Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone, it's that the Penguins replaced them with folks who didn't reach the postseason such as Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko (New York Islanders) or others who exited the playoffs early like Matt Cooke (Washington Capitals) or Eric Godard (Calgary Flames). Plus after opening the season in Sweden, the Penguins will play four consecutive home games.
But after seeing the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang sputter towards the end of the playoffs and considering the amount of injuries the Penguins dealt with last season, the fact that some teams will have more than two months worth of tee times than them could be an issue.
A look at the length of all 30 teams' offseasons:
|Team||Last Regular Season
or Playoff Game
| Next Regular
|Penguins||June 4||Oct. 4||122|
|Red Wings||June 4||Oct. 9||127|
|Stars||May 19||Oct. 10||144|
|Flyers||May 18||Oct. 11||146|
|Rangers||May 4||Oct. 4||153|
|Sharks||May 4||Oct. 9||158|
|Canadiens||May 3||Oct. 10||160|
|Avalanche||May 1||Oct. 9||161|
|Flames||April 22||Oct. 9||170|
|Bruins||April 21||Oct. 9||171|
|Senators||April 16||Oct. 4||171|
|Capitals||April 22||Oct. 10||171|
|Ducks||April 20||Oct. 9||172|
|Predators||April 20||Oct. 10||173|
|Wild||April 19||Oct. 11||175|
|Devils||April 18||Oct. 10||175|
|Lightning||April 5||Oct. 4||182|
|Blackhawks||April 6||Oct. 10||187|
|Blue Jackets||April 6||Oct. 10||187|
|Blues||April 6||Oct. 10||187|
|Maple Leafs||April 5||Oct. 9||187|
|Canucks||April 5||Oct. 9||187|
|Thrashers||April 5||Oct. 10||188|
|Sabres||April 5||Oct. 10||188|
|Panthers||April 5||Oct. 10||188|
|Coyotes||April 6||Oct. 11||188|
|Hurricanes||April 4||Oct. 10||189|
|Kings||April 5||Oct. 11||189|
|Islanders||April 4||Oct. 10||189|
|Oilers||April 3||Oct. 12||192|
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-It doesn't look like Dennis Bonvie will become an assistant coach with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
-The Islanders hired Scott Gordon as their head coach. He was formerly the head coach of the AHL's Providence Bruins. We don't know much about Gordon, but we like the hiring from the standpoint that it's outside the box. Gordon is a retread like Terry Murray, who the Kings hired this offseason. There are far too many guys like Paul Maurice who get seemingly endless chances despite the fact they have experienced little success in the NHL. Gordon's hiring is a breath of fresh air.
-In a shocking development, the Lightning might have salary cap problems.
-Gary Roberts ain't quitting.
-Former Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek is having some business troubles.
-NHL greats Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and women's hockey great Cammi Granato will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.