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The byes are back in town. Ugh. Pardon. Bad joke. But it’s true. After a two-season hiatus after COVID condensed the league schedule, the NHL has officially reinstated mid-season bye weeks for 2022-23.
The bye week concept was introduced in 2016-17 as a way to give teams a break to rest and recuperate midway through the season. This was a concession made to the NHL Players Association in exchange for signing a 3-on-3 format for the NHL All-Star Game. The 2022-23 byes began Jan. 28 when five teams began their hiatuses and will be staggered across all 32 franchises until Feb. 10. Interruptions range from eight to 11 games. Here is an overview of the breakdown of the week off:
The NHL also provided data on the team’s performance over the previous four bye-week seasons and, specifically, what happened in games immediately after the breaks. Do weeks off leave teams refreshed and sharp or slow and sloppy?
Fascinatingly, the league as a whole tends to immediately drag its feet out of the byes. Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the teams posted a combined score of 48-53-22 in their first games after byes. But first the review teams Three subsequent games byes paint a different picture. The four years of data gave us 12 games per team excluding the Vegas Golden Knights, who weren’t yet active in 2016-17 and therefore have three years and nine games of experience after the bye. It turns out that 19 of the 31 teams had point percentages of .500 or better in their first three games after the bye. Some teams have been downright dominant. A full list of post-bye standings is below. The Seattle Kraken are not listed as they of course have not yet played in the NHL when the byes were previously present.
First three games after the bye, 2016-17 to 2019-20
|Toronto Maple Leafs||9-0-3||.875|
|San Jose Sharks||10-2-0||.833|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||7-3-2||.667|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||6-4-2||.583|
|New Jersey Devils||6-4-2||.583|
|New York Islanders||5-3-4||.583|
|St. Louis Blues||6-6-0||.500|
|Vegas Golden Knights||4-4-1||.500|
|Detroit Red Wings||4-7-1||.375|
|New York Rangers||4-8-0||.333|
|Los Angeles Kings||3-9-0||.250|
Before we think too much about the results: the overall quality of the team has a lot of correlation here. Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the Leafs, Bruins, Predators, Jets and Lightning ranked in the league’s top 10 in total wins, so it makes sense to see them rank as well. among the top 10 after the goodbye. Not only will the best teams simply win more on either side of a bye, but they will come out of their byes with plenty to play for.
« We’ve had some good teams in that span, so you come out of a bye week ready for the playoffs, you’re excited to be back, you know there’s a lot of big hockey games coming up, then you feel a sense of urgency coming out of the break,” Maple Leafs left winger Alexander Kerfoot said.
Therefore, the Kings, Coyotes, Senators, Sabers and Red Wings ranked in the bottom 10 in total wins in those four seasons, so it’s not really amazing to learn that they stumbled at the end of their weeks off.
But the quality of the team does not explain everything. How come the Leafs dominated the first three games after the bye to the point that they’ve never lost in regulation in four seasons? How did intermediate teams like the Sharks and Flyers dominate the post-byes?
Kerfoot uses the disclaimer that he doesn’t believe the Leafs have done anything different from their opponents. For a man, for a team, a big part of saying goodbye is about resting and getting away with friends, family or teammates. In his mind, the mental component is crucial for a team in a hunt for the playoffs.
« It’s a long season, and you relish the opportunity to get away from it all a bit, » Kerfoot said. « Especially at this time of year when you’re some 50 games into the season, you’ve been really working for a long time. It’s good to have a little mental break and reset.
Perhaps the more a team manages to unplug completely, the better off it is. That’s probably a good sign Leafs right-winger Mitch Marner said Daily face-to-face he barely remembers what takeaways came out of the 2019-20 bye. Maybe the mind becomes blank due to mental resetting. However, for Marner – whose leave will be cut short by a trip to the All-Star Game – physical rest is just as important.
« It’s time to go chill and cool off and make sure your body is ready for the second half, » Marner said. “It’s getting really, really competitive and you’re trying to start preparing for what’s to come in the last few months.
Still, it’s not like the Leafs are the only team to experience the recharge. How did they maximize the break? A theory: Geography has something to do with post-bye performance.
« Maybe there’s something to be said, you leave a Toronto winter and you get some sun and it feels good to come back, » Kerfoot said. « While the break might not be the same for teams in hot climates. But you can do your own research (laughs) on that.
Challenge accepted. Of the 17 teams with winning records coming out of the bye, 15 come from cold climates or, in frontier markets like Dallas or Nashville, at least cities that have some semblance of winter. While six of the 14 teams with records of .500 or worse, or 43%, had losing records. In other words: if you count « warm winter » markets like San Jose, Tampa Bay, Vegas, Florida, Anaheim, Carolina, Arizona, and Los Angeles, only two out of eight have winning records in the first three games after the goodbye.
So maybe not all fun in the sun is created equal. If you’re already a good team with a lot to play for and you’re playing in a cold market from which the holidays look like real change, you arguably have the best chance of coming out of the break with momentum. That’s what the numbers say.
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