Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Forsberg Sabbatical Ending

Today is the NHL trade deadline and deals are starting to be announced at a rate faster than I can keep up with. I will leave any look at the overall trade deadline until tomorrow, once I have had time to digest the moves. It is possible that the most significant deadline move (at least as far as this season goes) occurred yesterday and it was not a trade. Peter Forsberg signed with the Colorado Avalanche for the remainder of the season.

In September, I wrote about three proven NHL stars who have chosen to have sabbaticals this season instead of being ready to play at the start of the season. Those players are Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Peter Forsberg. All three have now joined NHL clubs and will be around for the stretch and playoff runs. Because none of them had any problems getting back to the NHL when they were ready, expect this trend to continue and possibly increase as other stars decide their summer is too short and take a sabbatical for the first few months of the season.

Now that Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne have rejoined Anaheim, the Ducks have been playing very well and recovered from a slow start. Should Anaheim repeat as Stanley Cup champions with strong performances from Selanne and Niedermayer, how much credit will be given to the fact they had an extended summer vacation and were thus fresh in the playoffs? And how likely does it make other players to follow their lead?

Peter Forsberg waited to sign a contract in part because of his health. He had surgery on his foot/ankle that kept him out part of this season. This is the second time he has had an extended summer vacation where he used health issues as an explanation. In 2001/02, Forsberg missed the entire regular season, but played in 20 playoff games leading the playoffs in scoring due to ankle problems and his spleen removal. Likely in both cases, Forsberg could have played earlier, but chose to have a longer break.

Forsberg choosing to play with Colorado is a bit of a surprise. Most pundits believed that he would sign with Philadelphia. Perhaps the Flyers recent skid, which leaves them fighting for a playoff berth changed his mind. Colorado is also not a lock for a playoff run. They currently sit in tenth place in the West Conference. However, things are looking up due to recent returns form injury of Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic. The addition of Peter Forsberg, if he is healthy, makes the Avalanche a very good group of forwards.

I believe this season is the start of significant older players choosing to take sabbaticals for the first part of the season. It leaves fans without some star players for the first half of the season and creates a situation where a team can be crowned Stanley Cup champion because of a key free agent signing at mid-season. It is not a good trend for the fan, but if the alternative is having these players prematurely retire, this is the lesser of two evils.

"the lesser of two evils" seems to falsely indicate that there are only two options here. Another option is that the NHL and its owners finally come to their senses and realize that the regular season and playoffs is far too long and grueling a journey for most players and reduce the number of regular season games to something more manageable.

Haha. Sorry, I couldn't help but laugh after my joke about the NHL doing something sensible...
I agree with that. The season is too long for the players. Maybe not for the fans, I would not be unhappy with a 12 month long season with games on every night of the year.

I think that there is no chance of the NHL hsortening their schedule in the near future.
Rumor is that the NHLPA and owners are debating going back up to 84 games.

I think the Players' Association may be trying to force the league to permit a 25 rather than 23 man active roster. It would increase teams' ability to rotate players, but I think it would ultimately backfire - those extra 60 players will do little more than drag down the quality of play, and the salary cap would be much tighter with two extra players involved.

Seventy games would be plenty, and I'd even consider chopping the first round back down to best-of-five. But I know full well that neither would happen, and especially shortening the playoff round, since so many teams rely on those games to boost their bottom line. Maybe 76 would be a good compromise.
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