Hockey Betting impact of NHL Lockout
by Trevor Whenham - 3/6/2013
The NHL Lockout has created a tough season to handicap. Heading into the season, we had to guess how things were going to turn out — what was going to matter and what was going to give teams an edge. We couldn’t rely on the preseason for evidence, and the circumstances of this lockout made it tough to rely on history. We just had to come up with some theories and hope they were right. Here’s a look at some of the theories that held up along with some that haven’t:
New coaches have struggled - New coaches were put in a brutal situation. They had to get used to a new situation, yet they couldn’t communicate with their players. Once the lockout ended, they had no time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their team, build relationships with the players, implement systems and generally get ready. The struggles have been evident. Calgary and Edmonton both have new coaches, and both have looked like it — even though Ralph Krueger was with the Oilers as an assistant previously. The Capitals have really struggled to adjust to the changes that Adam Oates has tried to implement, and it has really hurt that this is his first head coaching job. Only Montreal has thrived under a new coach, but Michel Therrien has previously coached the Habs, so he was more comfortable.
Playing overseas wasn’t really a boost - There was a feeling heading into the season that players who had been playing in Europe would have a boost early in the season. They wouldn’t have the rust, they would be in game shape, and they would come out firing. It hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, taking time off and training away from a team has been a big boost. The top four scorers in the league — Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Chris Kunitz, and Martin St. Louis — all didn’t play in Europe. They are obviously helped because they play together — Crosby and Kunitz and Stamkos and St. Louis — but they have shown no rust and have indeed had a lot more jump than some of the guys who have played a lot already. Crosby’s teammate, Evgeni Malkin, is scoring well below expectations right now after playing well in the KHL. Alexander Ovechkin looked like he had his magic back in the KHL, but it has largely been lacking back in the NHL. There are obviously examples of dual success — Thomas Vanek was good in Europe and great in the NHL — but overall there hasn’t been a clear advantage to starting the season early.
AHL play doesn’t translate - The youngsters for the Oilers were excellent playing together in Oklahoma City. They just haven’t found their way in Edmonton despite the fact that they all played together in the minor leagues. They are the most obvious example but far from the only one. This extended offseason has shown what we have already known, yet in finer detail — play in the AHL just doesn’t translate directly into the big leagues.
Hard for teams to differentiate themselves - Usually by the beginning of March we have a pretty good sense of which teams are good and which aren’t. This year we just don’t. There are elite teams — Chicago obviously counts, and Pittsburgh is very dangerous, for example. There is a massive traffic jam in the middle rank of the league, though. As of March 4 there were 18 teams that had between 20 and 25 points. In the West alone there were six teams with 24 points. A team in that group could have moved into third place with a win or as low as 12th with a loss. The difference between teams is minimal in a lot of cases, and it is amplified by the fact that teams are only playing their own conference, so they are beating each other up.
Rookies are still contributing despite lack of offseason - There was a legitimate concern that rookies would be so far behind heading into the season because they lacked the preseason to get familiar with their teams and the speed of the league. While that has been an issue on some cases, the general performance of rookies is on par with what we would expect. Cory Conacher has been outstanding for Tampa Bay and would likely win the Calder if it were awarded today. Jonathan Huberdeau has been strong for a lousy Florida team. Justin Schultz has shown why so many teams wanted to sign him as a free agent out of Wisconsin. Teammate Nail Yakupov has been strong, too. Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk have been a dynamic duo for the shocking Canadiens. There is no reason to expect that this group would be significantly better with a regular season. In fact, they may avoid hitting a typical rookie wall because of the shorter season.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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