NHL Lockout Hurts Aging Teams
The NHL has once again come to a work stoppage, this time because the owners want to slice up the revenue pie so that it's more favorable to their wallets. After owners agreed mid-September to a lockout, the 2012-13 NHL season has become jeopardized and fans are generally displeased. Players and owners are so far apart in negotiations that, in my estimation, it's doubtful there will be any games played before January 2013.
There are already a ton of articles out there detailing the lockout in full, so I've decided to look at what a lockout means for teams like the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks, who made back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances before being dropped in the opening round by St. Louis back in May, have an aging core of players that includes Patrick Marleau (pictured), Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle. These guys are the team's "big dogs" that have to get it done if the Sharks have any shot at capturing an overdue and very elusive championship.
The Sharks stand to either benefit or be hindered by the current lockout, depending on if the season resumes sometime in early 2013. Assuming this season DOES resume and an impacted schedule does not come into play - meaning that the league won't cram in extra games on normal off days - the Sharks stand to benefit from the added rest its top dogs will receive. It's no secret that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to capture in professional sports: the grind of an 82-game schedule, in addition to up to 28 postseason contests, makes for some sore, beat-up players. The less that 30-somethings like Marleau, Thornton and Boyle have to play before the postseason, the better.
On the contrary, if the entire season goes down the drain, the Sharks will probably regress due to age. Sure, young studs like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski might have gained a year of strength and skill if they worked hard in their time off, but their gains would be far offset by the regression of the "top dogs." The likelihood of Joe Thornton getting any stronger or faster as a player is slim, but the odds of a younger player on another team busting his bum and closing the skills gap is theoretically quite high. In this case, it's not so much about the Sharks getting better or worse, it's about other teams improving. The Sharks just don't have the advantage they used to, and age is a primary factor in their struggle to continue league dominance.
Speculating when the lockout will dissolve is a waste of time. With such a huge disparity between both sides, I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole season get canned. For the Sharks' sake, hopefully the season will pick up mid-January, giving them three months to get their act together for a deep playoff push. With a group of healthy players going into the postseason on a hot streak, it just might be the perfect scenario to finally secure a Stanley Cup.
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