Long before the lockout ended, there was a mild debate regarding whether or not a shortened/condensed season would benefit the Sharks. However, since most of the fanbase had grown too angry or apathetic to really discuss it, I'm not sure if any consensus was ever found. There are some obvious upsides for a shorter season for a Sharks team that has accrued significant mileage over the years (Boyle, Thornton, etc.) Extended offseason rest and fewer games in general is favorable for our greybeards. However, this writer is of the opinion that a shorter/condensed season could be detrimental to the Sharks for the following reasons:
1. Shorter season is fine, a condensed season is not.
Just to clarify: I don't think a shortened season will hurt us, I believe a CONDENSED season will. The difference is that a shortened season is simply a fewer number of games, whereas a condensed season implies playing games over a shorter period of time. (Eg. If we would normally play a set of 48 games over 130 days, a condensed season could be something like 48 games over 110 days). We haven't seen the new schedule yet so we don't know how condensed the season will be. Hopefully, games will be played at a similar rate that a full season would be. However, if the 48 games need to be condensed into a small window of time we could see a larger proportion of double headers (maybe even triple headers (see NBA 2011-2012)) and 4 game weeks. Playing so many games with so little downtime in between is detrimental to the health of players (Again, see NBA 2011-2012). Given the age of our roster, the little downtime associated with a condensed season will take it's toll on our health rather quickly. In such a short season, every game has signficantly more weight in final standings; we can ill afford to have our veterans missing any significant chunks of time.
2. Given our streakiness last year, one bad stretch could really sink us.
I felt like we spent all of last season waiting to "regress to the mean". Unfortunately that day never really came, and we were bumped in the first round to NOBODY'S surprise. I'm hoping this is the year that we finally come out of the gates quickly. A slow start like what we had last year cannot happen in a 48 game season if we are even expected to make playoffs. Given that all of our games will be against teams in the Western Conference, I'm hoping the increased proportion of rivalry games will light a fire under the team and avoid any mini-slumps. Any losing streak beyond 2-3 games would be severely detrimental.
3. Our best acquisitions in the offseason were BEHIND the bench.
The Sharks didn't really make any roster acquisitions worth writing home about (as The Neutral covered quite well). However, they did bring in Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson, moves that are far more significant than they get credit for. The new coaches will have a tremendous impact on our defense and PK. However, with a shortened season and significantly shortened training camp, how thoroughly will the coaches be able to implement their changes? New systems usually take significant practice to implement and a handful of games to work out the kinks. When you bring in a new player, he has to get used to the new system; when you bring in a new system, EVERYONE has to get used to it. I expect to see growing pains in this process; and although, I still do think we will be much better off in the medium/long run, this season will be more of a sprint. Don't be surprised if the Sharks look a little sloppier than usual the start the season.
I believe that these obstacles are real; however, these obstacles are not exclusive to the Sharks. A lot of familiar faces are returning, so we will have the edge over teams with significant turnover. This may be the last season that we try to make a run at the cup with this core; so this team has a lot of motivation knowing it could be their last chance with this squad. Again, these theories are all dependent on what the schedule looks like. And just because I feel like a condensed season will not be to our advantage does not mean I am not optimistic about this season. If we can get off to a good start, find consistency on the bottom lines, and impliment the systems of our new coaches quickly, I think we are just as much a threat to take the cup as any other recent year.
Overall, I'm just so happy Hockey is back. Basketball is cool and all, and the Warriors are finally tight, but nothing beats hockey.