Eighty-two regular season games. To be honest, I am terrified at one point that hockey fans will have to sit through over 100 regular season games in the future. Of those 82 regular season games last year, the Detroit Red Wings only had two players that played in every single game: Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. Furthermore, only five more played in 80 games or above. While this might seem insignificant, it simply shows that with so many games in a season, there are also so many lost due to injury, sickness, or simply overtired legs.
For years the Red Wings strength has been their solid veteran players. The core of Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen up front with Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom in the back were all above 30 years old last year, and unfortunately will not be getting younger. One of Lidstrom’s main motivations for retiring was simply that he felt he could not keep up the same drive and level of play for another full season. For many veteran players, this is same each year: can they gear up for another 82 regular season games + playoffs?
Although it is true that the Wings are becoming younger, when push comes to shove, they will still lean on their seasoned talent. Having less games in the regular season could really be an advantage to some old legs that may run out of gas at the end of the season and through the grind of the playoffs. Many of the Wings players will head to Europe or stick around the AHL, just trying to keep in the best shape possible, but none of these leagues will be as physical and as demanding as what the NHL requires.
Looking at the lockout, there are very few positives to draw, however, for the Red Wings faithful, fewer games and less NHL-level grinding could be the difference maker in the playoff rounds. As frustrated as we are waiting to watch the winged wheel back on the ice, if they are skating with Lord Stanley next June, we won’t be complaining.