Olczyk: Conditioning, time management will be key
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Eddie Olczyk remembered when he was playing for the New York Rangers at the start of the 1994-95 season -- the last time the NHL played a lockout-shortened 48-game season -- he was ready to explode out of the gate when the season finally started.
"The adrenaline will be so high," Olczyk, now part of the top broadcasting crew for NHL games on NBC and NBC Sports Network, said during a conference call Tuesday. "I can speak from experience of being a part of 1994-95. Being off for three or four months and coming back and playing, the adrenaline will be so high for the first couple games."
What happens to players after that first couple games could determine which players -- and which teams -- have success in the 2012-13 season.
Olczyk said after that first couple of games in 1994-95, he hit a wall -- and he believes that will happen to most players. That's when players who spent time playing in Europe, the American Hockey League or in junior hockey could have an advantage on players who were idle.
"You're going to hit a wall mentally and physically," Olczyk said. "That's the reality of it. But the guys that have some foundation under them certainly will have an advantage. … I don't think there's any doubt that conditioning and timing will be the two things I am watching for most, especially early in the season. Anytime you can have played at a competitive level like the KHL, I think certainly you have an advantage from the conditioning and timing aspect of it."
Olczyk also said he believes coaching and time management could play a major role this season. With 48 games crammed into 99 days, Olczyk said it will be imperative for coaches to find the right balance between work and rest.
"Another important thing will be time management from the coaches," he said. "You may be struggling, but you have to be able to say there's no practice. Time management by coaches will decide a lot of what happens this year to their particular teams."
Olczyk's broadcast colleague, Pierre McGuire, agreed with him, saying, "Work-to-rest ratio really matters. Players must be managed properly by the coaching staff and training staff."
McGuire also said teams in the Eastern Conference will have an advantage based on the smaller geographic area between teams. With all games being played within the conferences, the only time teams in the East will leave the Eastern time zone is when they play in Winnipeg. Western teams, however, will play games in all four time zones.
"I think the Eastern Conference will have a bit of an edge because of that limited travel," McGuire said. "I think travel does play a role in this. … One of the things that can break a player down more than anything else is a lot of time-zone travel and a lot of airplane miles. You have to do that a lot in the West. You won't have to do that a lot in the East."