The 2017-18 NHL season represents the second year the league has instituted mandatory, second-half bye weeks for all teams. This provision was added to give teams at least five days of rest as the season reaches its second half, to presumably leave everyone fresher and healthier down the stretch.
This week, the week of January 7, saw half the league begin its bye. The second half of the league will have its rest in the second week of January, with everyone back to normal scheduling by the middle of this month. It is surely a bummer for NHL fans to see such thin slates of games, but the bye week is now an official part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and is here to stay, at least for a while.
The New York Islanders are one team who is certainly glad to see the bye week arrive, but perhaps out of circular logic. The Islanders are coming off of a stretch in which they played 18 games between December 4 and the bye, a span of 35 days. That is an average of a game every 1.9 days for over a month straight.
Such a packed schedule wouldn’t exist if the mandatory bye didn’t also exist. Because of the necessary rest, teams like New York are forced to shove more contests into fewer days. If the Islanders were forced to play such a pace throughout an entire season, they would be playing roughly 95 times, as opposed to the standard 82-game slate.
With the 2018 NHL All-Star game coming up on Sunday, January 28, teams around the league will be given another few days off at the end of the month. Obviously, based on the CBA changes, this wasn’t considered enough rest in the season’s second half.
The Islanders currently reside in a tie for last place in the Metropolitan division, though with 46 points, that speaks more to the division’s balance than any poor play by New York. Coming out of their bye on the 13th, the Islanders will square off with New York’s other squad, the Rangers, who currently hold a three-point lead in the standings on their cross-town rival.