In just a few weeks, from February 9th to the 24th, the NHL will be taking a break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Participating from your San Jose Sharks are Joe Pavelski (USA), Antti Niemi (Finland), Patrick Marleau (Canada), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Canada).
Now, while that list is riddled with talent, there were a few guys who were left out including Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, and Justin Braun. Still, that may turn out to be an advantage for the San Jose Sharks because those guys will be getting some rest during the break. In fact, that break in general will probably help the Sharks for quite a few reasons.
First, as I just went over briefly, rest. Obviously, resting their top guys is always a plus, and a two-week break will do wonders for them. The NHL season is an 82-game marathon after all. Also, however, the rest could be good for some of the younger guys as well who are used to shorter schedules from the AHL and other leagues like the NCAA.
Matt Nieto immediately comes to mind as a guy who played a total of 50 games last season between college hockey at Boston University and the Worcester Sharks. That was his highest game total ever. Also, remember that last season was a shortened one, so some players might not be completely readjusted to the longer regular season.
Second, which somewhat ties into rest, is the ability for injured guys to gain some extra rest without costing their team. The biggest name that immediately comes to mind is Couture who injured his hand not too long ago. With the extra two weeks off he will now have plenty of extra time to get over the injury and ensure he is 100% before he heads back out onto the ice.
Other guys that benefit due to injury are Raffi Torres and Adam Burish. Right now both guys are slated to come back right after the Olympic break. That would be a huge boost to the team who will be looking to make a deep run into the playoffs. Burish has expressed that he would like to return before the Olympics, telling CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz that he’d “like to play a couple games before that break, and I’d like to get back and see how I feel and get into it and then boom, once that break’s over, hit it, and we’re in the big [playoff] push there.”
Hopefully the Sharks will be able to take full advantage of their time off during the Olympics, whether that be by nursing injuries or simply watching their teammates play in Sochi while they sit on their Lay-Z-Boys and relax. They will need it too, because once the San Jose Sharks return on February 27th the playoff race is on and switches from a marathon to a sprint and they will need all of the healthy bodies they can get.