Professional athletes make their money on the performance of the vehicle that they have been blessed with and choose to maintain as they see fit. Fit being the operative word. While inherent talent can take a player to an elite level, practice and conditioning will help preserve and prolong an athlete's career.
With the lucrative rewards that are prevalent in sports like money, endorsements and the trophies that come along with team and individual achievement, it is easy to get lazy. With fans, teammates and coaches telling you how great you are, a player can lose the focus and determination that got them to the elite level. There is a reason that the urban legend of the "Stanley Cup hangover" has prevented a repeat champion since 1998.
Teams take a little bit of time to pat themselves on the back and reflect on their achievement. It may take a little bit longer to get all of the engines fired back up in the fall, and there can be a natural emotional letdown after reaching the summit in your profession.
There are over a hundred NHL players that have loaned out their talents to other leagues and organizations. With almost 700 active players in the NHL, only a small portion qualify to play for the club's AHL affiliate and stay in North America. Simple math will tell you that there are a lot of NHL players that are not currently skating at a (relatively) high competitive level.
If your local ice rink has a new guy working the snack bar, or a particularly aggressive skate guard, he might be a Blue Jacket or a Coyote looking for a few extra bucks. On the plus side, if your beer-league team is having some trouble, you might be able to rope in a ringer for at least a few games.
Here's a list of 12 players that may have some trouble getting their game legs underneath them just in case the NHL happens to play this season. Some of these guys have a history of reporting to camp out of shape, and others are notorious slow starters for various reasons.
Hopefully we'll see them playing at some point this year, and if not.....my team could really use an upgrade in goal. You'll get lots of practice since no one likes to back check. I'm talking to you Jonny Quick. Seriously.