NHL Season 2013: Players That Will Suffer Because of Lockout-Shortened Season
Now that the NHL and the NHL Players' Association have come to a tentative agreement that has saved the season (h/t Yahoo! Sports), the players will be asked to sprint for 48 games to determine who makes the playoffs.
Some players have tried to stay game-ready by playing in European hockey leagues like the KHL. Some have done just that, while others have failed in their European efforts.
Some young players and veteran players may suffer because they will not have a full training camp and a chance to learn their team's system.
Some players may benefit from the shortened season, but here's a look at eight players who may have a hard time with the adjustment.
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
Evander Kane has the talent to become a star in the NHL. He scored 30 goals and had 57 points last year for the Winnipeg Jets.
During the lockout, Kane signed to play with Dinamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. However, soon after he started to play with the KHL team, Kane had issues.
His coach said he was not in condition to play effective hockey. That assessment was made after Kane's third game in Russia.
Little changed after Kane was called out. He was released after 12 games (via Yahoo!).
When the season starts, Kane is going to have to do a lot of work to get in decent shape and become a productive player again.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers
Ilya Bryzgalov was one of many NHL players who decided to compete in the KHL while the lockout continued.
It was expected that Bryzgalov would make a solid and easy adjustment to playing in the KHL.
Bryzgalov signed a contract to play with CSKA.
However, Bryzgalov was not the No. 1 goalie for that team. Bryzgalov was not happy with his status, so he left the team shortly before New Year's Eve (via courierpostonline.com).
There have been questions about Bryzgalov's focus and commitment since he signed with the Flyers prior to the 2011-12 season.
Those questions have not been answered.
It would not be surprising if Bryzgalov got off to another inconsistent start with the Flyers.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
When Ryan Kesler is on top of his game, the Canucks are usually on top of theirs.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin may be the Canucks who can put together the highlight-film plays and are the most picturesque when they are working their magic in the offensive zone, but the Canucks are hardest to beat when Kesler is grinding away and using his dominant skills.
Don't expect Kesler to come out of the gate flying. He had offseason shoulder surgery, and he was not expected to come back to the ice until November.
While it would seem that the extra time would give him more time to heal, Kesler needs to get back on the ice and go to work in practice and in scrimmages against upper-level talent.
He hasn't been able to do that, so it will take him even longer to get ready.
He will almost certainly get off to a halting start with the Canucks.
Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins
Nathan Horton was one of the heroes for the Boston Bruins during their championship run in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Horton scored two overtime goals against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, and he scored the game-winning goal in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Tampa Bay.
Horton suffered a concussion in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Canucks, and his teammates used that as a rallying point for their triumph.
Horton recovered, but he had another concussion in early 2012 that kept him out the rest of the regular season and in the Bruins' first-round playoff loss to Washington.
Horton was declared "healthy" during the summer, but he has not been able to work on his skills during the lockout.
By the time he comes back and starts playing again, Horton will have missed nearly a calendar year of hockey.
Horton will be rusty when he returns.
Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
Brendan Smith was the Detroit Red Wings' top pick in the 2007 draft. A lot is expected of him when the season starts.
Smith is a 23-year-old defenseman with excellent skills. Normally, he would get time to prove himself once the season starts.
This is not going to be a normal season for the Red Wings. They no longer have Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired after a stellar 20-year career at the end of last year's playoffs.
There is a ton of pressure on Smith to step up his game and become a top-pair defenseman.
Smith played with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL during the lockout. That may have kept him in shape, but it does not prepare him for top-level competition.
It will be hard for Smith to get off to a stellar start with the Red Wings.
T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues
T.J. Oshie is one of the hardest working players in hockey.
When Ken Hitchcock was hired by the St. Louis Blues early in the 2011-12 season, Oshie was one of the players he depended on to turn the Blues around.
Oshie fights for every loose puck, finishes every check and goes hard to the net.
However, he is not the most skilled player. He depends on his hustle and hard work.
Oshie needs to get his timing back to be the player that scored 19 goals and 54 points last year. He is not playing hockey overseas during the lockout.
He won't have his timing right after he comes back. It will take him a while to find his rhythm again.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp is one of the best snipers in the NHL, having scored 33 goals or more in each of the last two seasons.
Sharp, 31, should be in the prime of his career. He is a smart, instinctive player with good skills in addition to his blazing shot.
However, he depends on timing and rhythm to get in a groove and get on a hot streak. Sharp is not playing overseas against top competition.
It may take him a while to find his skating legs and put together one of the hot streaks that he has been noted for during his career.
Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars
Ray Whitney was one of the two 40-year-old snipers the Dallas Stars signed during free agency.
They brought Whitney in from the Phoenix Coyotes and Jaromir Jagr from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jagr has been working on his skills while playing in the KHL. Whitney decided not to take advantage of any overseas opportunities.
Whitney and Jagr will both have to adjust to their new teammates in the Lone Star State. However, while Jagr has been playing regularly in the lockout, Whitney has not.
Whitney scored 24 goals and 77 points last year for the Coyotes. Instead of performing at that level this year, he will struggle with conditioning and timing.
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