Before the start of the season I attempted to contact all the strength and conditioning coaches to ask them two simple questions:
1. Who was the player who impressed you the most through preseason with their conditioning.
2. What is the hardest thing to maintain with the players throughout the year.
Two very simple and non specific questions, I didn't want to go specific because lets be honest, any information given out can be considered intellectual property and no-one wants to give away anything.
With that being said I got a total of 6 responses out of 30 clubs, and I only got 1 legitimate answer from the Calgary Flames, and half an answer from the Winnipeg Jets. The other four clubs (Arizona, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Colorado) politely declined to disclose any information about their training.
It shows you just how important teams see the conditioning of their players now, it can really be a point of difference throughout the year, we know how important health is in the playoffs, the Sharks certainly do (Vlasic).
What I managed to work out from my two questions is this: Mark Giordano was primed to have the season he is currently having, keeping muscle mass on the players and looking after their hip flexors and adductors. Avoiding power loss due to the muscle mass loss is a big challenge too, the schedule just doesn't allow the S & C coach the time to improve on the physicality of a player.
This is why it pisses off the coaching staff when a player turns up to camp 'under done', it is almost impossible to get a player 'up to speed' once you're behind, you are always behind in relation to your ability to handle the full 82 games. You either get injured or cannot go 'all out' for your 82 games, either way it is irresponsible and unfair on your teammates to ask them to carry you just because you didn't put the work in over the off season.
What I want to have a look at through the year are training cycles and how they effect a team and their possession ability. Sorry to say guys but I am going to do this with the Penguins, basically because I watch every game and I will be able to see the advanced stats against the games and measure it all up. I am not sure if I will do a 'half year' review of the results yet, just keep an eye out for it.
I have no idea what to expect with the results, I have a few thoughts though, if the Penguins decide to use a 'quiet' stretch of the schedule to ramp up their off ice training it could produce low possession numbers as they will have 'heavy' legs.
Traditionally you work in a minimum cycle of 6 weeks with athletes, but the preference is 10 to 12 weeks in your training cycle. In season you are not going to get that luxury, so the quiet sections of the schedule is where you make sure you at a minimum maintain a players strength and muscle mass. The negative of putting in that work; the need for recovery time and thus a drop off in on ice performance.
So lets see how it all transpires through the year. I would like to extend a special thank you to Ryan van Asten of the Calgary Flames, for answering my two questions, and managing to do so without spilling any trade secrets. Along with Dr Craig Slaunwhite of the Winnipeg Jets for letting me know his biggest issues through the year.