It’s about 5:30 a.m. ET Sunday, and Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has been up for a couple of hours already.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Boudreau told ESPN.com as he headed toward the team’s first day of training camp now that the new collective bargaining agreement has been formally ratified by both the owners and players.
“When your hockey mind gets going, it’s hard to turn it off,” Boudreau said.
Like his 29 colleagues, Boudreau has been working off a potential training camp schedule that was as fluid as an outdoor rink in July. But late Saturday night, the players and owners agreed to a memorandum of understanding on a new CBA, which allowed teams to begin training camp Sunday with the league set to start its 48-game slate of games on Saturday.
Holy fast track, Batman.
One of the first things Boudreau will tell the 27 or 28 players who attend the Ducks camp on Sunday is that these circumstances aren’t necessarily fair, which means some players will find themselves getting far fewer reps in practice than the guys Boudreau will have to count on in the regular season.
“I want [Corey] Perry and [Ryan] Getzlaf going all the time,” Boudreau said, referring to two of his elite forwards.
The same will be true for Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan. Those guys will be constantly involved in drills and on-ice sessions, even if it means other players are seemingly given short shrift.
Rules agreed to by the NHLPA and the NHL limit camp time to three and a half hours per day, and on-ice sessions are limited to two and a quarter hours. On days when teams conduct off-ice fitness testing, there are to be no on-ice workouts.
During a normal training camp you might have 60 or 70 guys split into three groups, which allows players to engage in a lot of drills, thus helping their conditioning and giving them a chance to showcase their skills.
That’s not going to happen with teams forced to make decisions on rosters and line combinations and defensive pairings in less than a week.
Boudreau and other coaches who spoke to ESPN.com indicate there is a clear distinction between those players who played in Europe during the lockout and those who worked out with peers in North America, which adds an extra ripple to what will unfold in camps around the NHL this week.
St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said he notices it in the hands.
“They’re more fluid moving the puck,” Hitchcock said. “There’s less chop-chop going on.”
Once the schedule starts rolling, most coaches will focus on trying to parse out the ice time equitably, even if some guys are used to playing more minutes. That will be especially important given that players will evolve at different stages depending on whether they played overseas or not, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan suggested.
For instance, will Patrick Marleau, who did not play in Europe, have more in the tank around Game 40 than Joe Thornton, who may be on his own personal Game 70 or so, having played 33 games in Switzerland?
“We’re going to have players at different stages," McLellan said. "I think that’s a dynamic we have to be aware of as coaches.”
Throw in a schedule that will be chock full of back-to-back games, three in four nights and long road trips, and it’s no wonder that sleep is at a premium for NHL bench bosses.
“We play 17 games in March," Boudreau said. "I don’t even know if we’ll practice in the month of March."