Skip to main content

Fans get screwed as NHL superstars see a lot less ice

Fans are seeing a lot more of the supporting cast than the big stars. Now that the goons are gone, the grunts are getting more ice time, and they're taking it away from the NHL's top forwards.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It wasn’t too long ago that a fan could expect to see his or her favorite NHL superstar play more than 20 minutes per game.

Actually, it was just last season.

In 2013-14, 29 forwards averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. This season, all of eight are above that mark.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads with 21:12, followed by Claude Giroux, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Alexander Steen, Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Pavelski. Heck, even the best player on the planet is only averaging 19:52 a game.

Since 1997-98, no fewer than 24 forwards in any season had averaged above 20 minutes of ice time, with the top forward seeing a minimum of 21:58:

2014-15: 8 (21:12)

2013-14: 29 (21:58)

2012-13: 24 (24:44)

2011-12: 29 (24:26)

2010-11: 24 (22:33)

2009-10: 29 (22:02)

2008-09: 27 (23:00)

2007-08: 31 (24:17)

2006-07: 35 (24:09)

2005-06: 29 (24:17)

2003-04: 29 (23:41)

2002-03: 32 (23:45)

2001-02: 33 (25:00)

2000-01: 36 (26:52)

1999-00: 33 (24:23)

1998-99: 46 (25:51)

1997-98: 35 (24:57)

(The number of defensemen averaging north of 20 has remained steady at around 100, including this season.)

There’s more bad news.

Fewer minutes also mean fewer points. No NHL player is on pace for 100 points. That hasn’t happened since Martin St-Louis had just 94 in 2003-04, the nadir of the Dead Puck Era when league scoring dropped to 5.14 per game. In fact, the NHL’s current scoring leader, Patrick Kane, is on pace for just 92 points, which would be the lowest non-lockout season total since 1967-68.

Stars are burning out before the playoffs when their teams really need them. And now that goons are all but gone, coaches can rely on their fourth lines to play as much as 10 to 12 minutes per game so they can keep their front-line stars fresh for the playoffs.

It’s smart coaching by teams, but it sucks for fans.


NHL Helmet

NHL Announces COVID-19 Policy for 2022-23 Season

With the training camps approaching, the NHL unveiled its new COVID-19 protocols for the 2022-23 regular season.

Jack Campbell

NHL Hot Seat Radar: Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have the skill to go far once again after just missing out on the Stanley Cup final. Can Jack Campbell be the difference this year?

Jason Robertson

NHL Free Agency: Top RFAs Still on the Market in the Middle of August

The NHL off-season is deep into August and there are still some key restricted free agents out there without contracts. Let's take a look at the best youngsters still available.