Towards the end of October last year, I wrote a column for USA Today on bag skates. Please note that we’re basically at the same part of the schedule.
This is the time of the year is where we start to see a lull – everybody comes out of the gates like gangbusters to start the year. You’re jockeying for position on the depth chart, you want to get off to a good start, and you don’t want your team to dig a big hole.
But as stats and standings start to take shape, you come to find out you just can’t keep up that pace. You’ve been playing your hardest, accumulating bruises and accruing travel miles for awhile, which means that some days it’s all-too-easy to not mentally prepare like you did early in the season.
Your coach sees this in your effort or focus, and bam, it’s punishment time.
So, the bag skate: does it actually do anything?
….I really have no idea. How helpful was that?! (Read Tarik El-Bashir and Katie Carrera of the Washington Post if you want to read more about that idea.)
But, there are two reason they’re always going to be a thing that happens, and why this debate will repeatedly resurface around this time of year:
1) The timing. Late in the season, you can’t bag skate the boys, even if their focus and effort are off. You’re moving closer to playoffs. There are more injured guys, so the healthy guys are playing more minutes. You need your healthy bodies to not get run down.
2) You need the team to know that if need be, you will discipline, and that you are in charge. You need to set the tone early in the season that you notice when they slack off even a little bit, so hey – “everybody on the line.”
You can’t just sit back as a coach and get run over, let your team take nights off and hope to get ‘em next time, so at least a bag skate is taking action.
For the guys in the room, it doesn’t seem to have much effect one way or the other. It always feels good to have put in the work once practice is over, and it’s just one more thing you’ve been through as a team. No individual holds grudges, since you all went through it.
Guys might be bitter at the time, but there’s just no way out of it. You pull up your bootstraps, listen to the man in charge, and get that extra cardio in.
Then again, there is the possibility I’m wrong, and they have a raging negative effect - if you read the previous article I wrote on bag skating, note one thing: the two coaches who were putting their team through the paces at this time last year? Todd Richards of the Minnesota Wild, and Ken Hitchcock of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Maybe Boudreau should’ve given them the day off instead.