Suspensions are a common thing in the NHL, and they seem to be occurring more and more regularly as the league attempts to crack down on every questionable element of the game. For bettors suspensions can be challenging to deal with, and it can be very easy to make mistakes in dealing with them if you aren’t careful. Here are seven questions to ask when you are attempting to determine the true impact of an NHL suspension:
How long is the suspension? – Sometimes a suspension will be just one game long. Other times it will stretch eight or ten games, or even longer. Teams are used to missing players for a game because of minor injuries or illness, so a short suspension is often nothing to worry about. It won’t significantly affect the team or the way they prepare for the game, and it likely won’t have a significant impact on the perception of bettors, either. It’s when suspensions get longer that there is more to be concerned about, and potentially more opportunities for astute bettors.
What form was the suspended player in? – The better a player is playing, the more significant his absence will be. That’s not rocket science, but it is very important. You have to be sure that you are looking at what the player has actually been adding to his team recently, not what his reputation is. If the player is a high profile one then it is quite possible that he hasn’t been playing recently at nearly the level we have grown used to from him. If he’s a lesser known player then he could easily be adding much more to the team than most people would give him credit for. Reality is far more important than perception, and a difference between perception and reality can lead to very nice value for aware bettors.
How much time is there to replace? – The more ice time a player plays each game, the more of a hole the team has to fill in his absence. Time on ice is an easy stat to look at, and it is a very good indicator of the value of a player to a team. It’s important when you look at it, though, that you look at his average ice time over several games. If you just look at one game you might get an inaccurate idea if the game was abnormal – like if there was an excess of penalties, for example. A larger sample size will give you a much better sense.
Did he play special teams? – A guy who is a key contributor on the power play or penalty killing is far more of a loss to a team than a guy who only plays even strength. Special team skills aren’t nearly as common as full strength skills, and it can be harder to effectively plug guys into those units and get production right away. So many games are decided when the teams aren’t at even strength, so this is crucial. In particular you want to look for a guy who is a valuable contributor on a unit that is only marginally successful. If he’s the best player and he is missing then the team could really struggle in his absence.
How strong is the replacement? – The worse the replacement player is, and the less familiar he is with playing with his linemates, the more you are going to miss the suspended player. Is the replacement a regular roster player who hasn’t been playing? Can the coach just juggle lines to minimize the loss of the player? Or do they have to call someone up form the minors to fill the roster spot?
Who do they play? – It’s obviously going to hurt more to lose an important player if the team is playing playoff caliber squads that are playing well than it would be if they were playing weak teams. It would also probably hurt more to face the suspension on the road than at home. It goes beyond just the caliber of the player, too – you have to look at the style of play of games. If the suspended player is a tough, shut down defender, for example, he would be missed a lot more playing against an explosive opponent with elite forwards than if he the team was playing a defensive-minded team that struggles to score.
What’s the public perception? – Like every aspect of sports betting the most important aspect here is how the public is going to respond to a situation, and what impact that will have on odds and line movement. Was the event that led to the suspension a high profile, controversial one that will have drawn a lot of public attention, or are only hardcore fans likely to take much note of the suspension? Is the player one that the public thinks is very important, or is it a more obscure and insignificant one – at least by public perception? Is the team affected a public team or one that draws little public interest?