Over the next two weeks, The Colonel looks at his 10 teams’ 2009/10 Regular Season schedules and their significance. Of particular importance are: what the opening 10 games look like and how they relate to this year’s momentum; how many days it takes to play 10-game segments of the schedule minus the Olympic break, from the first through last night of the segment and including Games 81 and 82 at the end to determine any fatigue factor; how many miles they must travel for their schedule, also because of player wear and tear; and what does the last 10-game segment of the schedule look like as they push to the Playoffs. Today’s post will cover Anaheim, Atlanta, Buffalo, Edmonton, and Minnesota.
The Ducks play their first 10-game segment over 24 days, a number only two other Western teams eclipse. This means they are right about average as far as the West is concerned. They open at home on 3 October and promptly launch on a four-game, Midwestern/Eastern swing with one back-to-back pairing. Their first five games are played in nine days ending at MSG against the Rangers. They play the last half of this segment in a relatively leisurely 15 days and all at home. Depending on how they launch out of the gate – and they have NOT done well the last two seasons averaging only 2.5 wins in 10 – their last five games in the segment should round them out to about average, or a bit under .600 hockey.
Their remaining 10-game segments are played in 21, 18, 21, 18, 21, 21, and 22 days. This is a rather predictable rhythm that makes for an average of one game every 1.972 days. These segments include another 16 back-to-back pairs. Of particular interest are Games 31-40 and 41-50 with three each back-to-back pairs which do not allow for much time to heal. All six of these pairs are on the road except for one game. Look for the team to carry extra players on the roster during this stretch. But since the Lockout, they have had a positive spike in wins over these 20 games in all but last season which indicates they tend to rise to the occasion at this time of the year.
Over the season, Anaheim will log an increased 1158 miles on the road. Of the Western teams who increase their road miles this season, all but one team travels a greater distance than the Ducks. (Courtesy Dirk Hoag’s “How much does your favorite
team travel? Check the NHL Super Schedule,” on Ballhype, 16 July 2009.)
The ending 10 games are all played against Western Conference teams. They have home-and-away games against DAL, EDM, LAK, and VAN and one contest each at COL and STL. Those 10 games – which may mean the difference in qualification for the 2010Playoffs – will be a tough 19 days for the Ducks especially when you consider the Kings may be playing for their first post-season berth since the Lockout, Dallas is likely to be resurgent and Vancouver and St. Louis could be challenging again.
The Thrashers play their first 10-game segment over a more leisurely 29 days. This includes two four-day, and one five-day, break between tilts. It even takes 15 days to finish Games 1 – 5. They open at home on 3 October and have four days off before a mini-road trip to STL and OTT, then a five-day rest before Games 4 and 5 on the road at NJD and BUF. The last half of this segment is done over 12 days from Game 6 to 10, providing a third less rest than the beginning of the season. This suggests possible difficulty with establishing a comfortable game rhythm from the start unless more practice time is what the doctor orders.
Their following 10-game segments come over 20, 18, 19, 20, 22, 17, and 22 days. This is one game every 1.917 days which is quite similar to Anaheim above. There are 15 more back-to-back pairs in the Game 11 – 82 segments with only Games 11 – 20 having three pairs on the schedule. The Game 61 – 70 segment is played in the least number of days. This segment holds two back-to-back pairs, but only two games are on the road, underscoring the importance of the home crowd in March.
Over the season, Atlanta will travel 4404 miles less on the road than last season. (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009.) This should decrease fatigue on the team, doubly advantageous when you consider the young legs on the team compared to some clubs.
Their last 10 games are all played in the East with six of 10 on the road. They have a home-and-home pair each against CAR, PIT, TOR, and WSH and one each at BOS and NJD. Based on last season’s conclusion, we have to say, “Ouch!” That’s the two Eastern Conference finalists, one of which raised The Cup, and three other teams who qualified for the Playoffs. It also includes two contests against TOR who, if not actually making the first round, will push hard for a berth right down the stretch. So Atlanta must build up a strong bank of W’s before this tough, final segment or it will be Tee Time in April again.
The Sabres first 10-game segment stretches 28 days. It holds only four road games, but, strangely, three are played over an eight-day stretch. The first two in that mix are at FLA and TBL over four days, a pairing which is played many times in either back-to-back or over only three days. They will quite possibly return home from the Sunshine State for three days until they play NJD at The Rock, however, which potentially throws off a good playing rhythm. Favorably, only three of these 10games are played against foes who qualified for the 2009 Playoffs, so there is hope for a strong start out of the gate.
Their remaining 10-game segments are played in 22, 18, 19, 21, 20, 19, and 22 days, an average of one game every 1.958 days. There are 17 more back-to-back pairs in the Game 11 – 82 segments with Games 21 – 30 and 71 – 82 each having three, back-to-back pairs on the schedule.
Over the season, Buffalo will log 4631 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009) with the same potential, positive effect on their recovery time than mentioned with ATL above.
Finally, their ending 10 games are all played in the East with half on the road. They have a home-and-away pair against OTT, two games at BOS, and one each against FLA, MTL, NYR, TBL, and TOR in this time span. They have three, back-to-back pairs at this time, however. The larger number of back-to-backs and road time hinder preparation requirements and take away some of the players’ predictability at season’s end.
Not lost on Edmonton fans is the fact that last season took until 15 November for the team to hold its fifth home game. Mercifully, that 5th home game occurs a whole month earlier this year. The Oilers first 10-game segment runs only 22 days. But in that stretch, there are NO back-to-back games. There is also a rather predictable 1-or-2 days in between each contest. Thus a better start would seem to be in the offing (despite three of the 10 games being against Queen Elizabeth II Highway-foe Calgary).
Their remaining 10-game segments take 22, 22, 22, 23, 17, 16, and 24 days, an average of one game every 2.028 days. There are only 11 total back-to-back pairs the entire season, a drop of five from 2008/9. It almost seems as if an apology for the kick in the shorts at the start of last season is offered here. However, in the Games 51 – 60 and 61 – 70 segments, 12-of-20 games are on the road and 11 total contests are against 2008/9 Playoff teams. Hmmm… Opening season good will seems to drop off here.
Over the season, Edmonton will log a modest 750 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009), providing some predictability to veterans on the team who will remember the pace from the previous year.
Their season-ending 10 are all played in the tough Western Conference. They have a home-and-away pair against ANA and one each against COL, DAL, DET, LAK, MIN, PHX, STL, and VAN. Why so many one-timers? As nature seeks equilibrium, so too, does the NHL Scheduler. There is a four-day road trip over seven days in the middle of this stretch and the last two games are played in California. So much for good will.
Minnesota fans are used to a strong seasonal start since the Lockout. Their re-vamped Wild team’s first 10-games require an identical 22 days to Edmonton’s start. In this stretch for them, however, there is a pair of back-to-back games. Opening at CBJ on 3 October, they return home for a game against ANA before a 5-games-in-10-days western road trip. Nothing like seeing how much gas you have in the tank right from the get-go.
Their remaining 10-game segments take 21, 22, 19, 19, 23, 18, and 23 days, an exact average of one game every two (2) days. There are a total of 15 back-to-back pairs during the season, a drop of two from 2008/9.
Over the season, Minnesota will only travel 484 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009), a practical wash.
Nine of the last 10 games are all played in the West. They have two home games against SJS, a tough road pair against PHI and then DET, three singles at home against CHI, DAL and LAK and a three-game, western Canadian swing against CGY, EDM and VAN. This last 10 games is a toss-up as to its overall affect on any Minnesota aspirations for the post-season. But if it comes down to one win equaling a post-season berth, it will be one earned through the likes of DAL.
The Colonel will continue this analysis next week with a dissection of schedules for New Jersey, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Washington.
Be sure to stay tuned this week for more blogging from Big Tex and the Frozen Pill.
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