Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Look At The NHL Schedule

The NHL schedule was released this week along with the usual grumping about how the schedule is hard on favorite teams. In order to get a better look at things, I decided to look at the schedule myself. A good starting point is the super schedule made by the forechecker.

I think the most meaningful check of the schedule is the number of times a given team is tired fro excess travel when compared to the number of times their opponent is. I define travel tired as any of the following:

1. A team is forced to travel one time zone in one day

2. A team is forced to travel two time zones in three days or less

3. A team is forced to travel three or more time zones in five days or less

This definition may not be perfect as it does not track within time zone travel, but it captures most of a team's travel.

Naturally, there is a big difference between East and West Conference teams as the East Conference is contained in part of the eastern time zone and the West Conference has teams in four different time zones. Here are the results:

West Conference Travel Tired Teams
Team# of Travel Tired GamesOpponent Travel Tired Games+/-
Anaheim Ducks2319-4
Calgary Flames1021+11
Chicago Blackhawks917+8
Colorado Avalanche1620+4
Columbus Blue Jackets2818-10
Dallas Stars1617+1
Detroit Red Wings1923+4
Edmonton Oilers1815-3
Los Angeles Kings2520-5
Minnesota Wild1322+9
Nashville Predators914+5
Phoenix Coyotes1920+1
St Louis Blues1514-1
San Jose Sharks2913-16
Vancouver Canucks2623-3

East Conference Travel Tired Teams
Team# of Travel Tired GamesOpponent Travel Tired Games+/-
Atlanta Thrashers75-2
Boston Bruins85-3
Buffalo Sabres440
Carolina Hurricanes45+1
Florida Panthers62-4
Montreal Canadiens57+2
New Jersey Devils52-3
New York Islanders35+2
New York Rangers43-1
Ottawa Senators59+4
Philadelphia Flyers74-3
Pittsburgh Penguins29+7
Tampa Bay Lightning83-5
Toronto Maple Leafs76-1
Washington Capitals49+5

Clearly, the West Conference teams have a much larger travel issue with travel. Most teams are roughly equal in terms of tired games played and those played by their opponents. The Calgary Flames have the best differential of tired teams facing them 11 more times than they are a tired team. The Chicago Blackhawks are next with 8 more tired teams facing them than they are tired. These are the teams that I argue receive the biggest benefit from the schedule. The teams that have are travel tired more often than their opponents are the San Jose Sharks who are in that situation 16 more times than their opponent and the Columbus Blue Jackets who are in that situation ten times. These are the teams that have the toughest year due to their schedule.

The East Conference teams do not have as big an issue with travel. The team with the biggest difference between tired games played and those of their opponents is the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have seven more games where their opponents are tired than they are. This should benefit from this, but travel is not as big an issue in the East Conference.

Clearly, the West Conference has a much bigger issue with travel than the East Conference. This allows for West Conference teams to have the biggest differential in tired games vs. tired games of their opponents. Although, they might want to trade that for the easier travel of the East Conference, it allows them to have the biggest advantage or disadvantage from travel. This advantage or disadvantage is likely seen in the regular season results. However, the significantly reduced travel of the East Conference might be the best situation of all for a team.


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