As hockey fans all over North America giddily pour over their team's schedule for the 2008-9 NHL Regular Season, let's take a look at things from an overall perspective, using the NHL Super Schedule, which I recently made publicly available via Google Docs.
1. Crank Up The Bus: This season's most well-traveled team will be the San Jose Sharks, with 56,111 miles to be logged, followed by the Calgary Flames (52,941) and Dallas Stars (51,541). This is a marked departure from last season, which saw Vancouver and Edmonton lead the way in frequent flyer miles. On the opposite end, it's no surprise to see East-Coast teams like the New York Islanders (28,126), Washington Capitals (28,321) and New Jersey Devils (29,289) with the least travel.
2. Break Out the Smelling Salts: One of the more grueling aspects of NHL life is having to deal with back-to-back games, when a team has less than 24 hours to recover from one brutal match before taking on another opponent. There's quite a disparity in the NHL schedule on this front, as the Columbus Blue Jackets will play 20 games the day after they've already played someone, although 19 NHL teams will do this at least 15 times. So who gets a break? Try the Colorado Avalanche, who will only have 8 such games. The Vancouver Canucks (11) and Florida Panthers (12) also have it easy here.
3. Al Gore Wouldn't Approve: In terms of the most road-weary back-to-back games on the schedule, the Minnesota Wild have the misfortune of having to play the Blackhawks at home on Sunday, December 28, then hop on a plane and fly 1,053 miles to play in Calgary the next night, only to return home immediately to face the Sharks two days after that. In all, 10 different teams will travel over 1,000 miles between games on back-to-back nights.
4. Pay These Goalies By the Save: When you look at the opposition coming up for various teams, it appears that the Atlanta Thrashers goaltenders are likely to see the most work, as their opponents in 2008-9 averaged 29.8 shots per game in 2007-8, followed by Pittsburgh (29.6) and Tampa Bay (29.5). The lightest workloads are set for the Detroit Red Wings (28.4), Colorado Avalanche (28.5), and San Jose Sharks (28.6).
5. Power Outage: The Los Angeles Kings might have the greatest difficulty getting their power play rolling, as their opponents' average penalty-killing percentage from 2007-8 comes out at 83.1%, the toughest challenge facing any NHL team in the 2008-9 season. Chicago (83.0%) and Colorado (82.9%) also face stiff competition with the man advantage. Buffalo (81.5%), Montreal (81.5%) and Tampa Bay (81.6%) face the weakest penalty killers.
Finally, here's a table summarizing some of the main data available in the NHL Super Schedule 2008-9. Feel free, however, to dig around on your own...
|Team||Avg Opp Win%||Travel Miles||Avg. Opp G/Game||Average of GA/G|
|Columbus Blue Jackets
|Detroit Red Wings
|Los Angeles Kings
|New Jersey Devils
|New York Islanders
|New York Rangers
|San Jose Sharks
|St. Louis Blues
|Tampa Bay Lightning
|Toronto Maple Leafs