NHL Strength Of Schedule: Nashville Predators Face A Tough Road Ahead

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15: Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings races Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators for the puck at the Bridgestone Arena on December 15, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If the Nashville Predators are going to return to the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons, they'll have to fight their way through what may be the NHL's most difficult remaining schedule.

A conversation this morning with Alec Brownscome of Maple Leafs Hot Stove prompted me to revisit some work I do each summer, compiling the NHL Super Schedule which focuses mostly on travel mileage and the number of back-to-back games played by each team in the league.

Once we bring into consideration the relative strength of the opponents each teams has faced so far, and what remains on their schedule, we can get some insight on which teams have an easier or more difficult road to the Stanley Cup playoffs. As it turns out, the Preds might have the toughest slate of remaining opponents in the entire league,

The table below lays out the travel mileage, number of back-to-back sets (pairs of games played on consecutive nights) and Average Opponent Winning Percentage for each team, broken down by the games they've played so far, and what remains on the schedule. You can click on any column header to re-sort the table by that value.

Team Games Played Miles Traveled Bk-to-Bk Sets Avg Opp Win% Games Remaining Miles To Go Bk-to-Bk Sets Avg Opp Win%
New York Islanders 31 14,166 2 .543 51 18,244 11 .502
Anaheim Ducks 33 25,911 5 .543 49 24,219 8 .498
Columbus Blue Jackets 33 14,368 5 .536 49 28,463 11 .517
Colorado Avalanche 34 18,904 3 .529 48 30,041 7 .490
Carolina Hurricanes 34 15,111 6 .528 48 23,003 10 .490
Edmonton Oilers 33 18,950 7 .527 49 31,056 5 .494
Los Angeles Kings 33 24,431 5 .526 49 31,160 10 .494
San Jose Sharks 30 15,382 5 .523 52 28,612 9 .483
Phoenix Coyotes 33 20,526 4 .513 49 28,666 9 .494
Ottawa Senators 34 14,528 6 .511 48 19,387 11 .494
Calgary Flames 34 21,648 4 .511 48 27,456 6 .502
Montreal Canadiens 34 17,846 5 .509 48 21,328 8 .506
Toronto Maple Leafs 33 12,657 6 .507 49 19,582 11 .495
Tampa Bay Lightning 32 16,983 3 .505 50 26,734 7 .491
St. Louis Blues 32 15,752 6 .499 50 23,029 11 .497
Washington Capitals 32 16,528 3 .497 50 21,441 10 .491
Winnipeg Jets 33 16,215 4 .495 49 28,412 10 .497
Florida Panthers 34 22,737 3 .493 48 30,014 11 .491
Pittsburgh Penguins 34 18,125 5 .490 48 15,314 10 .509
Detroit Red Wings 32 16,617 6 .486 50 26,248 8 .504
New Jersey Devils 33 16,970 8 .485 49 11,627 7 .511
Vancouver Canucks 33 20,151 5 .482 49 26,675 6 .501
Buffalo Sabres 33 16,972 9 .480 49 18,939 12 .508
Minnesota Wild 35 18,230 5 .477 47 24,630 6 .510
Dallas Stars 32 17,531 6 .475 50 32,091 8 .505
Nashville Predators 33 16,602 4 .475 49 22,932 7 .525
Chicago Blackhawks 34 17,900 7 .469 48 21,388 10 .519
Philadelphia Flyers 32 15,156 6 .469 50 19,037 7 .514
New York Rangers 31 23,324 4 .461 51 13,061 10 .514
Boston Bruins 32 10,690 3 .458 50 23,080 10 .499

Note 1: I'm using Average Winning Percentage here, not Points Percentage. In terms of how strong teams are, I don't care whether they are able to lose in OT vs. regulation, I'm only looking at Wins & Losses.

Note 2: If you want to reference this info on your own site, feel free to copy & paste this table into your own post, I just request a link back here noting where you got it from. You'll want to sort it the way you like before copying, I'm not sure if that magic will follow the data.

For the Predators, that .525 average opponents' winning percentage could account for something around 2.5 points in the standings when compared to playing against an average (.500) schedule. As we've seen in years past, that can easily be the margin between making the playoffs and not.

Around the NHL, there are some other items of note, however. The San Jose Sharks may have the added bonus of a relatively soft schedule to help them overtake Dallas for the Pacific Division lead (to go along with their much stronger fundamental metrics), while the New York Rangers will face the biggest difference in their past vs. future schedule (going from an average opponents' win % of .461 to .514). The Blueshirts also have 10 sets of back-to-back games on their schedule, after playing in just 4 so far.

So how do you think the strength of schedule might impact the playoff chase in either conference?

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