With the Atlanta Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg while remaining in the Southeast Division, the potential loomed for an unbelievably difficult travel schedule during the upcoming 2011-12 NHL Regular Season. In fact, when I ran a simulation simply moving the team but replicating the previous year's schedule, it looks like the Winnipeg team would travel more than any squad in recent years.
Let's give the NHL's schedule makers a standing ovation, then, for doing a fine job accommodating that special situation, and doing a pretty fair job of reducing the burden on some other teams, as well. When I ran this year's numbers, I was shocked at some of the things I saw.
Follow after the jump, then, and check out your 2011-12 NHL Super Schedule...
This is the 4th year in a row I've published a full-featured spreadsheet depicting the NHL regular season schedule, bringing in additional pieces of data like miles traveled between games, and the main statistics for each opponent along the way.
It's freely available as a Google Spreadsheet which you can download and play with to your heart's content. Feel free to rank teams on the average power play strength of their opponent's, or 5-on-5 GF/GA, or Points Percentage, whatever you like.
What attracts most people's attention, however, are the miles traveled by teams, and the number of times they have to play on back-to-back nights. I've summarized those results in the table below, with a comparison to last year:
B to B
1 Gm Trips
B to B
1 Gm Trips
|Columbus Blue Jackets||42,831||16||17||44,600||18||27|
|Detroit Red Wings||42,865||14||20||39,793||14||17|
|Los Angeles Kings||55,591||15||13||40,430||13||10|
|New Jersey Devils||28,597||15||24||27,152||20||27|
|New York Islanders||32,410||13||20||28,210||20||24|
|New York Rangers||36,385||14||11||29,355||18||18|
|San Jose Sharks||43,994||14||5||56,254||14||6|
|St. Louis Blues||38,781||17||20||41,473||17||23|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||43,717||10||12||40,522||17||10|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||32,239||17||21||33,470||14||27|
Click on any of the column headers to sort on that value.
So here's how this works: for each team, I walk through their schedule from Game 1 to Game 82, adding up the miles traveled from one game to the next. The European openers are accounted for, and if a team has road games immediately before and after the All Star break, I add in a trip home between those games. One adjustment I've made from previous years is that if a team starts on the road, I build in the miles from their home rink for Game 1 (and I've updated the 2010-11 numbers in the table above to match that scheme).
I was stunned to see how reasonable Winnipeg's travel mileage comes out, given their remote location relative to their Southeast Division rivals. The key here is the reduced number of one-game trips that they'll make this year (down to 8 from 16 in 2010-11). When they head east, they'll tend to knock out several games at once, which makes a tremendous difference in their overall mileage.
The Vancouver Canucks, too, benefit from such a trend, only having 2 one-game trips this season, which helps reduce their travel distance by almost 10%.
The Highs & Lows
This year's Frequent Flyer Champions will be the Los Angeles Kings, supplanting the San Jose Sharks, who led 2 out of the 3 previous seasons. Buffalo will once again play the most back-to-back sets (21) this year, while Tampa Bay, Colorado and Calgary will face only 10.
I'll have more followup posts in the days ahead looking at specific aspects of the schedule, but for now, take the Google Spreadsheet for a spin!