The NHL schedule has been released for about a week now, which I’m sure has given all the coaches a chance to peek at their travels, plan their grievances to the league and devise when they should, maybe, take it easy on the troops.
Which team has the worst slate will always be a point of debate between Western Conference teams situated on or near the Pacific Ocean, but after a little number crunching I’ve found who I think has the worst stretches.
While having to venture great distances wears on teams after a while, it’s not so bad traveling across the continent to spend a week or two hopping and skipping up and/or down the eastern seaboard.
But when teams have to travel across, up, down and all around the Western hemisphere is when their mental focus wanes and is, perhaps, when their playoff aspirations are extinguished.
Twenty-five times next season a team must travel at least 2,000 miles to their next destination with only one full day of rest after its previous contest. Vancouver gets stuck with such a trek four times, while San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles have to face it three times.
Eight other teams will jump that hurdle, with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston and Columbus doing it twice each. And say what you will about the Atlantic Division’s schedule, but at least New Jersey and the Islanders don’t escape this mile-high headache.
To me, it seems the Canucks have the most to dread.
After they get comfortable with a six game home stretch, the Canucks go on the road after a game against Toronto on Nov. 15. Between then and when they return to GM Place on Nov. 24, Alain Vigneault’s boys will travel approximately 6,300 miles and play five games in eight nights.
Not only that, but after the Christmas turkey settles, Vancouver again hops on a jet and flies for nearly 4,500 miles between New Year’s Eve and Jan. 4, playing three games in four nights.
So while I’m sure a couple of bench bosses will air their frustration over the scheduling at some point this season, no one has as bad a run as Vancouver. They have to do a lot of traveling for eight games, all in the first half, which can have a significant impact on their place in the standings.
I’m not of the belief they’ll be in the playoffs in 2009, but if the Canucks are in a good position playoff-wise at the all-star break, I’ll become a big believer in their ability to overcome and finish as one of the West’s crazy eight.
Rory Boylen is THN.com’s web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.
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