2010-11 schedule analysis: Who has it the toughest, easiest?

West Coast hockey fans have a lot of beefs. They complain – justifiably or not – about “East Coast bias” and various other slights. People can debate day and night about that one, but there is one thing that you cannot deny: hockey teams in that region are forced to travel a considerable amount more. That really goes for the Western Conference, in general.

Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck put together another great “super schedule” for the 2010-11 season, with some fascinating information that could provide some insight regarding which teams face the toughest road ahead.

The first thing I want to spotlight is the teams who will travel the most in the league. Here are the 10 most sure-to-be-jet-lagged teams in the NHL, with their rank and the cumulative miles they plan on traveling according to Hoag’s numbers.

1. San Jose Sharks – 55,063 miles
2. Vancouver Canucks – 51,213
3. Minnesota Wild – 50,805
4. Edmonton Oilers – 50,309
5. Phoenix Coyotes – 50,080
6. Calgary Flames – 47,827
7. Anaheim Ducks – 45,868
8. Dallas Stars – 44,880
9. Colorado Avalanche – 44,190
10. Atlanta Thrashers – 44,079

The Sharks already will need to adjust to almost 9,000 extra miles of travel on top of the departure of Evgeni Nabokov and maybe other key figures. Who knows which factor will be a bigger problem for the Sharks? Three Atlantic teams (NYI, NJ and Philly) travel the least of any teams in the league, with the New Jersey Devils experiencing the shortest hockey commute (27,152 miles).

Aside from air travel, the other big scheduling woe that troubles many teams is back-to-back games. Here are the five teams who experience the most of those, also according to Hoag’s awesome spreadsheet.

1. Buffalo Sabres – 22
2. Carolina Hurricanes – 21
3. New Jersey Devils – 20
4. New York Islanders – 20
5. Minnesota Wild – 19

The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks are tied for the least back-to-backs with 11 and it seems like the schedule makers even some of the tide by giving less to the more road-weary teams. That being said, if I were the GM for the Sabres, Canes or Devils, I’d make sure that my franchise goalie has a stable backup.

Overall, I’d say that the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals have the coziest schedules according to these two factors. The Flyers have the third lowest miles (29,716) and are middle-of-the-pack with 16 back-to-backs; the Caps have the sixth lowest miles total (31,858) and 15 back-to-backs. I think the Minnesota Wild might have it the worst, with the third most miles scheduled and 19 back-to-back games.

I guess it’s all about how you look at it, though. Ultimately, wins and losses come down to talent, skill and coaching. That being said, in a league with such a small margin of error, these factors could make a difference.

(Here’s a link to Dirk’s post one more time. Great stuff from On the Forecheck, as usual)

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    NHL has no plans to change waiver rules

    Manny Malhotra Ryan Stanton
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    Even with all the young players that have been healthy scratches this season, don’t expect the NHL to change its waiver rules.

    Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told PHT in an email that it’s not something that’s “ever been considered.”

    “For better or worse that’s what waiver rules are there for,” Daly wrote. “They force Clubs to make tough decisions.”

    Today, Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi became the latest waiver-eligible youngster to be sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning loan.

    Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season. If he were still exempt from waivers, he’d have undoubtedly been sent to the AHL long before he had to watch so many NHL games from the press box.

    In light of situations like Tinordi’s, some have suggested the NHL change the rules. Currently, the only risk-free way for waiver-eligible players to get playing time in the AHL is via conditioning stint, and, as mentioned, those are limited to 14 days in length.

    So the Habs will, indeed, need to make a “tough decision” when Tinordi’s conditioning stint is up. Do they put him in the lineup? Do they keep him in the press box and wait for an injury or some other circumstance to create an opportunity for him to play? Do they risk losing him to waivers by attempting to send him to the AHL? Do they trade him?

    Your call, Marc Bergevin.

    Related: Stanislav Galiev is stuck in the NHL

    Ortio clears waivers, assigned to Flames’ AHL team

    Joni Ortio
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    Joni Ortio has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Stockton, the Calgary Flames announced today.

    The 24-year-old goalie was always likely to clear, what with his dreadful numbers this season (0-2-1, .868),

    But we suppose there was always the chance he’d get picked up, so it’s a relief for the Flames all the same. With a little more time to hone his game in the AHL, Ortio could still turn out to be a quality NHL netminder.

    In a related move, veteran goalie Jonas Hiller has been activated from injured reserve. Hiller and Karri Ramo are the only goalies on the Flames’ active roster now.

    Price placed on injured reserve; Yakupov to miss 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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    Two injury updates in one post.

    First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.

    According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.

    “We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.

    Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.

    As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.

    Getzlaf didn’t love the ‘dead’ atmosphere at Coyotes game

    Martin Erat, Ryan Getzlaf

    Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:

    1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
    2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.

    “It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”

    Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.

    The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.