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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    This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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    For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

    Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

    Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

    Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

    Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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    Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

    With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

    That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

    Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

    Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

    U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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    The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

    The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

    “Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

    The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

    Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience:

    Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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    As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

    Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

    Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

    “Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

    To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

    As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

    PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

    More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.