Gabriel Landeskog

Avalanche will determine their fate during eight game homestand in November

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Colorado Avalanche schedule analysis

Total mileage: 48,945 (eighth most miles in NHL and 3rd most in the Northwest Division)

Back-to-back games: 10

Toughest stretches

People around the Avalanche probably won’t be saying Happy 2012 come January. The team doesn’t play consecutive games at home for the entire month which means the team will basically be living out of a suitcase. They play an eight game stretch between December 31 and January 16 when they play in eight different cities. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, all but one of the games will be against Western Conference opponents. Needless to say, they’ll need to figure out a way to keep their head above water throughout the month.

Take January and combine it with an Eastern Conference road trip at the beginning of the season and it will be important for the Avalanche to maintain a bit of consistency.

Easiest periods

There’s no question the Avalanche will need to take advantage of their eight-game homestand between November 18 and December 4. Unfortunately for the Avs, they’ll need to deal with the Sharks and Canucks at the beginning of the homestand and the Red Wings to close the home dates. Depending on how individual teams perform, Colorado could have a relatively easy stretch at the end of October/beginning of November with games against the Flames, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, and Stars. They’ll need to beat the other fringe playoff teams in the Western Conference if they want to sneak into one of the last playoff spots.

Overall outlook

Unfortunately for the young Avalanche team, they’re season could be over almost as quickly as it gets started. After the opening night game at home against the Red Wings, they’ll have a tough five-game Eastern Conference road trip. When they return, they’ll be greeted by a home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks. The season could be a nightmare before Halloween. Like just about every other team in the Northwest Division, they’ll spend plenty of time flying from city to city. If they want to compete for a playoff spot, they’ll have to beat up on the likes of the Oilers, Flames, and Wild during their six interdivisional games. Otherwise, they’ll be counting the miles from Pepsi Center to the 2012 Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”