features

Paul Maurice

Hurricanes could make playoffs if they survive a potentially disastrous March

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.”

Carolina Hurricanes schedule analysis

Total mileage: 38,114 (11th lowest in NHL, second lowest in Southeast)

Back-to-back games: 16

Toughest stretches

After opening the 2011-12 season at home against the Lightning (the team that ended their 10-11 season in the same venue), the Hurricanes play six of their next seven games on the road, closing out that tough run with back-to-back games – Oct. 21 against St. Louis; Oct. 22 against Winnipeg.

Things are smooth through November until they run into another tough string in December (although that one is more manageable, with five of six games away from Carolina).

February features a moderately challenging five in seven game stretch, but the last big hurdle comes in March. If they can come out the other side of this gauntlet intact, they might make the playoffs:

March 6: at Washington
March 7: at Buffalo
March 10: at Tampa Bay
March 11: at Florida
March 13: at NY Rangers
March 15: home vs. St. Louis
March 17: at Minnesota
March 18: at Winnipeg
March 21: home vs. Florida
March 23: at Columbus
March 24: at Detroit
March 27: at Toronto

That’s 10 out of 12 games on the road, including a five-game away run to start things off. That dirty dozen includes four sets of back-to-back games to boot. Even if some of those teams were unsuccessful in 2010-11, their fortunes could be very different next season. The mere grind of that run alone could be very harmful, although the flip side is that the Hurricanes could really come together for a playoff run by weathering that storm.

Easiest periods

Their rough beginning to the season is mostly matched by a five-in-six span of home games in late October to early November. November is a mostly solid month, with 10 home games and five road contests.

There are little pockets of opportunity in December or January, though nothing that should make-or-break their 2011-12 season.

Late February to early March is that special chance, though. They play six consecutive games at home from Fe. 20 to March 3, although all but one of those teams made the playoffs last season. Still, they really need to stock up points in that run because those dates are surrounded by road-heavy streaks.

Overall outlook

The Hurricanes complained almost incessantly about certain parts of their season in 10-11. To some extent, they had some reasons to do so, although those tough times were balanced by solid chances to make a difference. Ultimately, it came down to their last game and they blew it. (In case you’re wondering, the Hurricanes close their 11-12 season on April 7 against the Panthers in Florida.)

Carolina’s travel schedule is reasonable and while some of their back-to-backs are placed inconveniently, they shouldn’t have many schedule-related excuses at their disposal if they fall short next season.

Back-loaded schedule should help Sharks start strong

San Jose Sharks v Anaheim Ducks

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.”

San Jose Sharks schedule analysis

Total mileage: 43,994 (11th most miles in NHL, but least in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 14

Toughest stretches

The Sharks have two separate trips to the East Coast that could prove to be their toughest stretches of the season. From October 21 – October 31, the Sharks travel East for a six game road trip (five in the Eastern time zone). Later in the season, San Jose will face a much stiffer test with a difficult 9-game road trip in the middle of February. Starting on February 12, the Sharks will face teams from the Central, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest Divisions. All on the same trip.

Easiest periods

The Sharks are going to have every opportunity to finish the 2011 calendar year with a bang. Between November 3 and December 8, the Sharks will play 12 of 15 games at the Shark Tank. A week later, San Jose will host a six-game homestand that kicks off against the Avalanche and Oilers. The rest of the homestand will be against teams that made the playoffs last season—but the Sharks are an incredibly tough team to play against at the Tank.

Overall outlook

One of the overwhelming positives for the Sharks is that they have a noticeably lighter travel log than any other team in the Pacific Division. November and December will provide the Sharks with a chance to get off to a strong start before the holiday break. They’ll need it too—the nine game road trip in February will loom large if they’re in a battle for playoff positioning.

If the prognosticators are correct, the final two games of the season against the Los Angeles could decide the Pacific Division.

No question: Los Angeles are the kings of the road in 2011-12

Los Angeles Kings v Phoenix Coyotes

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.”

Los Angeles Kings schedule analysis

Total mileage: 55,591 (most miles in NHL; most in Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 15

Toughest stretches

The Kings start the season off with a tough stretch as they travel nine time zones to open the season with a back-to-back in Berlin and Stockholm. When they come back to the United States, they’ll make a pit stop on the East Coast to face the Devils and Flyers before they make it back to the West Coast.

By far, the toughest span for the Kings will be in the second half of the season between February 3 and March 11. The Kings will play 14 of 18 games on the road, including five separate back-to-back situations. Within the run of away games, they’ll face off with teams in the Midwest, Southeast, and New York before finally finishing with a pair of games against the Red Wings and Blackhawks.

Easiest periods

The month of January should be kind to the Kings this season. Their friendly stretch of 10 out of 13 games at Staples Center actually starts on New Year’s Eve and runs through February 1. A pair of games against the Flames, Avalanche and Blue Jackets; in addition to games against the Stars, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, and Senators should set up nicely for the team looking for a mid-season hot streak.

Los Angles also has a seven game stretch starting on November 3 when they won’t have to leave California for two weeks.

Overall outlook

By just about any measure, the Kings have a ton of traveling to do this season. They’ll travel more than any other team this season—by a sizeable margin. The Kings 55,591 miles they’ll travel this season is almost 3,000 more than the next closest team (Florida). Starting the season with back-to-back games in Europe set the tone (both of which are somehow “home” games). In fact, they don’t play their first game at Staples Center until October 18.

It’ll be important for the Kings to take advantage of their favorable schedule in January because afterwards they’ll have to deal with an extremely difficult five week stretch of games.

Ducks will have to overcome nightmare schedule to compete

Lubomir Visnovsky, Jonas Hiller

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.”

Anaheim Ducks schedule analysis

Total mileage: 50,296 (third most miles in NHL and second most in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 13

Toughest stretches

Where to start? The Ducks have a 7-game road trip that runs between October 25 and November 5—a trip that eventually ends up in the Northeast. A couple of weeks later, they have an eight game stretch where they’ll play seven games on the road. While both sound difficult on their own, the Ducks have an even tougher stretch to deal with in February. The eight game road trip that runs from February 11 to February 23 has the potential to destroy a season. The start in Detroit, travel to the Northeast for a couple of games, before flying south to play a few Southeast Division teams.

Oh yeah, they also start the season in Europe for a pair of games against Eastern Conference opponents.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, they finish with a three games on the road. If the Ducks are battling for a playoff spot, three games on the road to finish the season could be a huge deal.

Easiest periods

Believe it or not, there are a couple of easier stretches for Anaheim. Starting on November 17, they’ll play eight out of nine games at the Honda Center. The competition may be tough, but the Ducks have proven over the last few years to be a much better team at home than they’ve been on the road.

They also get a six-game homestand starting on December 29 and running through January 10. Even though they’ll have to deal with the Sharks and Canucks during the homestand, they’ll also get to see the Avalanche, Islanders, Blue Jackets, and Stars. There’s no question they’ll need to have a strong homestand and collect the points while they can. For good measure, they have a seven game stretch in March when they never have to leave California.

Overall outlook

The Ducks are one of only three teams who will be forced to travel over 50,000 miles this season. Their travel is the third toughest in the NHL and only trails I-5 rival Los Angeles for toughest travel in the Pacific Division.

By the time they get back from their 8-game road trip in February, they should have a idea if the playoffs are a realistic possibility. Over the course of the season, they’ll have long road trips scattered around long homestands. They’ll need to maintain their focus—whether it’s during extended homestands or long road trips if they want to collect enough points to make the playoffs.

Schedule could cause Coyotes to be streaky next season

Los Angeles Kings v Phoenix Coyotes

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.”

Phoenix Coyotes schedule analysis

Total mileage: 49,192 (sixth highest total in NHL, but only fourth in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 13

Toughest stretches

You know it’s going to be a rough season when the season opening three game road trip barely registers a blimp on the schedule analysis. There are two stretches of games that Coyotes fans should circle on their calendars as potential pitfalls. The first comes in the middle of November when Phoenix embarks on a five game road trip against four very difficult teams. The face the Sharks on November 12, only to fly across the country to play the Leafs, Flyers, Sabres, and Caps.

The next tough test is an eight game stretch that starts on December 29. The Stars will play eight games in eight different cities over the course of two weeks. The quality of competition may not be the most difficult, but it’s never easy to live out of a suitcase for a prolonged period of time.

Easiest periods

Just like the team has extending periods on the road, the Coyotes also have a couple of extend stretches in Glendale. Early in the season (starting October 15), the Coyotes play 9 out of 11 games at home over the course of the month. They’ll get plenty of rest and will need to take advantage of the home cookin’ as they try to get off to a quick start. Later in the year, the Coyotes play 8 of 9 games at home between January 19 and February 11. Unfortunately, the teams visiting Jobing.com Arena are a little tougher the second time around—but extending homestands are opportunities to collect points.

Overall outlook

All in all, the Coyotes schedule is a complete mess this season. They may have one of the easier schedules (mileage wise) in the Pacific Division, but it’s still one of the most difficult when it comes to the entire league. With extended periods on the road, Phoenix could fall into funks that last for two weeks at a time. On the other hand, extended stretches at the Jobing.com Arena could help the Coyotes string victories together and spread hope around the Valley of the Sun. The trick for Phoenix will be to maximize the homestands and minimize the damage when they’re away from Arizona.