Once it became clear that the Winnipeg Jets would remain in the Southeast Division, many people believed that their far-from-southeastern location would make their 2011-12 season extremely difficult. (Both for themselves and for opponents, particularly in their division.)
As it turns out, the NHL’s schedule makers didn’t beat them up too badly. According to Dirk Hoag’s mileage figures, there are nine NHL teams who will rack up more frequent flyer miles next season. The Jets’ overall miles traveled should be around 44,627, which is just 548 more than they endured during the 10-11 campaign.
With that in mind, it’s pretty reasonable that the team is downplaying the impact that traveling will have on their first year back in Winnipeg. In fact, the biggest thing they might have to complain about is their preseason schedule.
“Not many teams travel more than 7½ hours in the exhibition season and we’re in the 23-hour range,” said Jets assistant general manager and director of hockey operations Craig Heisinger. “But, hey, we inherited this schedule and we’ve got to get through these situations.”
“Is it the best schedule? No. Is it the worst? No,” said Heisinger. “But the other part of all this is the other teams have to come all this way to play us as well. They may be more encumbered by it because they haven’t had to do it, especially in the East, until we got dropped in their lap.
“We’re probably more happy to deal with it than they are. I don’t know if it’s an advantage for us – I haven’t looked at the travel of other teams – but maybe our attitude toward it will be different than those who had this forced upon them.”
For another season, the Western Conference features more teams that have to deal with tougher travel arrangements. The Florida Panthers are the only other Eastern Conference team in the top 10 in expected travel miles, as they’ll rack up the second most at 52,751 (second only to the Los Angeles Kings’ 55,591).
A quick look at the Jets’ toughest stretches
So does this mean that the Jets will be a long way from home during considerable stretches to make their schedule more reasonable? Here’s a quick glance at some of their more challenging runs.
The season begins with a challenging first couple months. They’ll play four of their first six games on the road, then two games at home followed by a seven-game road trip between October and November. The other big run of road games happens between January and February. They’ll start 2012 with four road games with a middle area that mixes up home and away dates until they reach late January, which includes a stretch in which they play eight of nine games on the road into mid-February.
Most NHL teams have a trying month or two, so if the Jets can maintain a level altitude through a pair of tough runs, they could have a puncher’s chance of making their first year in Winnipeg a competitive one. If nothing else, jet lag won’t be much of an excuse for the Jets in 11-12.