Hockey fans love to brag about the toughness of players, so it only makes sense that there’s also a subset of fans who frequently bellow about which team faces the toughest schedule.
With the release of the 2014-15 schedules for all 30 teams, it’s likely that those arguments began to crop up on Sunday. Dirk Hoag’s annual “Super Schedule” post has been a godsend for such trivial – if entertaining – debates, so there were a few people who were quite excited when he put it up on Hockey HQ.
We can quibble about the impact of stronger divisional opponents on a team’s schedule and the timing of road/home stretches, yet people generally lean on two overarching standards: 1) how much travel a squad faces and/or 2) the number of back-to-back sets in a season.
As subjective as these debates can be, things get more black-and-white when you look at it from a numbers standpoint:
Click here for the full lists, but let’s break things down by the top five and bottom five in travel first:
1. Arizona Coyotes – 49,818 miles
2. Dallas Stars – 48,216
3. Anaheim Ducks – 46,967
4. Edmonton Oilers – 45,597
5. San Jose Sharks – 45,318
(Vancouver’s just behind at 45,173.)
1. Philadelphia Flyers – 31,272 miles
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 32,444
3. New York Islanders – 33,214
4. Ottawa Senators – 33,421
5. New Jersey Devils – 33,597
Notes: The Toronto Maple Leafs (34,020) and Detroit Red Wings (34,179) have pretty light travel loads, too. In 2013-14, the Coyotes (then Phoenix) faced the second-largest amount of travel miles at 52,633, second only to the San Jose Sharks (57,612). As you may notice, no team will travel more than 50,000 miles this season. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders faced less than 30,000 miles last season.
Most back-to-back sets
1 (tied). Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets – 19 back-to-back sets
3 (tied). New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs – 18
5. Pittsburgh Penguins – 17
Five teams are tied for sixth with 16 back-to-back sets (Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.)
Fewest back-to-back sets
1. (tied) Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings – nine
3. Calgary Flames – 10
4 (tied) – Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers – 11
Notes: Three teams (Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Detroit) are next in back-to-back sets with 12. In 2013-14, the New Jersey Devils (22) and Carolina Hurricanes (20) eclipsed the 20 back-to-back set mark. The Jets tied for the fewest back-to-back games with 10 last season, too.
If there’s one clear takeaway from comparing this season’s super schedule to the 2013-14, it’s that schedules are quite a bit more balanced this time around. After all, there’s no lockout or Olympic break to wrestle with this time around. Maybe Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said it the best/worst, though:
*Scratches head in confusion*