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2010-11 schedule analysis: Who has it the toughest, easiest?

Jun 23, 2010, 5:30 PM EDT

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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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