Most summers, "NHL schedule unveiling day" is a day filled with hope and whimsy (see the full schedule from NHL.com here). Most summers, I’d have rushed to NHL.com to open the schedule on my browser, I’d have pressed "ctrl-f" on my keyboard and then I’d type in the word: "Chicago." Then I’d dream about the Canucks taking a string of stupid penalties on November 15th, as they take an endless torrent of righteous retributive cheap shots at Duncan Keith.
This summer it’s a bit different (though I still did exactly what I described above). With CBA uncertainty looming, it’s possible, even likely, that a sizable portion of this particular schedule will be lost to a labour stoppage. Looking at the 2012-13 regular season schedule at this point in June, is like trusting the weatherman – at best you’re getting a quick glimpse at would could possibly (hopefully!), but probably won’t happen.
Let’s break down some key games and other interesting issues anyway after the jump!
Yesterday, Mike Gillis told Jeff Paterson and Blake Price on the Team 1040 that the 2012-13 schedule was the most "travel friendly" schedule that he’s seen in his Canucks tenure. In fairness, that’s a pretty low-bar, remember the 14 game road trip during the 2009-10 schedule? Based on a quick glance at the schedule, it looks like Gillis was dead on. Vancouver’s longest road-trip is five games, which, will happen two times both in the first 22 games of the season (once in October, and once in November).
In addition the team will only make three East Coast swings in total in 2012-13 (presuming the season begins on schedule, which it probably won’t) and won’t be road tripping to Florida. That’s one East Coast trip fewer than the team has customarily made, at least over the past four seasons.
Moreover the club’s road trips all make a lot of spatial sense, which, hasn’t been the case in past seasons. The only flight that stands out to me as of a superfluously criss-crossy nature occurs during October’s five game trip. The Canucks will open the roadie in Nashville before working their way north through Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh, which is sensible enough. The team will then fly across the continent to Dallas before heading home. That’s slightly onerous, I suppose, but it’s a vast improvement over last seasons six gamer that began in Edmonton and took the team, seemingly at random, through Nashville, Detroit, New Jersey, Dallas and Phoenix.
Hockey Night in Canada and Matinée Games
The Canucks will play 15 games on Saturday night this season, all of them against other Canadian clubs or marquee American rivals (Chicago, Boston, Detroit). Presumably all of those games will be on Hockey Night in Canada, a broadcast that the Canucks have had a typically frosty relationship with ever since Ron MacLean’s hit job on Alex Burrows over the Auger incident.
That’s one more Hockey Night in Canada game than the team played in last season, when the Canucks appeared on the government funded network 14 times – despite playing in 18 Saturday game. Four of those games were of the matinée variety (including marquee games against the Sharks and the Bruins) and thus aired on Rogers Sportsnet instead.
This season the Canucks won’t play in a single Saturday matinée game, which is interesting. It could be that the Canucks have decided to stop sticking it to CBC, or perhaps the experiment failed in the eyes of team management. Maybe sleep doctors, like the rest of us, are fallible after all!
The Boston Br-Who-ins? Chicag-Who Blackhawks?
In the official Press Release from Canucks.nhl.com announcing the schedule, the Canucks include a "Dates to Remember" section that highlights the marquee home games that will take place during this upcoming seasons. Here’s a screen shot of that section:
What stands out by omission from that section? Any mention of the game against the Boston Bruins on December 29th, or either home game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Those are the games that fans of the team are going to be most excited for (assuming they occur on schedule) and will pay much more attention too. I mean, seriously, who really cares about a game against the Ottawa Senators in early December? Sens fans living in Vancouver, and absolutely nobody else.
So what’s going on here? Blake Price, for what it’s worth, has a theory: the team doesn’t need to highlight those two contests as "big," since everyone already knows the stakes. Just show up and take care of business. I have no idea if Blake is right on this front, but if he is: I like it.