The 2013-14 Schedule Certainly Ain’t Doing The Canucks Any Favours

If they weren’t comfortable with travel by now, they will be after this season.
Image via [Jeff Vinnick].

The Vancouver Canucks have been enjoying the perks of being in possession of the NHL’s golden ticket over the past four seasons. No, I’m not talking about the one that gets them into to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (although now that I give it some thought, I’m sure they all wouldn’t have minded if that were the case). I’m actually referring to the one that had them situated in the deplorable Northwest Division, which had them facing cake competition on many a night.

That all changed once the league decided to implement its divisional realignment, which will be in place until at least 2016 (hey, maybe there is some credence to the theory that the league really does hate the Canucks?). The NHL released its schedule roughly two weeks ago, and we took a look at some of the more notable dates on the docket. We also went through a rudimentary breakdown of the new format, which has the Canucks in the revamped Pacific Division (which now features the Ducks, Kings, Sharks, Coyotes, Flames, Oilers). 

I’ve decided that now would be as good a time as any to take a closer look at some of the quirks of the schedule, and what it has in store for the Canucks. What’s in store for them?

Read on past the jump for some thoughts on the schedule.

The Travel

There are a few things that got my mind churning on this particular topic, but the one that hit closest to home came on Tuesday evening, when John Tortorella – during the team’s summer summit – had the following exchange with a season ticket holder during the Q & A portion of the event:

Q: I know you’ve primarily coached on the East Coast. On the West, there’s a lot more travel. How do you plan to manage their ice-time to keep them (Sedins, Kesler) ready for the postseason, so that our scorers can continue.. scoring.

A: I’m going to lean on Mike (Gillis) with the travel. That’s something that really concerns me, because I don’t have enough knowledge on it.. as far as how it takes a toll on the athletes. I believe this team here has some of the worst travel you could possibly have in the league, whereas in the East, you’e just on the bus. We have a group of people here, and we’re going to spend some time talking about that to find out what’s best for the athlete. I truly believe that if you’re going to demand a lot from the athletes when you have them, you need to give them the time off when you have the opportunity. I really believe in the time away.

Torts is right, actually. The esteemed Nashville Predators blog "On the Forecheck" recently published an ever so useful article compiling the number of miles each team has had to travel in years past, and the number of miles that they’ll be forced to travel this coming season.  As you’ll notice, the Canucks are set to be the 6th most well travelled team, just behind the Ducks (who will cover a measly 58 miles more). 

The "Schedule Loss"

What’s the big deal? This is nothing new for the Canucks, who were 9th in ’11-’12, and 3rd in ’10-’11 – two seasons in which they did just fine, if you’ll recall. Well, this travel is compounded by the fact that there are only 4 teams in the league who will face more back-to-backs than them (17).

This matters. I do believe that there’s such a thing as a "schedule loss", and the fact of the matter is that you can easily look like you’re skating in quicksand when you’re playing in Carolina the night after you were in New York, while your opposition was sleeping in their own beds the night before. While the team did travel a ton in previous years, that was somewhat evened out by the fact that they only had 11 back-to-backs in each of those seasons (which were good for 2nd fewest, and the fewest, respectively). 

All the way back in April, Tyler Dellow did some research, and wrote about this phenomenon on his blog. Just for the sake of making things easier to visualize, here’s Dellow’s table on the winning percentages based on the number of days between games for both the home and road team:

I went through all of Vancouver’s 17 back-to-backs, and found that 11 of them see the second game come on the road. In terms of the number of days between games for the team that would be hosting them on those occasions, there is only 1 time the team will also be partaking in the second of a back-to-back, 7 times where the team had 1 day off, 2 times where the team had 2 days off, and 1 time where the team had more than 2 days off (with that being the Blues on October 25th, who will have had 6!! days off by the time the Canucks roll into the Scottrade Center).

Here’s something else to keep in mind: the Canucks will be kicking their season off with 9 of their first 13 games on the road, including a 7-game road trip out East. While these things tend to even out in the long run (6 of their final 7 games will be played at Rogers Arena), you can sort of sniff out the trouble that looms ahead. To make matters worse, 14 of their first 21 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season. It’s because of this that I’ve already written up a post that’s set to run November 1st; its purpose is to attempt to talk you off the ledge following the inevitable 6-8-1 start, and the Tortorella blow-up in the media that follows.

Listen, Eric T. essentially dismissed the idea that a particular schedule for any given team can be pinpointed as the reason for their misfortunes. However, when the competition becomes stiffer and you come back down to the pack in terms of talent (which realistically, the Canucks have over the past calendar year), every little thing matters; the travel, the back-to-backs, and the tougher competition. It all adds up, and this is just another factor to consider in the grand scheme of things when analyzing the team’s chances. And for the Canucks, their schedule certainly isn’t doing them any favours. 

  • The Last Big Bear

    I don’t get all this moaning about being in the Pacific Division. Three teams minimum go to the playoffs, What are the changes, Lost Minnesota (an up and coming team) and Colorado a weak team. Kept Edmonton and Calgary, so that is a constant. Gained, LA a very good team that I think will sink a little this year as they start to go deaf from Sutter (3rd year syndrome). SJ a team in transition and just as old as the Canucks, with a more questionable defense. Anaheim, an older team that just lost one of its stars in Ryan. Phx. is about the equivalent of Minnesota. I don’t see it as that much tougher.

  • The Last Big Bear

    “hey, maybe there is some credence to the theory that the league really does hate the Canucks?”

    Not sure about the NHL officialdom, but everyone else hates the Canucks.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Yes…the Canucks have the 6th most travelled miles in 13-14…what you fail to share is that the 5 teams ahead of them are Western Conference Teams…San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Anaheim all travel more. So the Canucks rank 6/14 Western teams…pretty much middle of the pack.

    At first glance the Nucks seem to get an unfair hand in terms of 17 Back to Back games…the next closest western team is Nashville with 15. But to balance that out the Nucks have more B2B games against teams also playing their second game in two nights than any other Western Team.

    Not exactly as horrible a picture as you paint…and not much the NHL could do about it…not the NHL’s fault that Vancouver is so far West.

  • The Last Big Bear

    No sympathy. They’re all multi millionaires. If you get paid that much to play 80 whatever games and you cant do it, then you should go back to flipping burgers for a living.

    • DCR

      Not what ppl are saying here. The question is whether the schedule compared to other teams is fair or not and does it have an affect on performance?

      I do think there is an argument to be made if you are playing several back to back games and facing competition that has had a few days rest, especially if you’re the road team.

      Doesn’t really matter cuz I’m sure we’ll just use it as an excuse when we don’t even make the playoffs this year.

      • The Last Big Bear

        What looks like unfairness to one person may be fairer for another person. If the Canucks dont make the playoffs, it may be for the better. Better for a chick to tell you she doesn’t wanna go to the prom with you then to say yes, then cancel at the last minute. the Canucks are known for their phenomenal chokes. they dont just choke, they pull your leg all the way to the finals 7th game to choke, wasting all that cheering time. I’d rather cheer for a team who can get past the first round than to look like some hotshot in the regular season only to waste everyones time. Id rather the team not make the playoffs then to make it deep, wastes the fans time, create the usual canuck traffic jams all to be eventually embarrassed by Boston again. Go for the highest standard or go home.

        • DCR

          So you don’t like the Canucks winning because traffic jams and being entertained?

          I have news for you, I don’t think you’re a hockey fan. You might be happier with another sport. Go, be free!

          • pheenster

            I got news for you too. when it comes to winning, the Canucks havent won anything. I think you like the act of cheering and buying tickets, but you don’t care for winning. I don’t consider losing, failure and choking entertainment, why should I spend good money on a franchise who’s in their 4th generation of players and still havent won the cup? Speaks volumes, and I’am not out of line to say that.
            The franchise cant even get the right players, coaches, GM, scouting.

            Why should I support that? Why should I spend money on a club who has no direction and does not take winning the cup seriously? If you ran your business the way the Canucks build their teams for winning, you would be bankrupt a long long time ago. Mot other clubs who perform like the Canucks have had their fans leave. The reason why they are still even alive are their enabling fans. I’m not an enabler, I like to pay for a winning culture, not a losing one. This is a franchise that rewards failure, not winning. The Sedins are invisible in the play offs and they are still here. Nuff said.

  • DCR

    As someone who’s planning on going to that Carolina game (which is at 1PM Eastern), the schedule does bug me.

    I will be paying good money to see my favorite team play, and with 18 hours between puck drops, that means I’ll be paying for a lesser experience. That doesn’t make me happy.