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Breaking Down The Colorado Avalanche Schedule

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You've probably all seen the Forchecker's excellent super schedule breakdown. That has some incredible stuff in it, but I also wanted to do my annual breakdown of the Avalanche schedule, just for reference. I am using Dirk's super schedule mileage info, which is just all sorts of awesome.

The Avalanche season starts on October 1st (the 2nd time the Avs have started a season that early) and ends on April 11th. Along the way, they will play 82 games (obviously, 41 at home and 41 on the road). They play each NW opponent 6 times (24 games), each other Western Conference team 4 times (40 games) and each Eastern Conference team once (15 games). That's 79 games total, leaving 3 extra "wildcard" games; those opponents this year will be Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay (thanks for the mercy, scheduling gods).

Denver residents will have things besides hockey to enjoy in the fall, as the Avalanche start out with a huge number of games on the road. On December 7th, they play in their 21st road game of the season but will only have played 11 games at home. The good news is that the Avs will then be home for most of December - only one road game from December 9th through December 26th. I'm sure the guys will love the opportunity to be home with their families during the holidays.

That also means the long road trips are out of the way early. The Avs have a 13-day, 7-game trip from October 8th through October 21st (Nashville, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Minnesota), another 4-game trip later that month (Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Vancouver) and then a rather brisk 7-day, 5-game trip from November 30th through December 7th (Tampa, Florida, Pittsburgh, Columbus, St Louis). After that point, the Avalanche don't have a road trip longer than 3 games.

The Avalanche have three decent home stands - 2 5-game stands and 1 4-day stand. The first 5-game stand is the one spread over 10 days in December mentioned a couple paragraphs up. The Avalanche are also home for 5 games (12 days) after the All-Star break, from January 16th through the 28th. Finally, the Avs have a shorter 4-game, 6-day stand in mid-February shortly before breaking for the Olympics. Combined with the hiatus, the Avs will have just one road game (LA) between February 4th and March 3rd!

One of the cool features of NHL schedules are the "home and home" series, where teams play consecutive games against the same opponent. Sadly, the Avs have just two such series this year - against Minnesota on November 27th and 28th and against the Kings on March 22nd and 24th.

The Avalanche have 16 sets of back-to-back games (vs just 8 last season). 12 of those back-end games will be on the road (Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, Dallas, LA, Phoenix, LA, San Jose and Edmonton). The 4 back-end home games are against Detroit, Minnesota, Anaheim and Calgary.

By far, most Avalanche contests will have 2 days off between - 44 of the 82 games are after 2 off days. The Avs have 3 days off 10 times, 4 days off 8 times, 2 5 day breaks (neither incredibly useful, though, as one is between the 2nd and 3rd game of the year and the other is in January for the All-Star Break). Of course, the Avalanche also have a 16 day break for the Olympics.

What else? The Avalanche have 6 day games. One is on Columbus Day (in Boston). Another is on the Friday after (American) Thanksgiving, which seems odd to me. Only 11 games have a 10 pm eastern start or later, which makes this sleepy old man happy. 12 games start between 7 and 7:30 eastern (works great for me, may be a tad early for those actually in the correct time zone).

Local fans obviously have plenty of opportunities to see Western Confernce clubs at the Pepsi Center. Visits from Eastern Conference clubs are more rare. Here are the 9 Eastern Conference teams that will play in Denver this year:

  • Carolina (October 23rd)
  • Philadelphia (November 23rd)
  • Tampa (December 11th)
  • Washington (December 15th)
  • NY Islanders (January 6th)
  • New Jersey (January 16th)
  • NY Rangers (January 31st)
  • Atlanta (February 10th)
  • Florida (March 11th)

By the same token, Avalanche fans in 9 eastern cities will get a chance to see their team in person this year:

  • Boston (October 12th) (that would be me)
  • Toronto (October 13th)
  • Montreal (October 15th)
  • Tampa (November 30th)
  • Florida (December 2nd)
  • Pittsburgh (December 3rd)
  • Ottawa (December 30th)
  • Carolina (January 8th)
  • Buffalo (January 9th)

Games by weekday:

  • Sunday: 10 (6 h 4 a)
  • Monday: 10 (4h 6a)
  • Tuesday: 9 (4h 5a)
  • Wednesday: 16! (8h 8a)
  • Thursday: 9 (3h 6a)
  • Friday: 12 (7h 5a)
  • Saturday: 16 (9h 5a)

And by month:

  • October: 14 (4h 10a)
  • November: 14 (7h 7a)
  • December: 14 (7h 7a)
  • January: 12 (7h 5a)
  • February: 7 (5h 2a)
  • March: 15 (7h 8a)
  • April: 6 (4h 2a)

Longest flights (note that 4 of the top 5 are in the span of one week)

  • Buffalo to Calgary, 1735 miles, Jan 9th
  • Denver to Tampa, 1525 miles, Nov 30th
  • Denver to Ottawa, 1522 miles, Dec 30th
  • Carolina to Buffalo, 1457 miles, Jan 8th
  • Columbus to Denver, 1165 miles, Jan 3rd

I have to say, I kind of like this schedule for the Avalanche. Yes, the early road trips will be a challenge, but it will also be an opportunity for a new roster to develop some chemistry. Road trips are almost always great for that (remember that the big run a couple of years ago started with an east coast road trip). And, if the Avalanche are better than expected and end up doing well at the start of the season, their schedule from December on is generally favorable, with lots of home games, few long road trips and just 9 games against those nasty old NW goalies after December 21st. With a hot start, you could have a situation like the Boston Bruins who started last season with 17 of the first 29 games on the road. They did surprisingly well and ended up with a solid season. No, I don't believe the Avalanche are going to challenge for the President's Trophy next year. But I do think the Bruins used their early momentum to carry them a bit farther than they might have otherwise gone and I think the opportunity is there for the Avalanche to generate some positivity early on.