We are a couple weeks out from the beginning of NHL training camp for the 2021 season. For the Colorado Avalanche, 56 games will begin on January 13th and end on May 9th, a little less than five months for the whole season. Let’s catch up on all the aspects of the new schedule and what it means for the Avalanche.
The West Division
First, the Avalanche usually play in the Central Division, for this season only, they have been moved to the newly named West Division, a group of eight teams formerly made up out of the old Pacific and Central Divisions. The Avalanche will play each of their seven opponents eight times for a full 56 game schedule, four in each building.
There will be no crossing of division lines, so it’ll be the same eight teams playing against each other over and over again. At the end of the season, the top four in each division will move on to the playoffs where they will have to “play out of their division” before the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals that will presumably be played in a bubble if travel is still not permitted.
Here is the West Division, sorted by points percentage from last season:
- St. Louis Blues (.662)
- Colorado Avalanche (.657)
- Vegas Golden Knights (.606)
- Minnesota Wild (.558)
- Arizona Coyotes (.529)
- Anaheim Ducks (.472)
- Los Angeles Kings (.457)
- San Jose Sharks (0.450)
The three best teams in the Western Conference last year all in the same division isn’t great, but at least Colorado is one of those teams. At least the bottom of the division is going to have three (or four) of the worst teams in the league. Sorry to lump you in with the now-rebuilding California teams, Arizona.
I expect to see a strong divide between the haves and the have-nots in this group of eight. Heck, Minnesota might actually make the playoffs! And if they do, being first in the Division will be key so that team gets them in the first round and not another of the top three.
And in case you missed it, here are the other three divisions:
Central: Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, Columbus, Florida, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit
The Lightning are at the top, there are five teams all mixed up in the middle, and Chicago and Detroit at the bottom. A big change from a decade ago.
East: Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Buffalo, New Jersey
Boston won the President’s Trophy last season, but they lost some key defensemen, their goalie (?), their forward group is another year older, and they didn’t look interested in the playoffs. It’s anyone’s guess who finishes 1-2-3-4 here, like most years in the Metro.
North: Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary. Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa
The worst division in terms of the best team, middle teams, and bottom team. But they needed to keep all of Canada together for travel reasons. Toronto got better with the signing of TJ Brodie and the emergence of Nick Robertson. Edmonton still have Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in net. The bottom will be Ottawa, the only question is how far down they’ll go.
The Avs Schedule
Disclaimer: the NHL is likely not going to be immune to COVID-19 spread within the league and some games will most likely be postponed to create more double headers and travel.
For each month, I provided the number of games at home versus away, and then listed who the Avalanche play that month in order. There are a few instances where the Avs only play a team once before travelling or playing a different team and they have been specified. Home games are in bold.
- January: 10 games (4 H, 6 A); STL, LAK, ANA, SJS, MIN
- February: 12 games (6H, 6A); MIN, STL, ARI, VGK, VGK, ARI
- March: 16 games (12H, 4A); SJS, ANA, ARI, LAK, MIN, ARI, VGK, ANA
- April: 13 games (5H, 8 A); STL (1gp), MIN, ANA, LAK, STL (1gp), STL, VGK, SJS (1gp)
- May: 5 games (1H, 4A): SJS (1gp), SJS, LAK
The Avalanche have a relatively giant eight-game homestand in the middle of March. They have a total of four four-game road trips in January, April (x2) and May.
Most teams in the East will play the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks all in a row in order to minimize travel all the way to California. However, for this schedule, Colorado doesn’t spend more than four games in the state. I personally would’ve expected a road trip of double headers against those three teams a couple times. I guess not.
I made a quick chart that showed which month each team played the Avs. I have to say the league did a good job of not biasing one team to one part of the year or another. I thought about color coding the graph but the oranges, golds, and reds of some of the teams made the graph hard to read.
Back-to-Backs and Breaks
The Avalanche will have a total of 60 days off during the season. I made a handy chart showing when those off days will happen. As you can see, there are seven instances of back-to-backs spread out during the season (there are three in the first month of the season).
The team will also get a few longer breaks. The Avs get two days off three times, three days off twice, and one four-day break in April (before a homestand) around the Trade Deadline, which is set for April 12th. Interestingly, most teams don’t get that break so any players they acquire can physically move to their new team safely without missing as many games. The Avalanche are lucky here.
List of Back-to-Backs (at home, with travel):
- Jan 22 (LAK to ANA)
- Jan 31 (MIN to MIN)
- Feb 7 (STL to STL)
- Mar 6 (COL to COL)
- Mar 23 (ARI to ARI)
- May 1 (SJS to SJS)
- May 8 (LAK to LAK)
Interestingly enough, this schedule is quite clean in terms of who the Avalanche are playing, when, and under what conditions. The schedule is pretty straightforward: games every other day (save for the odd back-to-back), teams play each other twice in one location before travelling (except one instance against STL in April), and the eight games against each team is spread out to average out team strengths changing throughout the year.