The Colorado Avalanche got the short end of the stick in Opening Week. Things started off on the right foot when the Avs beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. They raised their Stanley Cup Champions banner to complete their historic quest for the Cup, as it will now be remembered in the rafters forever.
However, the game itself didn’t start until 8:15 p.m. MT and concluded just before 11:00 p.m. It called for a long night as the Avs then traveled overnight to play the Calgary Flames the next night.
The Avs didn't make it to their hotel until 4:00 a.m which called for a short night's rest. Even though they had the morning off, Colorado was noticeably slower for the majority of the game, as they fell 5-3 on Calgary’s Opening Night.
Underlying all of this is a problem that needs to be resolved soon: the NHL needs to fix when and how they schedule games for teams across the board, not just for the Avs. For example, they had 14 games scheduled yesterday but none for today.
Also, why did the NHL schedule back to backs for like half the league to open the season?— Jesse Montano (@jessemontano_) October 14, 2022
Let’s look at the Avs though as an example. They played back-to-back already and then have four days between their games with the Flames and Minnesota Wild. Then, they come home for two games but involve another back-to-back. The Avs play the Seattle Kraken Friday night at home and then travel overnight to go against the Vegas Golden Knights the next night on the strip.
It’s the start of an extremely long road trip, as they go from the West Coast to the East Coast to play the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders for the following week. This includes yet another back-to-back with the Devils and Isles on October 28 and 29.
The Avs then have a week off to travel and prepare for their Global Series games in Finland against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 4 and 5. Following that, they have yet another week off to travel back to the U.S. and prepare for a more “normal schedule” from there on out.
Of course, the time between games when the Avs go to Europe makes sense. However, it’s the weeks leading up to those games in Europe that are going to leave the Avs staggering behind.
Going back to the start of the season, the Avs will have traveled just shy of 15,000 miles after the Global Series games. Plus, there are four sets of back-to-back games in the first four weeks for the Avs.
It’s simply just a lot to ask for, even out of arguably the fittest team in the NHL.
Already having the shortest summer rest-wise due to winning and celebrating the Stanley Cup win, the Avs will be forced to play tired. There had been talks brought up by the players in the past to switch up the schedule back to what it was during the shortened 2021 season.
This would allow for less travel, and be similar to baseball series where each team plays in the same place three times in three days. For the NHL, it’d be more like what we’ll say later this season when the Avs play two games in San Jose in the span of two days. This would be the ideal scenario for teams across the league, both health-wise and financial-wise.
Is it plausible? Absolutely. Will they do it? Probably not at this point. But, if there was at least some change to have teams only play every two or three days with less significant travel in between, it would be ideal.
They can keep back-to-backs as well but with some new regulations surrounding them. For example, both teams would be playing in back-to-backs, perhaps in neighboring cities in flight times in or under two hours, or have two home back-to-back games, or something else different.
Nonetheless, the message across the board is that the scheduling needs to change. It’s come from fans, the media, and players. Hopefully, the NHL could listen and make an effort to keep their players rested and make games more enjoyable and competitive compared to what we saw with two great teams Thursday night in Calgary.