Back to Back Games

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RiversQ, one of the writers over at Irreverent Oiler Fans and an occasional commenter here, wrote a post back in October of 2008 talking about how in the vast majority of cases, the second half of a back-to-back set of games is played on the road.

It's stuck with me because it makes a world of sense for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that it helps pad the home record of most clubs - something of obvious importance, since it's a lot easier to convince people to buy tickets to watch a win than a loss.

With that in mind, I've taken a look at the Oilers' schedule for next season to see if the trend continued in this town.

The Oilers' schedule for next season is surprisingly fair, given how much they struggled last season (and especially in comparison with the Flames' schedule).  They fly fewer miles and play fewer back-to-backs than last season; in fact, the Oilers and Ottawa play fewer back-to-back games than any other team in the league.

Here are the back-to-back games Edmonton will play this season:

  • October 25th @ Vancouver
  • November 11th @ Buffalo
  • November 16th @ Columbus
  • November 28th @ Vancouver
  • December 3rd @ Calgary
  • February 4th @ Minnesota
  • February 11th @ Los Angeles
  • March 3rd @ Chicago
  • March 16th @ Minnesota
  • April 3rd @ Phoenix
  • April 11th @ Anaheim

Notice anything peculiar about that list?  Like how every single game is a road game?  Basically, this means that 26.8% of Edmonton's road schedule will be comprised of the second game of back-to-back games.  If this is a common trend throughout the league (and everything I've seen suggests that it is) we could be looking at the biggest factor in the differential between home and road records.

Anyways, I also took a look at the teams playing Edmonton to see which opponents would be playing their second game in as many nights.  Here's that list:

  • October 25th @ Vancouver
  • November 18 vs. Colorado
  • December 15th vs. Los Angeles
  • December 19th vs. Washington
  • December 21st vs. St. Louis
  • December 28th vs. Calgary
  • December 31st @ Calgary
  • January 12th vs. Nashville
  • January 14th vs. Pittsburgh
  • January 22nd vs. Dallas
  • January 28th vs. St. Louis
  • February 14th vs. Anaheim
  • March 3rd @ Chicago 
  • April 5th vs. Minnesota
  • April 7th vs. Colorado

Twelve of those fifteen games are home games, and all three road games take place in cities where Edmonton will also be playing their second game in two nights.

I really don't think this is a coincidence - I think the NHL schedulers have (quite smartly) slanted things in favour of the home team; after all, a fan is more likely to come back if he just watched his team win.

Outside of this conspiracy theory, this also goes to show how the schedule favours the Oilers this season, at least in terms of back-to-back games.

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