Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Back-To-Back

The second half of back-to-back (SHOTBTB? Not catchy, but I need something) games in the NHL must be murder. The players have little time to recover physically for the next game, the coaching staff doesn't have much time to prepare (or even at the very least focus) a game plan for the next opponent. If you're a WC team chances are you have a fair amount of travelling to do before the next game as well. Finally to cap it all off, the schedule makers at the NHL kick you in the proverbial groin and force you on the road for the vast majority of those games.

I recall Vic bringing this up a long time ago (possibly pre-lockout) - the overwhelming majority of second games in back-to-back sets are played on the road in the NHL.

I think Vic had the plausible conspiracy theory that the NHL was trying to stack the records to appease home fans. For some weird reason I remembered this last week and decided to have a look at some select team schedules for the 2008-2009 NHL season. Sure enough, it's heavily skewed to the road game and it's hard to argue with Vic's old theory given the NHL's insatiable hunger for parity or the illusion thereof.

I picked an entirely non-random sample of teams - the NW Division, the rest of the Canadian teams and then the WC contenders of note (Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim). Take a look below, first at the NW Division:












A whopping 84% of second games are on the road for NW teams this coming year. Pretty hard to believe that's just a coincidence.

What is surprising is the disparity in the schedules for these teams. By comparison to the rest of the division, Vancouver and especially Colorado have a cushy schedule. This is convenient since those teams are much-maligned going into the season. Colorado in particular plays nearly half as many back-to-back games as the other teams in the division and doesn't have to play any of Detroit, San Jose or Anaheim in those games. This means Colorado gets to be rested and prepared for more games than every other team in the division and they get to focus on all matchups with those three tough opponents. I think Colorado and Vancouver will be good teams regardless of schedule. Your mileage may vary as to how much this discrepancy will matter, but I don't think there's any denying that the Avs have a leg-up on the division in this regard. If the NW division is as close as it appears a small difference like this one could matter.

A small sample suggests it might not mean that much. The Oilers played just 9 B-to-B sets last year, but 8 of the SHOTBTB were on the road. In the 9 SHOTBTB their record was actually 5-4-0, but just one of the five wins were in regulation and they were outshot a combined 284 to 232 and outscored in regulation 31 to 19.

For comparison, Calgary played 11 B-to-B sets last year with 9 SHOTBTB on the road. They did have an astonishing 8-3 record with 3 SO or OT wins but outshot by just 10 shots in those games and were an even 31-31 in GF/GA in the second games.

Given the results for both teams were roughly in line with their overall 2007-2008 performance (CGY was a GF/GA and SF/SA sawoff for the year while the Oilers generally got bombed in regulation), it's hard to conclude this was a big factor last year. It would take some work, but I suspect this has a bigger impact leaguewide.

That won't stop me from yammering on.






The top three contenders I mentioned before are on the hook for a combined 96 games involved in B-to-B sets with 40 of 48 second games being on the road.

Lastly, the Canadian teams:





Not much to say here, although MTL is close to having a balanced Road/Home split for B-to-B games.

The grand total for these ten teams for the coming year (minus the Home-and-Home sets and Ottawa's European Vacation) is that 105 of 130 SHOTBTB are road games. That seems fishy to me. If anyone can think of another reason for the Home/Road split in these types of games, I'd love to hear it.

7 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

Is it because teams have a lot more control over their home schedule than their road schedule? (A: Yes, and they hate scheduling b2b games because (a) they feel like they're surrendering some of their advantage and (b) fans -- season ticket holders and walkups alike -- don't want to come to the rink two nights in a row).

I can't explain why Denver lucked out in this regard this year, though I can't abide the idea the VAN has an easy schedule no matter what.

Regardless, if you're trying to establish something strange or even conspiratorial, could you at least do the same analysis on the 1st game of B2Bs? Seriously, aren't most of the 2nd halves of them on the road because the first half was too, because the team is on a "road trip"? It's the MTL data that surprises me most of all; that could never ever happen in the WC.

10/10/2008 1:31 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Good points Matt. I'll add the 1st game data too. In the WC most BtoB sets are A/A although I don't agree with your logic that really means anything. Just because you're on the road doesn't mean you have to play all your games as BtoB - compare Ana and Col for example.

The EC and Detroit appear to have more H/A BtoB sets than the NW or Pac teams for obvious reasons I think.

10/10/2008 11:12 am  
Blogger Bank Shot said...

It could be as simple as the NHLPA and the NHL getting together to maximize the amount of days players get to be at home with their families during the season.

Another reason I just thought of is money. Edmonton is going to have to make 40 flights a season no matter what, but if they play more back to backs on the road that saves them alot of days in hotels and per diem.

At 35+ players, coaches, and other employees making $85 per diem as well as 20+ hotel rooms in nice hotels you're probably looking at, at least $10,000 a day paid out by the team during road trips. An extra 20 road days starts turning into a pretty big pile of dough.

10/10/2008 2:54 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Yeah it probably has a lot to do with money. Mind you I bet you could go find several 3-5 game road trips that have enough total days that you don't need 1-2 BtoB sets in there. This explanation doesn't account for the H/A games too but you could be on to part of it.

10/10/2008 7:26 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Good stuff Rivers, it's an interesting subject. And I'm sure that if you went through the schedule from last year and the one before, and picked off the games that you remember as being really entertaining (and not just because the Oilers won, any NHL game that you remember as being fun to watch), well I'd be pretty confident that a bunch of those involved one or both teams playing without a day's rest.

Tired players makes for more entertaining hockey I think.

The rule of thumb is a quarter of a goal off the goal diff if you're playing the 2nd of B2B games. I know that doesn't seem like much, but there isn't much in it, scoring chance wise, most games in the league now to start with. And, as you say, in a division like the NW, where literally anyone can win it or finish last, a point here or there, especially against a division rival, well that may just make the difference.

bank shot and matt both make valid points I think. The economic issue seems a bit minor held against the revenues of the teams, but considering that extra cost comes straight off of the profit ... well, there is probably some value in it.

It was the 02/03 season that the Oilers intentionally scheduled a whack of home B2Bs to generate weekend revenue, wasn't it?

I remember Lowe pissing about it when the Oil missed the playoffs by a point or two. He had a valid point imo. And it was refreshing to see someone pointing internally at a problem.

10/20/2008 11:05 pm  
Blogger raventalon40 said...

Interesting. A Gary Bettman conspiracy?

10/23/2008 12:56 am  
Blogger JLikens said...

So road teams play more SHOTBTB games than home teams do.

I wonder how much of home ice advantage -- which is something like 4-7% -- can be accounted for by this?

10/26/2008 7:48 pm  

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