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Hockeymetrics: A Look at Travel in the NHL

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Like most hockey fans, I look forward to the release of the regular season schedule for the upcoming season in July for numerous reasons. Obviously, it's a signpost indicating the season's not too far away and creates an opportunity to plan for which games I want to attend.

But it also means that Dirk Hoag's Super Schedule of NHL Travel is just around the corner as well. Us Stars fans take notice of this, primarily because of the Stars' unique position as a Pacific Division team, even though Dallas is much closer to the Atlantic Ocean than it is to the Pacific Ocean.

You can view this year's spreadsheet at GoogleDocs, as well data from 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Dirk's been doing this project for three years now and it's a very interesting read. This is due, in part, because we're into the second year of the more balanced schedule format and can easily compare travel from a balanced schedule versus the unbalanced schedule that the NHL shoved down our throats from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

Now I will say the spreadsheet isn't exactly perfect. Using the Stars current road trip as an example, the spreadsheet calculates the distance between Dallas to St. Paul to San Jose to Phoenix to Detroit. Obviously, the Stars traveled back to Dallas after their game last Saturday at Minnesota before flying on to San Jose. They'll make a similar stopover back home after playing the Coyotes Saturday night before flying on to Detroit to conclude their roadtrip Wednesday night.

Total mileage traveled approximately? Oh, just a shade under 6,700 according to the Gmaps Pedometer.

And speaking of the Red Wings, it only takes into account travel after the first game of the season. That means their initial jaunt to Europe, along with Chicago's, St. Louis', and Florida's isn't factored into the spreadsheet. Their return flights across the pond, however, are.

But it does provide a nice insight into travel when the inevitable debate about placement of teams within the divisions comes up and just how much of an advantage do Eastern Conference teams have over their Western Conference counterparts.

What interesting things did I find in my analysis? Follow me after the jump.

  • The Stars will log more travel miles than any other team in the Pacific Division this season with an approximate total of 51,182. But they didn't even close to being the divisional leaders last season when San Jose traveled over 56,111 miles during the regular season, as opposed to 51,541 for the Stars.
  • This year, the Sharks somehow managed to shave nearly 10,000 miles off their itinerary from last season. That represents the biggest mileage drop in the league.
  • Not taking into account the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Panthers, and Blues flights during the pre-season to Europe, the Flames will log the most miles traveled in the NHL with 55,331. And if you factored in those flights over to Europe, the Flames might still lead the NHL.
  • Now for the surprising part. Remember when the schedule was unbalanced and high mileage teams like the Stars wanted to go back to a more balanced format to avoid playing those eight extra road games in either the Pacific of Arizona time zones? Turns out that under the last season where the unbalanced schedule was used, the Stars traveled nearly 10,000 miles less than they did last season and will travel this season.

As I alluded to at the beginning, travel is of utmost concern to the Stars and their fans because of their placement in the Pacific Division. Their closest division rival is still over 800 miles away. Contrast that with the fact that all Atlantic Division rivals play within a 350 mile radius and you can see why scheduling has been such a hot button issue in this league and will continue to be one.

And a potential Coyotes move to either Kansas City, Portland, or Hamilton won't help matters one bit in this department. Unless the league abolishes division (as was suggested by Razor this morning on The Ticket), the Stars are stuck.

Not even a potential move by the Islanders would help because it appears if they pack up and leave Long Island, they'll move to Kansas City and a Central Division team like Columbus or Nashville will take their place.