Halloween, New Years Eve, Valentine's Day, and two the week of Thanksgiving - the Dallas Stars' 2015-2016 schedule was released earlier this week in all of its glory, and we'll take a little bit of a peak at it today while Jim Nill works to sign Antti Niemi, among other things.
Nineteen of Dallas' 41 home games have been scheduled on the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), and we've been asked to attend just two afternoon home-games this season (Halloween, 2 p.m. vs the Sharks, and 2/27, 3 p.m. vs the New York Rangers). They've also kept your Sundays relatively clean with just five contests spread over the seven-month marathon.
The schedule is a funny thing, benefiting some teams and hurting others, but rarely in the way you see coming in June. Look at the Carolina Hurricanes, owners of 16 back-to-backs. Then to the Colorado Avalanche, who play just nine times on consecutive nights. The Avs also have a seven-game road stretch where Dallas only every reaches four consecutive away from the AAC.
Like anything else, timing and injuries will dictate how their schedule affects their overall standing in the West, but the immediate judgment has to be that it is a pretty balanced ballot.
Except where the St. Louis Blues are concerned. No, for some reason Dallas must face the Blues FOUR times on the second night of a back-to-back, three of them in Missouri. The fifth contest against them comes on the first night of a back-to-back set, ensuring the Stars never face them in a one-off situation. A sizable advantage for a direct competitor in a league that now stresses divisional play for playoff seeding.
In fact, six of their twelve back-to-backs are against Central Division teams. I don't need to remind you how bad the Stars were against the Central last season, yet I am going to: They lost 21 of the 29 games they attempted against their new division-mates while going 14-6-1 against California and whoever else is in that other division (For our friends in Alberta - 'Dismissive: indicating dismissal or rejection; having the purpose or effect of dismissing, as from one's presence or from consideration')
Division play is an entity that looms large in the second half of the Stars' season - see February in particular. The fall looks like light, however. Dallas plays the central just once in their first 16 games, enough time to establish an identity before having to do quite a bit of battle against those who would take their spot in the West.
If it's a Wednesday, don't ask if the Stars play. They don't. On Wednesday. At all. Five Monday games only and just five Sundays, only one at home. They play 23 times on Tuesday, including every single Tuesday in February and March.
Meanwhile they will play 22 times on Saturday, including 14 of their 41 home games, and 8 of 11 Saturdays between January 9th and March 19th. If you're a season ticket holder like my family, you know what your Saturdays look like in the spring.
In a more traditional evaluation of this schedule you might call out January and February as being the make-or-break time for Dallas - 14 of 25 on the road over two months in the dead of winter. That's rough. But the Stars home record last season was their undoing while their road record was counter-intuitively swell.
How will that play out this season? Perhaps the weekend's moves relating to goaltending will finally tip the scales in a positive direction, but stay tuned for more info as free agency hits next week.
In the end it looks like those first three weeks of March, provided a decent start, is where the challenge lies - many road games against the division.
From Stars PR:
vs. Western Conference Opponents (non-division, 21 Games)
The Stars will play their other non-division Western Conference opponents 21 times (Anaheim, Arizona, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver), facing off against each club three times (2 home/1 away vs. three teams; 1 home/2 away vs. four teams).
In total, Dallas plays 50 games against their Western Conference foes.
vs. Eastern Conference Opponents (32 Games)
Dallas will faceoff against each Eastern Conference team two times this season (1 home/1 away), ensuring that every team will play in every building at least once this season.
In total, Dallas plays 32 games against their Eastern Conference opponents.
STARS SCHEDULE NOTES
Home Games by Day: Mon. - 2, Tues. - 9, Wed. - 0, Thurs. - 11, Fri. - 4, Sat. - 14, Sun - 1
Road Games by Day: Mon. - 3, Tues. - 14, Wed. - 0, Thurs. - 8, Fri. - 3, Sat. - 9, Sun - 4
Home Games by Month: Oct. - 6, Nov. - 6, Dec. - 8, Jan. - 5, Feb. - 6, Mar. - 8, Apr. - 2
Road Games by Month: Oct. - 5, Nov. - 7, Dec. - 7, Jan. - 6, Feb. - 8, Mar. - 6, Apr. - 2