Apparently the Leafs did something horrible to whoever makes the NHL schedule, because they got off to a rough start in terms of the schedule this season. Four back-to-backs in October, another three in November, and another three in December.
Now, back-to-backs and the Leafs are actually quite the iconic duo. This has been their number of back-to-backs over the last ten seasons:
2012-13: 9 (were scheduled to play 14 in full-season schedule before lockout)
So, the fewest they’ve ever had in a full season was last year, when they only had to play 13 back-to-back games, and even then, that’s roughly middle of the pack.
Now, there are several things that go into this. The NHL loves to put the Leafs on Saturdays, but they also need to get their Friday and Sunday games in as well. Their close proximity to most of the Eastern Conference allows for them to easily have a home game and travel to a road game the next night (and vice versa).
So, let’s try and fix this. I’m going to attempt to get rid of some of the Leafs back-to-backs this season with causing a drastic shift to the NHL schedule, as well as considering the arena schedules. But first, a few rules.
1. The arena’s schedules must be taken into consideration. So, I can’t move the second half of a back-to-back to a day that a concert or other sports team is in the arena.
2. The change can’t put the other team in a back-to-back situation. As much as we like to think it’s all about the Leafs (and it is), I can’t just inconvenience another team for the sake of the Leafs.
3. I can’t move a game off of a Saturday night. The Leafs have an absurd amount of those games because they’re easily marketable on Hockey Night in Canada. It just wouldn’t be the same if the Leafs played on a Friday and Sunday.
4. I can’t create another back-to-back out of it. Because if I moved a game out of a back-to-back into another back-to-back, it would do nothing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
There’s not much we can do with this one. The Columbus game can’t be moved because then it just creates a back-to-back with Ottawa, and the Montreal game can’t be moved because it’s a Saturday.
This one can’t be changed either, because Minnesota has a game the night before, and if we move the Washington game, it creates a back-to-back for them.
This one has potential. We can’t move the Columbus game because that just creates a back-to-back with the home Boston game, but moving the Boston game doesn’t conflict with the Leafs or Bruins schedules. However, TD Garden doesn’t let me look at past events, so I cannot confirm or deny if the arena was in use that day, but I do know the Celtics didn’t have a game that night. So, this will be an unofficial change.
CHANGE: Game @ Boston moved from Oct. 22 to Oct. 23 (unofficial)
Not much we can do here either. San Jose plays the night before, so that can’t be moved, and the Montreal game is a Saturday, so that can’t be changed either.
And we have our first official change! While the Philadelphia game can’t be moved because it’s a Saturday, the Chicago game does not conflict with either the Leafs or Blackhawks schedules AND the United Center has an opening that day.
CHANGE: Game @ Chicago moved from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11
This one can’t be altered, because the Boston game being removed would result in a back-to-back with the Isles, and the Penguins game is on a Saturday.
Likewise, this back-to-back is also a Friday-Saturday game that would result in a back-to-back with the Wings, and the Saturday can’t be moved. Besides, it’s a home and home with Buffalo anyways, so both teams will have the same amount of fatigue both nights.
The Flyers game can’t be moved, because while it doesn’t conflict with the Flyers schedule, the 76ers have a game on the 2nd at the Wells Fargo Center, and the Avalanche game can’t be moved because it’s the first night of a back-to-back for the Avalanche.
The Rangers game can’t be moved, because while the Rangers have a few days off, Andrea Bocelli will be at Madison Square Garden the night of the 19th, and the Wings game is on a Saturday, so that can’t be moved.
Yeah, not much can be done here either. The Devils game is the first day after the Christmas break (wow, hockey games, a winter sport, on Christmas, that would be cool), and the Rangers game can’t be moved because it’s a Saturday.
Ok, wow, we went a long time without one. Unfortunately, not much can be done here either, because the Anaheim game would just create a back-to-back with the Rangers game, and the Montreal game is on a Saturday.
Same here, the Senators game is on a Saturday, and the Sabres game would only create a back-to-back with the Penguins game.
Likewise, the Kings game here would create a back-to-back with the Sharks, and the Ducks game would cause the Ducks to have a back-to-back.
Not much can be done here either, moving the Lightning game would create a back-to-back with the Panthers, while moving the Hurricanes game would create a back-to-back with the Senators.
So, after going through this, I give the schedule makers for the NHL a lot of credit, there are a lot of moving parts going on when considering when games can be scheduled, not just team schedules, but also arena schedules, broadcast schedules, and making road trips work in a way that makes sense.
In the end, I only managed to move two games around, the Boston game that has already happened, and the Chicago game coming up this Sunday, knocking down the Leafs back-to-back total from 14 to 12.
Now, there were some instances where the schedules just conflicted with the other teams creating a back-to-back, and in those cases, it would’ve seen Washington (who has 12 back-to-backs) or Anaheim (11 back-to-backs), the NHL could’ve maybe chipped from the Leafs 14 to even it out a bit more, but hey, at least back-to-backs gives Freddy some rest.
But, if there’s one thing this article proved, it’s that the Leafs have this many back-to-backs for a reason, and that we probably shouldn’t focus so much on the back-to-backs existing, and more so on the Leafs not being able to show up to any of them. But that’s a whole other problem.