The Chicago Blackhawks conclude a brutal stretch of five games in seven nights Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. That’s surely welcomed news for those around the team, but it’s a reminder for those of us who follow and cover them that this year’s Blackhawks got dealt a pretty raw deal in terms of travel schedule.
Here’s just one example, as pointed out by Cody Franson:
Cody Franson: "It's pretty tough, especially this back-to-back. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one quite like this, where it’s two-hour travel in, game starts at 8, two-hour travel back, game starts at 6, after playing 2-in-3 before that."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 3, 2017
Traveling is one of the demands of playing professional sports, but this was a lot to task of the Blackhawks. And based on research from our pals at On The Forecheck, that’s a bit of a theme: the Hawks are traveling 12,180 more miles than last season. That’s the largest increase of any team in the league from 2016-17, and it puts the Hawks third in the NHL behind the Avalanche and Flames, who always travel a lot due to where their home cities are located.
Chicago seems to have been dealt an unusually tough hand this season. Here are the Hawks’ estimated travel mile totals by season for the past three years.
For the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks were 17th among NHL teams in travel miles. Last season, they were 21st. Suddenly, now they’re third behind two teams located in the middle of the continent that always have to travel a lot.
The Blackhawks are also tied for fourth-most back-to-backs in the NHL, another example of how this season’s schedule doesn’t really favor them. They had been in the bottom half of back-to-back totals the previous two seasons.
Maybe this is just a bit of scheduling karma as some fortunate details in 2015-16 and 2016-17 haven’t gone the Hawks’ way this season. Figuring out how to put together balanced, fair schedules for 31 teams across two countries that span thousands of miles is a genuine challenge.
But this year’s Blackhawks schedule undeniably stinks compared to the past two years. At least this brutal stretch is almost over with.