We know the NHL does not make its' schedule necessarily for the fans, as there are many things to consider when the schedule involves moving 30 teams across well over 4 million square miles of real estate. Arena availability, collective bargaining agreements, TV contracts, and simple travel logistics are some of what items come into play when the league's Toronto-based minions sit down and hash out the schedule for the upcoming season. With all this being said, one thing is clear:
Somebody in the NHL Toronto offices REALLY hates the Minnesota Wild.
The way the 2008-09 schedule sets up, the Wild will be running virtually on fumes by the time they finally arrive at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on April 11th. What this blogger wants to know:
1. Why in the World did they not set the three New York area games up to be together? (Wild at New Jersey March 20; at the Rangers March 24, and the next night vs the Islanders at Nassau). A needless trip home (for one game vs. Edmonton March 22) forces the Wild into two more charter flights than needed for the same period. If you are going to treat the Wild like a Western Conference team, why not have them play all 3 games on the same road trip? You mean to tell me that of the 60 potential Wild home dates submitted by Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE, the Wild's corporate parent company) to the NHL offices earlier in 2008, you couldn't have found a better way to do this?
2. For the second consecutive season, 3 of the 4 Wild vs. St. Louis games are played before Christmas Day.
3. All 4 of the Wild vs. Chicago games are either on Sunday or Monday nights. Last season, 7 of the 8 Wild vs. Colorado games were on Sunday or Monday nights. What's up with that?
4. The Wild do not face division rival Edmonton (the team which gained the most from free agency in the Northwest Division) until January 15 -- 10 days before the All-Star Game.
5. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to run the Wild down to Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay in early October really needs to think this one ALL THE WAY through. Hello? Snowbirds not only come from Ontario and Quebec to the Southeast, OK?? How about those of us who winter in Minnesota and need some hockey with our winter thaw, eh?
6. Does the NHL want the Wild to be the 'spoiler' team in the Central Division? With 3 of their last four games versus Central opponents, you'd think that was the case!
7. Only seven home games after Feb. 25th. Seven. And only one on a weekend day (Sunday...see Item No. 1). Last season there were nine home games (4 on weekend days) in the month of March alone.
8. We're supposed to be 'happy' with 8 Saturday games, none of which are after Feb. 21? Yeah, right...
Needless to say, we fans will not see MSE traded on the Chicago Carbon Exchange anytime soon. Eco-friendly, this schedule is not, folks. Some of these trips are really poorly planned. Some of them are the, 'We really don't know where to put them on X date' trips. And still others would flat out get them in financial trouble, if not for the deep pockets of MSE. (Jet fuel isn't cheap, either.)
As I said, someone in Toronto hates the Minnesota Wild. What did they do to tick you off, pal? Not play in Toronto on Boxing Day again? (Awwwwwww...it's your own fault if that's the case!)
Oh, well. Back to road trip planning...