It’s interesting to read various newspapers and see the reactions to the recently announced 2009-10 NHL regular season schedule. After all, every team is going to play 82 games. Every team is going to play 41 at home and 41 away. But, the way a team’s schedule is laid out over the course of the same six-month period could have a lot to do with that team’s performance and eventual final standing.
• Click here to see the Coyotes 2009-10 schedule (subject to change)
The Coyotes 2009-10 schedule presents a series of challenges and opportunities for this young team. Right out of the gate, the team plays four of its first five games on the road including a trip to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and a meeting with divisional powerhouse San Jose. It’s an old saying but it rings true: points in October are every bit as important as points in March. The rest of October is a bit friendlier for the Coyotes as they’ll play five of the last eight at Jobing.com Arena.
Four of the six home dates in October will be on a Saturday night. All Saturday home dates this season, with a couple of exceptions, will be played at 6 p.m. local time. I think this is a terrific idea. I only have two seasons of experience in Glendale, but with all that Westgate has to offer both before and after a game, I think the 6 p.m. start is great for the fans who want to enjoy Westgate after the game and still get home at a reasonable hour (especially the fans that commute from the East Valley). The earlier start time is also family-friendly for the fans that choose to have a late lunch or early dinner before the game. I should also mention that October 15 marks the return of Darren Pang in his new role as TV analyst for the St. Louis Blues. It will be emotional for Panger, but I’m sure he’s already circled the date on his calendar.
If the Coyotes are able to make Jobing.com Arena a true home-ice advantage, they will have a friendly stretch of 15 games from Dec. 21 through Jan. 21 with 12 games at home. After that Jan. 21 home game, the Coyotes will have 31 games remaining and 19 will be on the road.
The 2009-10 season presents an interesting twist for all teams: a 14-day break for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. You can be sure that some teams will be on a roll and won’t want the break. Other teams will be struggling or riddled with injuries and very much look forward to some time off. It’s worth noting that the Coyotes have been in a pretty good position in each of the last two seasons in mid-January. A subsequent slump down the stretch doomed any hopes for a playoff spot in 2008 and 2009. Such a slump must be avoided this season for the Coyotes to earn a much needed playoff berth in 2010.
I hope you are all enjoying the off-season. It’s hard to believe, but we’re less than two months from the first preseason game on Sept. 15! I’ll be back with reaction to Judge Baum’s ruling sometime after Aug. 5.