The Providence Bruins, Hamilton Bulldogs and Albany Devils better get their wins early in the season. Their schedules are going to be ugly as it ends.
Scheduling has a great impact on a team's success. Quirks and inconsistencies can play havoc as wide spread injury and shifting players into different roles coincides with back to back games and three games in four nights sets at the National Hockey League level.
I'll pick apart the NHL schedule and look for strange occurrences, and every season I have published a breakdown of teams playing back-to-back with a focus on the second game in the set, playing against a rested team that had not played the previous night/day.
And keeping track of team’s records in these games, something I have for all season’s between lockouts that I will eventually publish, considering now we have a distinct bookend, lockout to lockout of data for analysis.
NHL rinks are dark and vacant, however.
This is about the American Hockey League and a scheduling quirk not available to the NHL, three-games-in-three-nights sets (3-in-3 hereafter).
Below you will find a chart breaking down the amount of times each team plays a 3-in-3 set during the 2012-13 season.
The Providence Bruins will have 17 such sets to lead the AHL, with the Hamilton Bulldogs and St John’s IceCaps bringing up the rear with four apiece.
Providence has difficulty with these sets starting in December where they play 3-in-3 almost every weekend except with the only sanctuary coming a week before the Christmas holidays – following up with their fourth set of the month. They have two sets in the first seven weeks of the schedule, before the mayhem starts.
Three sets feature playing the same team on consecutive nights (in February versus Manchester and Bridgeport on consecutive weekends and Springfield mid-March), still requiring travels as all are home and home sets. Twice the Bruins have 3-in-3 sets on the road and none at home after splitting it twice in 2011-12
In fact, Providence also led the AHL in 3-in-3 sets in ‘11-12 with 19. Five sets occurred after March 1 (Providence was dead last in their division as of March 4, 2012 with a record of 26-28-6 for 58 points having scored 148 goals tied for second least in the entire AHL behind San Antonio).
Albany is the only other AHL club to feature four 3-in-3 sets in one month, and those take place in March, at a critical juncture in the schedule, especially if there’s a playoff spot on the line. They follow it up with three more sets in April, playing seven of their 12 total sets at the most important time of the season, and likely limping into the playoffs – assuming they make the postseason – as a very tired group.
In 2011-12, the average number of sets were 9.93 across the league. The current season schedule dropped that to 8.57.
Looking further into the two minimum teams reveals that The Hamilton Bulldogs four total sets all begin after March 8, with three sets in the final weeks of the season, once again, at a critical juncture of the schedule, with one set strictly as the road team as they travel through Texas. Essentially, the Bulldogs dress 12 of their final 20 regular season games as part of 3-in-3 sets.
All of St. John’s four sets occur on the road, with an easy explanation being due to their location and travel schedule. The ’12-13 schedule is a mirror image of ’11-12, four 3-in-3 sets, all occurring on the road.
The other Canadian Team, Abbotsford Heat is also a carbon copy of 11-12, each with six 3-in-3 sets, and all occurring on the road. The only benefit being an even split on a month to month basis, with only one set after March 1 and one of three teams without any sets in April (San Antonio, Lake Erie).
Charlotte spends five of their seven sets or 71% of their total sets as the road team with a strange set up. Three times they play the same team (Rockford, Peoria, Oklahoma City) as a road team, and once they host the Houston Aeros on consecutive nights as the home club. In one other set they hit San Antonio, then Texas, then back to San Antonio.
When someone complains about scheduling in the National Hockey League, one can quickly point to the AHL and show them what truly strange scheduling looks like.
If there’s one word to describe it all, it’s disparity.
Here are the 2011-12 splits for comparison purposes.