Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Eight Nuances of the Flames 2016-17 Schedule

Calgary's schedule for the upcoming NHL season came out today and that is always a nervous time for hockey fans as they cross their fingers and scour the dates to see if there are games that conflict with those special occasions such as your spouse's birthday (no conflict, excellent) or your wedding anniversary (conflict, uh-oh).

There are a few oddities this year. No homestand longer than four games is not something I recall seeing very often over the years, if at all. Similarly, there are just two road trips longer than four games. The longest is a six games-in-nine days trip out East from Nov. 20-28 that sees Calgary play in Detroit, Buffalo, Columbus, Boston, Philadelphia and in Brooklyn against the NY Islanders.

Here are eight other things that caught my eye:

1. California Heartache

Eesh. How's this for a killer final two weeks. The Flames finish the season with an extended home-and-home set with all three of the California teams. First up is LA, San Jose and Anaheim at the Saddledome from March 29 - April 2. Next is a roadie April 4-8 that takes the team through Anaheim, LA and San Jose. Man, that's harsh.

2. Pedal to the Metal

After stumbling out to a 2-8-1 record to start the season a year ago -- digging a hole the club could never dig itself out of, the Flames get the opportunity for a better start this season. To start out, they will open with five consecutive games against non-playoff teams from a year ago. Four of those opponents finished in the bottom eight of the overall standings. After a home-and-home with Edmonton on Oct. 12 and 14, Calgary heads to Vancouver to play the Canucks on Oct. 15 before returning home to face the Sabres and Hurricanes on Oct. 18 and 20. Let's just say they better take advantage of these couple weeks (see point No. 3).

3. Slamming on the Brakes

If the Flames don't bank three or four wins from that opening sequence of games, then they could be in serious trouble because things get awfully nasty very quickly after that with 11 of the next 12 games against playoff teams from last season. The Blues visit on Oct. 22 to wrap-up a homestand. Calgary then heads on the road for a two-game joyride to Chicago and St. Louis. Flames return home to play Ottawa and Washington before going on a killer four-game roadie that opens in the United Center against the Blackhawks and also has stops in San Jose, LA and Anaheim -- the latter two on consecutive nights.

4. Not Nearly Enough Bay City Rollers

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!

It's my favourite night to head to the Saddledome for a Flames hockey game yet it seems to rarely happen this season. Calgary has only six home games on a Saturday night all year and that's over the span of six months. Meanwhile, they have nearly the same number of Sunday games with five. Sunday? Sunday?? That used to be a day that historically the Flames rarely played on, especially at home. The situation isn't much different on the road either with Calgary in action only seven times on Saturday nights. In total, the Flames plays on just 13 of the 24 Saturday nights . If I had my way, they should be playing on all 24 but hey, they didn't ask the opinion of this crusty old traditionalist.

5. Coyotes on New Year's Eve

For a long, long time, this night was reserved for a visit from the Montreal Canadiens and there were some great tilts over the years. Lately, it seems that Edmonton has been a frequent opponent and that's been good too. This season, the guest at the Saddledome to wrap up the calendar year will be the Arizona Coyotes and that just feels wrong.

6. Flames-Oilers in Short Supply

Due to the necessary annual scheduling imbalance, this year it's the Oilers, whom the Flames only face four times. Calgary will play all other Pacific Division opponents five times. What makes it really weird is half of those four games fall in the first three days of the season. Calgary then plays Edmonton only twice more over the final five-and-a-half months -- both coming a week apart in mid-January. Why not spread them out a little bit better? It's a head scratcher for me.

7. Trade Deadline at Home

By my unofficial calculations, the trade deadline should fall on Tuesday, Feb. 28 this year and that means for the first time in three years, Calgary will not be on the road in Philadelphia for it. That would also mean the Flames play that night -- hosting the Kings. Honestly, there is so much going on that day that it should be a day off around the league. Playing that night with trades still being finalized in the mid-to-late afternoon is just plain dumb. But again, they didn't ask for my opinion.

8. Mandatory Bye Week

For the first time, all 30 teams will get a mandatory five-day stretch off at some point in the 2016-17 season. This is a new thing for this year that was requested by the NHLPA. It gives the players time to decompress and get away from the game and for fans, who hate missing games, it also is a chance for them to schedule in that trip to Mexico and be distraction free. The Flames 'bye week' goes from February 8-12.

(Bonus) 9. No Conflicts with the Stamps (Until the Playoffs)

As someone that also spends every Stamps home game in the press box, I'm always curious to see if there are any conflicts between the two teams as that really complicates things. I'm sure many of you like to go to both team's games also -- probably many of you are season ticket holders -- so you can relate. Well, the good news this year is there are no conflicts during the regular season.

For devoted fans of both the football and hockey teams, both teams play on the same day only twice and in each instance, one team is at home while the other team is on the road. Also, the game times don't overlap either.

The two dates with conflicts (all game times in MT) are:
  • Saturday, Oct. 15 - Stamps host Montreal at 5 pm at McMahon. Flames play in Vancouver at 8 pm.
  • Sunday, Oct. 30 - Stamps play in Montreal at 11 am. Flames host Washington at the Dome at 7:30 pm.

However, the bad news is the playoffs are a different story should the Stampeders qualify.

While the Flames are off on the Sunday (Nov. 13) of the Western semi-final, the Flames do play on the Sunday of the Western final (Nov. 20). On that day, the Flames are in Detroit to play the Red Wings at 5 pm while the football game starts at 2:30 pm.

On the day of the Grey Cup, there is a direct conflict. The consolation is it is a Flames road game. The Grey Cup on Nov. 27 is scheduled to kick off at 4:30 pm while the Flames play in Philadelphia beginning at 5:00 pm.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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