Earlier today, the National Hockey League released the 2015-16 regular season schedule. Here’s the link to the full schedule for the New Jersey Devils at their website. While there was a breakdown at the team's official site, I want to provide my thoughts on the 82 games that will begin on October 9 and end on April 9. Simple, this schedule is a lot better than last year’s already.
For starters, there's only twelve back-to-back sets of games this season. Last season, they had 18. The season before that, they had 22. In the Incredibly Stupid Lockout of 2012 shortened 48-game 2013 season, they had ten. In 2011-12, they had fifteen. It was assumed that since the Devils don't have to travel as far as other teams, they would have to play more consecutive sets of games than most. Therefore, twelve really isn't that bad. None of them are two straight games at the Rock, they are either home-and-away or away-and-away. Still, it's preferable to have 24 games in those situations than 36.
There's more. Last season, the team played two games on Sunday. This season, that's increased to five. On top of that, four of those games have start times before 7 PM EDT. Yes, the Devils will have afternoon games in 2015-16. Six at home and five on the road. That's good news for families, fans with other plans on that date, those who don't like staying up through the evening just before the work week, and bloggers who recap games.
Here's my month-by-month breakdown of the schedule:
|Month||Home Games||Road Games||Back-to-Backs||Division Games||Rivalry Games|
You'll notice the Devils aren't front-loaded with road games like they were last season. They play a fairly even schedule up until the new year. They will only have five back-to-back sets in those first three months, too. January and March are more road-heavy, whereas February and April are filled with home games. For those of you who are fan of inter-divisional games and the rivalry games between Our Hated Rivals and the Second Rate Rivals, February is the month you want to keep open. February is also one of the most arduous months with four back-to-back sets among their nine games within the Metropolitan Division and five of those being against the team's bitter rivals. March does make a good case with more road games on top of three back-to-backs, though. Still, if you must keep a month open for the number of home games, then make it February.
What day should you keep open? Here's a day-by-day breakdown. The number in parentheses represents the number of games that will begin before 7 PM EDT on that day:
|Day of Week||Number of Games||Home||Away|
|Sunday||11 (8)||5 (4)||6 (4)|
|Monday||3 (0)||1 (0)||2 (0)|
|Tuesday||21 (0)||14 (0)||7 (0)|
|Wednesday||3 (0)||1 (0)||2 (0)|
|Thursday||15 (0)||4 (0)||11 (0)|
|Friday||12 (0)||10 (0)||2 (0)|
|Saturday||17 (3)||6 (2)||11 (1)|
Again, it's glorious to see the Devils playing more than two home games on Sunday and have six games that will start before 7 PM EDT. It's also a bit bold as two of those Sunday games are in the 2015 portion of the season. We'll see if attendance does take a hit from the NFL. Though, it'll be confounded by the quality of the Devils and their opponents. Nevertheless, the work week is where the bulk of the games are with Tuesday night games leading the way. Seriously, fourteen at home and seven on the road. Keep that day of the week open. Should you want to make plans, keep them to Monday or Wednesday. I suppose it's possible some of those Wednesday games may become nationally televised, but I'm doubtful given their opponents: Columbus, Ottawa, and Montreal. Kind of a stretch to call them Wednesday Night Rivalry worthy matchups.
Speaking of national television, some of the Devils' games are marked for Canadian national television. I counted seven: Devils at Montreal on 11/28 (HNIC, TVA); Devils at Ottawa on 12/30 (TVA); Devils at Montreal on 1/6 (SN); Devils at Winnipeg on 1/23 (HNIC); Devils vs. Boston on 3/29 (TVA); Devils vs. Toronto on 4/9 (HNIC). I'll leave it to you to decide if TVA is national, but SportsNet (SN) and Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) sure are. I think we'll get information on U.S. national television in the future.
If there is a criticism about the 2015-16 Devils schedule it's that there is no extended home stand. The most they'll play in a row at the Rock is three. It does happen three times in the season: 11/6 through 11/10, 2/14 through 2/19, 4/5 through 4/9. Still, there's no point where you or the team could be set at the Prudential Center for more than a week. By contrast, the Devils do have some three-game road trips (e.g. hitting up Alberta and British Columbia; the California trip) with a four-game road trip as the longest (1/10 through 1/16). Is that a significant criticism? I'm not so sure; it may be the price of not having so many back-to-back sets. If so, then I may make that trade-off.
Here are some additional notable parts of the schedule that I found when I went through it:
- Games against Our Hated Rivals: Away – October 18, February 8; Home – February 2, February 23
- Games against the Second Rate Rivals: Away – October 29, February 12; Home – December 4, February 16
- Champion Games: Home – November 6, Away – November 12
- Holiday Games: Devils vs. Islanders on Halloween at 1 PM; Devils vs. Kings on Valentine’s Day at 12:30 PM; Devils vs. Wild on St. Patrick’s Day at 7 PM; Devils vs. Columbus on 11/25 & Devils vs. Montreal on 11/27 around Thanksgiving.
- Most Common Start Time: 7 PM EDT – for 52 out of 82 games.
- Alberta-BC (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) Road Trip: November 17 – November 22
- Central-Mountain Time Zone Trip (Minnesota, St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona) Road Trip: January 10 – January 16
- California Road Trip (San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim): March 10 – March 14
Now that you know a bit more about the schedule, I want to know your opinion. Is this a better schedule than last season's for the Devils? What about the schedule do you like the most and what about it do you like the least? What dates are you excited for now that they're released? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils' 2015-16 regular season schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.