Earlier today, the National Hockey League, and by extension the New Jersey Devils, released their regular season schedule for the 2016-17 season. Along with 29 other teams, the Devils have their full schedule up at their website. There are no changes to the overall format of 82 games with 41 at home, 41 on the road, 30 within their division, and everybody playing each other twice and at least once in their building. It starts on October 13 in Sunrise, Florida, the Rock opens back up for hockey that counts on October 18 against the Ducks, the Devils will have their home closer (likely their home closer, if you want to be technical) on April 8 against the Isles, and the Devils will see their regular season end in Detroit on April 9.
There is one new wrinkle to the schedule: a break. Every team gets a break in the schedule between January and February; the Devils have theirs in February between dates on February 6 and February 12. Call it a bye week, even though it's five days. If I recall correctly, this is a part of the Contract Bargaining Agreement and it kicks in this season. If you throw in All Star Weekend (January 27 - 30, 2017), then there are two that condense the schedule a bit for everyone. But everyone gets that. The general structure is the same. However, that is not as interesting as the details. There are also some other changes from last year's schedule that's specific to the Devils. Let's dive in and breakdown the new 2016-17 Devils schedule to find out what's coming up this Fall.
The Schedule - By Month
|Month||Total GP||Home GP||Away GP||vs Metro||vs Atl.||vs West||Back to Back|
The Devils organization has preferred to load up on road games in the first half of the season as to minimize the effect of football on attendance. In total, there are 22 road games from October through December and 19 from January through April. That's not really much of a backload. More so given that October has more home games than not. Yet, it is very clear that November and December are road-heavy months. In total contrast, the home games pick up a bit in January, March, and especially in February. I can't recall off the top of my head a more skewed month than February's nine home games to two road games in prior schedules. That was a standout. I will point out that the longest homestand is five games and it will last from February 6 through to February 18. There are three road trips that last four games each; both include trips through California (11/15 - 11/21) and western Canada (1/12 - 1/17) with the third being a bit more local (12/11 - 12/18 - at NYR, at St. Louis, at Ottawa, at NYR).
In terms of opponents, the Devils won't see any Metropolitan Division opponents until November. Even then, the rivalry games will come later. The Devils won't see Our Hated Rivals until December 11 and the Second Rate Rivals won't be on the other end of the rink until December 22. Speaking of Philly, the Devils will have five games against them and Pittsburgh in this season with four games against all other Metropolitan Division opponents. The Devils will become a little more familiar with the Keystone State squads in this coming season, mostly in 2017. By contrast, the 28 total games against the Western Conference runs from October 18, the home opener against Anaheim, through to March 26, a Sunday matinee against Dallas. The California road trip will take place in November and it actually starts in Dallas before continuing to all three opponents from November 12 through November 21. The Western Canada trip is included in a four game road trip, it runs from January 12 through to January 17, and it'll end in Minnesota. The Atlantic Division, well, they're scattered throughout the season, including the Devils' last game of the season at the Joe Lewis Arena against Detroit. Yes, the Devils will close out the Joe for the regular season (and depending on what Detroit does, maybe they will be the closers altogether). Note that December and March are notably heavy on the inter-division games.
The back-to-backs will definitely be a factor in this season. Last season, the Devils were fortunate to only have twelve. That was a respite from several seasons of the Devils getting many of them to account for their shorter travel schedule. They are back to eighteen this season with at least one in every month. It's actually a bigger deal when we look at other aspects of the schedule, so I'll get to it in a little bit.
The Schedule - By Day
|October||2 H||2 A||1 H||2 H, 1 A|
|November||1 A||1 A||1 H, 2 A||1 H||2 A||1 H, 1 A||1 H, 3 A|
|December||2 A||3 H||1 H, 4 A||1 H, 1 A||1 H, 2 A|
|January||1 A||2 H||1 H, 3 A||1 H, 1 A||2 H, 1 A||1 H, 1 A|
|February||1 H, 1 A||2 H||2 H||1 H||1 H||2 H, 1 A|
|March||3 H||2 H , 1 A||1 H, 3 A||2 A||1 H, 2 A|
|April||1 A||1 H||1 H||1 H, 1 A|
|Total||4 H, 6 A||4 H, 1 A||12 H, 6 A||1 H||5 H, 12 A||6 H, 5 A||9 H, 11 A|
By day, you can pretty much make your plans on Wednesdays should you want to maximize your Devils viewing. There is one lone Wednesday game all season: a home game against Toronto on November 23. I wonder if it will get national coverage in the U.S. instead of likely just in Canada? We'll see. In any case, the Devils will mostly play on Saturdays with twenty total games followed by eighteen Tuesday games, and seventeen Thursday games. So keep those Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays cleared up for the coming season.
Strangely, they will play more home games on Tuesdays than any other day of the week and Mondays are particularly home-heavy. I do not think that's going to be good for business. Given that the four Monday home games are against Boston (1/2), Florida (1/9), Buffalo (2/6), and Montreal (2/27), I don't think the crowds will be all that good. Likewise, some of these twelve Tuesday home games are going to be pretty tough to sell. Especially if the team is going to be the re-building squad as they are.
In putting together this breakdown by the day of the week, I noticed another wrinkle specific to the Devils' schedule. All six of their home games on Friday will start at 7:30 PM EST. I'm wondering what the rationale is for that change in time. I know plenty of people don't arrive to most games that start 7 PM EST until 7:15 or 7:30 due to traffic and train schedules. Would this help them out? Maybe. But there will still be plenty of traffic for those leaving by car after the game and it'll make getting to the train station more of an issue. I know for me that a 7:30 PM EST start means the game will end around 10 PM - and there's a good chance I'll miss my train and get to wait an hour. That becomes definite if the game runs long and/or it goes beyond regulation. That's my issue, I wonder if it'll be enough of an issue for others - maybe enough to not want to attend? We'll see.
Speaking of times, those of you who like weekend games to start before 7 PM EST, well, you have a few games to look out for. Out of the thirteen Saturday and Sunday home games in this coming season, seven will take place before the common 7 PM time. The Saturday home dates are December 31 against Washington, which will take place at 1 PM; February 25 against Our Hated Rivals, which starts at 5 PM; and April 8 against the Islanders, which starts at 6. The Sunday dates are all in February and March: San Jose at 12:30 on 2/12, Columbus at 5 PM on 3/5, Columbus at 1 PM on 3/19, and Dallas at 5 PM on 3/26. Is that an improvement? Technically, yes, there were six home games starting before 7 PM last season. You'll just have to wait until the latter half of the season for most of them, New Year's Eve notwithstanding.
The Back to Back Schedule
Eighteen back-to-backs. That's 36 games, or just under 44% of the whole season, that will be a part of a set of two straight nights. Here's the full list of those. Games in bold are within the Metropolitan Division.
|B2B||B2B G1 Team||B2B G1 Date||B2B G1 Day||B2B G2 Team||B2B G2 Date||B2B G2 Day|
|1||vs. Chicago||10/28/2016||Friday||vs. Tampa Bay||10/29/2016||Saturday|
|2||@ Tampa Bay||11/5/2016||Saturday||@ Carolina||11/6/2016||Sunday|
|3||@ Buffalo||11/11/2016||Friday||vs. Buffalo||11/12/2016||Saturday|
|4||vs. Detroit||11/25/2016||Friday||@ Pittsburgh||11/26/2016||Saturday|
|5||@ Montreal||12/8/2016||Thursday||vs. St. Louis||12/9/2016||Friday|
|6||@ Ottawa||12/17/2016||Saturday||@ NYR||12/18/2016||Sunday|
|7||vs. Philadelphia||12/22/2016||Thursday||@ Pittsburgh||12/23/2016||Friday|
|8||vs. Boston||1/2/2017||Monday||@ Carolina||1/3/2017||Tuesday|
|9||vs. Toronto||1/6/2017||Friday||vs. Edmonton||1/7/2017||Saturday|
|10||@ Edmonton||1/12/2017||Thursday||@ Calgary||1/13/2017||Friday|
|11||vs. Montreal||1/20/2017||Friday||@ Philadelphia||1/21/2017||Saturday|
|12||vs. Calgary||2/3/2017||Friday||@ Columbus||2/4/2017||Saturday|
|13||vs. NY Islanders||2/18/2017||Saturday||@ NY Islanders||2/19/2017||Sunday|
|14||@ Boston||3/4/2017||Saturday||vs. Columbus||3/5/2017||Sunday|
|15||vs. Philadelphia||3/16/2017||Thursday||@ Pittsburgh||3/17/2017||Friday|
|16||vs. Carolina||3/25/2017||Saturday||vs. Dallas||3/26/2017||Sunday|
|17||@ NY Islanders||3/31/2017||Friday||@ Philadelphia||4/1/2017||Saturday|
|18||vs. NY Islanders||4/8/2017||Saturday||@ Detroit||4/9/2017||Sunday|
This is a pretty crazy run down of games. Here's some not-so-fun facts about it. All four games against the Islanders are a part of a back-to-back set with two in a home-and-home set in February. Four out of five games against the Flyers this season are a part of a back-to-back set. Three out of their four games against the Hurricanes are a part of a back-to-back set. Three out of their five games with Pittsburgh will be a part of a back-to-back set with two of those coming after a game with Philadelphia. In total, seventeen of their thirty games in the Metropolitan Division will be a part of a back-to-back set with four sets comprising of an inter-division opponent on both nights and another seven sets ending with a game within the Metro. In fact, the only team in the division that isn't a part of two straight nights for the Devils is Washington. As if games within the division won't be tough enough, that will be a factor.
The biggest not-so-fun fact that are the days of when these back-to-backs take place. All eleven games that the Devils will play on Fridays this season will be a part of one. Seven of them will start a back to back set, four of them will end a set. Thirteen of their twenty Saturday games this season will also be a part of a back-to-back, with six of their ten Sunday dates finishing those back-to-backs up. The one odd duck is a Monday-Tuesday set that begins the 2017 calendar year for the Devils' play. In any case, those who can only make it out to those games at the end of the week or on the weekend will likely see a Devils team that has to maintain their fatigue for another game the next night and/or suffer somewhat from it.
As a post-script: The Devils won't have any back-to-backs in their California trip, but they will have a back-to-back in Alberta (Edmonton-Calgary) when they go on their Western Canada trip. Lastly, the team starts the 2017 portion of their season with a set and ends their 2016-17 season with a set.
General Thoughts & Your Take
2016-17 features more back-to-backs, the away games are loaded into November and December but not in a way that they are notably backloaded on the schedule, most of the home games are on Tuesday nights, and the end of week and weekend games are included in the majority of the teams' eighteen back-to-back sets. My main takeaway is that the schedule is not doing the Devils a lot of favors with respect to fatigue and perhaps even business. Then again, this is a rebuilding team so that may be moot - or perhaps a benefit if you want the Devils to do a better job at not succeeding than last season. That being said, if you're all about wanting to come visit the Rock, check out games against rivals, and try to make the most of the schedule, then keep your Tuesdays open along with the weekend and plan to come in the 2017 part of the season - especially in February, five day break aside.
As a last point
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? (April 6 seems like a good day to watch my favorite hockey team
job to play the Pens as I turn 34.) Do you think making all six Friday home games start at 7:30 PM makes sense? How many sellouts do you think the Devils will get? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils' 2016-17 regular season schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.