Ever since the dust settled in Jets land and beyond following the official announcement of moving the Atlanta Thrashers to the Keystone Province, there’s been a ton of talk about division realignment for the 2012-13 season. What many have swept under the rug is the upcoming campaign for the newest NHL squad – an 82-game fatigue-ridden adventure.
With four games each in both North Carolina and D.C. as well as eight in Florida thanks to their place in the mainly sunny Southeast Division, the fun begins and ends with plenty of cross-continent trips. Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien and the rest of the boys should have their iPods stocked, Gravol handy and patience at an all-time high.
Winnipeg International Airport (WIA) to Washington Dulles International Airport: 2,507 KM
WIA to Raleigh-Durham International Airport: 2,763 KM
WIA to Tampa International Airport: 3,360 KM
WIA to Miami International Airport: 3,683 KM
According to Travel Math, to fly from Winnipeg to Washington it takes two hours and 20 minutes; Winnipeg to Raleigh two hours and 42 minutes; Winnipeg to Tampa Bay three hours and 24 minutes; and Winnipeg to Miami 3 hours and 47 minutes.
That`s certainly not a short two-hour drive (i.e. Toronto to Buffalo, and vise versa) or 20-minute flight (Edmonton to Calgary, and vise versa).
When looking at the Jets’ schedule for 2011-12, there is one element that sticks right out at you: from November 29 to December 31 they play just two road games in 15 contests. Something’s got to give, right?
It does from late-January to early-February. The Jets travel to North Carolina to duel the ‘Canes on the 23rd of January before facing the Rangers and Flyers of the Northeast Division then heading back down south for two tilts versus the Lightning and Panthers. After Miami, in a string of on-day, off-days, Winnipeg will hit Montreal, Washington and finally Pittsburgh – with a random home game versus Toronto in there somewhere.
Essentially, they’ll be duking it out away from the friendly confines of the MTS Centre for eight out of nine consecutive matches – all of which, aside from the Panthers and Leafs, against quality clubs.
While the Jets are a relatively young and able crew, this exhausting road trip will likely determine whether or not they nab a top eight spot in the Eastern Conference by season’s end.
Claude Noel and his staff will be mentally tested alongside on-ice leaders such as captain Andrew Ladd early in the new year, as a 2-7 or 3-6 trip would have them playing catch-up moving forward down the stretch.
AN EASY RUN, YOU SAY?
As mentioned above, NHL schedulers were a little forgiving of Winnipeg’s inconvenient situation as a Southeast Divison entry calling central Canada home. December is undoubtedly a cozy treat.
Cozier, too, when you examine their opponents during said home stretch:
NOV 29 – Senators
DEC 1 – Coyotes
DEC 3 – Devils
DEC 6 – Bruins
DEC 9 – Hurricanes
DEC 10 – Red Wings
DEC 13 – Wild
DEC 15 – Capitals
DEC 17 – Ducks
DEC 20 – Islanders
DEC 22 – Canadiens
DEC 23 – Penguins
DEC 27 – Avalanche
DEC 29 – Kings
DEC 31 – Maple Leafs
*Italics: Away Game
*Bold: Non-playoff team in 2010-11
SUN BELT ADVANTAGE:
The Lightning and Capitals were at both ends of the Southeast Division’s geographic spectrum last year. To travel from Point A to Point B for each of those squads is 1,707 KM – hardly comparable to the Jets’ closest divisional rival, Washington (2,507 KM).