You may have missed it with the United States playing Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the NHL released its schedule Sunday afternoon. The soon-to-be Arizona Coyotes will have their fair share of challenges as they try and return to the postseason.
Business Is Good
Last season we remarked that the 2013-14 season schedule was very favorable to the Coyotes from a business perspective, with many marquee match-ups coming on weekends when attendance tends to be higher. The schedule makers were kind this year too.
Arizona will play the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the first weekend game of the season on October 11th, and will play the New York Islanders (Nov. 8th), Calgary Flames (Nov. 29th), Boston Bruins (Dec. 6th), and Minnesota Wild (Dec. 13th) on Saturdays during the first half of the season, the time of year when attendance typically lags the most.
A post-Christmas tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers on December 29th rounds out the 2014 portion of the schedule, with weekend games against the Ottawa Senators (Jan. 10th), Detroit Red Wings (Feb. 7th), New York Rangers (Feb. 14th), Montreal Canadiens (Mar. 7th), New Jersey Devils (Mar. 14th), and Pittsburgh Penguins (Mar 21st) as some of the highlights on the home calendar in 2015.
Extended Road Trip
The University of Phoenix Stadium will play host to the 2015 Super Bowl, which means the Coyotes will have to vacate Jobing.com Arena for awhile (in fact, Coyotes' CEO Anthony LeBlanc mentioned after the town hall meeting that the NFL actually rents out Jobing.com Arena that week specifically to block out those dates).
Because of the NFL's need, the schedule makers inserted a six-game homestand (one of two throughout the year) in January, to be immediately followed by an eight-game road trip through Minnesota, Winnipeg, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Columbus.
Although eight straight on the road sounds daunting, there are a couple of reasons why it isn't all that bad. First, the All-Star Break splits the trip into more manageable chunks of three and five games apiece, which means the team could return to Arizona from Chicago before flying out again to Philadelphia at the end of the week. Additionally, only the first two games of that trip, against Minnesota and Winnipeg, are back-to-back. While not ideal, it could be worse.
Pacific Division Pride
The possibility of the Coyotes playing the Dallas Stars for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference made the final two weeks of the regular season last year incredibly exciting, at least until the Coyotes stopped winning games. Brace yourselves Coyotes fans, because it could happen again.
The final five games of the season will all be played against Pacific Division opponents. They will play San Jose away (Apr. 3rd), and again at home immediately afterwards (Apr. 4th). They then will play the Flames in Calgary (Apr. 7th), and the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver (Apr. 9th), before finally returning to Arizona to close out the season against the Anaheim Ducks on April 11th.
As for the Kings, the Coyotes get most of their games against Los Angeles out of the way fairly early. Apart from the October game previously mentioned above, Arizona will play the Kings twice in December (home on December 4th and away on December 20th), before playing the Kings for the last time this season on the road March 16th. Because of the quirks of a seven team division, Arizona will play one less game against LA than they will against everyone else in the division.
Here are a few miscellaneous tidbits about the upcoming season for the Coyotes:
- The season opener is at home against The Artists Formerly Known As the Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets) on October 9th.
- Arizona will play 13 back-to-backs this season.
- The preseason game on September 24th will be played in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, as part of the NHL's Kraft Hockeyville promotion. No, I have no idea where that is.
- Arizona will play 18 home games in 2014, but six of their last nine will be on the road.
- The final Eastern Conference opponent to play in Jobing.com Arena this season will be the Buffalo Sabres on March 30th, just four days after Arizona plays its sole game in Buffalo.
- NBC has not released their national broadcast schedule yet, but the Coyotes will play three times on Hockey Night in Canada and three times on City TV.
There is plenty to be excited about this upcoming season. Tell us in the comment section which games you are looking forward to the most.