The Colorado Avalanche have released their schedule for the 2016-17 regular season. The Avalanche have a ton to prove this year and have their work cut out for them as we enter year four of Patrick Roy’s head coaching reign. Let’s dive in and take a look at the schedule for the Colorado Avalanche.
BREAKING: The 2016-17 #Avs schedule has arrived!
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 21, 2016
The Avalanche will play the Central Division 30 times this season, the Pacific Division 20 times, and Eastern Conference teams the other 32. All of these games are evenly distributed with the exception of the teams in the Pacific Division. There isn’t a massive swing in one way or the other, but the Avalanche do play 12 road games against the Pacific and only eight at home.
Within the Central, the Avalanche will play each of their divisional opponents only five times. The Avalanche will host the Blues, Jets, and Predators three times with only two road games. Conversely, the Avalanche will be visiting the Blackhawks, Wild, and Stars three times while hosting them only twice.
The longest homestand and road trip for the Avalanche will be five games. Though the Avalanche do have a couple other four-game stretches of both, as well.
Back-to-back games are some of the most crucial for all teams. The ability to battle through the tired legs and get points in the standings even when the odds are stacked against you can boost a team into the playoffs. Additionally, taking advantage of an opponent that played the night before is a great way to pad your points total. Every team has to play these, but it is never the same workload for any two teams.
This season, the Colorado Avalanche play 11 back-to-back games. The NHL has done a better job of making sure that the number of times the Avalanche play a rested team on the second half of a back-to-back is not out of hand. This year, the Avalanche will be playing a rested team only five times: St. Louis, Carolina, Arizona, Washington, and Chicago. The other six times the Avalanche play back-to-back, both teams will have played the night before. This will happen against St. Louis twice, Toronto, L.A., the Islanders, and Chicago. Yes, the Avalanche will play St. Louis three times on the tail end of a back-to-back.
On the other side of things, the Avalanche will play games where their opponents are on a back-to-back swing 18 times. The same six games listed above will see both sides on back-to-back games; this means that the Avalanche will play an opponent that played the night before 12 times. Those games will be against Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, Winnipeg three times, both games against Boston, Columbus, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Washington. This means the Avalanche will have a decided physical advantage on their opponents with potentially 24 points in the standings on the line. This will be a huge factor for the Avalanche and their playoff hopes this season.
No team wants to take any stretch of games for granted, but there are certainly some stretches that mean more to the team than others. For the Avalanche, there are three stretches of games that jump out to me. The first 10 games of the year for the Avalanche are going to be brutal. Six of the 10 are on the road, and four of these games are against some of the best of the Eastern Conference. This includes the Stanley Cup champion Penguins and President’s Trophy winning Capitals. Eight of the 10 opponents were in the playoffs last season, the only two exceptions are the Jets and Coyotes. The stretch also includes two back-to-back sets where their opponents will be rested. If the Avalanche can come out of this stretch at, or close to .500, consider that a huge win.
The second stretch of games that pop out to me are also close to the beginning of the season. The month of November is a good month for the Avalanche to establish themselves in a playoff position early in the year, especially if they are able to come out of those first 10 games strong. There are 14 games for the Avalanche in November, and nine will be at home. The Avalanche did not play well at home last season and are being given the opportunity to reverse that trend early in the year. The Avalanche also benefit from playing several teams that did not make the playoffs last season during this stretch. November is a big opportunity for Colorado.
The third stretch is the last seven games of the year. This is another incredibly difficult stretch for the team with several potential implications. Six of the seven games are divisional games, including a back-to-back set for the last two games of the season. 12 of 14 of the final points will be divisional, meaning that the Avalanche can either catapult themselves into a playoff position or crash and burn out. That seventh game is against Washington, but the Avalanche do have the advantage of being rested while the Capitals are finishing a back-to-back stretch. There are definitely some key stretches for the Avalanche in other spots in the season, but these strike me as the most important for the Avalanche.
The 2016-17 season is huge for the Avalanche. The Avalanche should have made the playoffs last season, but flamed out so spectacularly and have nobody to blame but themselves. The Avalanche need to take that next step this season and show that they are ready to be a playoff team.