Once the NHL agreed to allow players to go play in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the league's schedules for all thirty teams were announced on Friday. Re-alignment was already known and the new division the New Jersey Devils will play in is called the Metropolitan Division. It's not a great name but it's a division name, they just have to differentiate one from the other. I do like it more than the hockey hipsters who want it to be named after Lester Patrick for some dumb reason.
My complaints about division names aside, the Devils will play 30 games within the eight-team division, 24 games against the other eight-team division in the East (the Atlantic), and 28 games against the Western Conference. In theory, it'll be nice to see the Devils play every other team in the league twice. In practice, the Devils are losing games against rivals that are good for attendance and passion to play more against in division teams without any "heat" (e.g. Columbus) or any commanding interest (e.g. Calgary). Attendance looked great at the Rock in a shortened, East-only schedule; I suspect it'll fall in 2013-14, possibly by design of the schedule.
Regardless, it is what it is, so here's a few charts breaking down the Devils' schedule at NHL.com. Here's a monthly breakdown of various types of games.
The Devils will start this season heavy on the road games. Right after their home opener on October 4 against the Islanders, the team will embark on a five-game road trip across Canada. In November, the Devils have two weeks of three-game road trips. The first starts in Minnesota on November 3 and then goes to Philly and Toronto on consecutive days. The second is really three games in four nights in California. It begins with a back-to-back with Anaheim and Los Angeles on November 20 and 21, followed by San Jose on November 23. December is evenly split, but does have one stretch of three road games against New York, Columbus, and Pittsburgh on December 7, 10, and 13. January continues an imbalance with one four-game road trip (Toronto, Montreal, Colorado, and Phoenix from January 12-18) and a three-game-in-four-nights road trip (St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville) after the "home game" at Yankee Stadium. The Devils do get more home games in February, March, and April to balance things out and only have one road trip between those three months: March 11-15 at Philly, Florida, and Tampa Bay. But early on, the Devils will have to show up to play regularly on someone else's rink.
You may have noticed in the prior description that the Devils will play several back-to-back games. It's more than just several, to be exact. The Devils get to "enjoy" consecutive games 22 times this season. Over half of their season will be played in that way. Every month has at least one. This shouldn't be that surprising since the league tends to schedule teams that don't travel a lot to play in games repeatedly. They've done this to the Devils. Combine this with the fact that the league is taking three weeks off in February for the Olympics and so the schedule is even more crammed with games. Those who want to see a split in responsibilities or just like a lot of games in a short amount of time between Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider will like this. I can almost start penciling Brodeur in for about 25-30 games, mostly in these games. Those who want to see a not-so-fatigued team play for points or write detailed recaps for most games will not. Get ready for plenty of these at the end of the week, too. From November 29 to January 4, the Devils will have a Friday-Saturday back-to-back set for six straight weeks and all of them are home-and-away sets. Also, most of the 22 sets are split between one road and one home game. The Devils only have two sets where the Devils stay at the Rock and five where both games are road games. Not only will the Devils have to endure games in succession, but they'll often have to travel for it.
In terms of national television coverage, there's currently twelve listed for expanded coverage. Granted, three of them are games against Montreal, which will be on RDS. Six of the twelve NBC Sports Network and some of them are just weird. I don't mean to complain about the Devils being on national TV, because I understand that's a good thing in general. Still, some of the selections are head-scratchers. Why would they pick up Tuesday, October 29 when the Devils host Tampa Bay; Monday, March 2 when the Avalanche come to the Rock; or Monday, March 31 when Florida comes to Newark? I suppose the network sees something in those match-ups that I don't. By the way, the Devils are set for exactly one game on NBC right now: the January 26 game at Yankee Stadium against Our Hated Rivals. It's a 12:30 PM start time too, so get up for that one.
As far as what days of the week you want to keep clear to maximize Devils viewing, you'll want to keep your Friday and Saturday nights free:
That's right, nearly half of the Devils' season will take place on Devils will only not play on six Saturdays throughout the season. Almost all of those 37 games are at night too, with the exception of March 1 at the Islanders, which is at 1 PM EST. Additionally, the Devils will mostly play this season at night. They only have five games starting before 7 PM EST: Tuesday, December 31 against the Penguins (1 PM), the Yankee Stadium Game on January 26 (12:30 PM), March 1 at Long Island (1 PM), March 2 hosting San Jose is a Sunday matinee (3 PM), and the last game of the season, Sunday April 13 against Boston (3 PM). Going back to the days themselves, if you have important things to plan, then you're likely better off setting them up on Wednesday, Monday, or Sunday, the three least frequently played days on the 2013-14 Devils schedule.
Incidentally, here's a breakdown by days for home games only, in case you're wondering when you'll want to go to games:
I'm a little surprised the Devils only get to play eight of their twenty Saturday games at home, but getting ten of their seventeen Friday games should make up for it. Curiously, they'll have none in March, their largest month for home games. The schedule is built up at that end of the week, hoping to draw bigger crowds due to it being at the end of the traditional work week. Hopefully, it'll bear out. The Devils also should benefit from only one home game on Sunday during football season. That's kinder to the local fanbase, and the one in January is in the Bronx. That aside, this is more reason to plan things for Wednesdays and Mondays because the Devils won't be home all that much. Ditto for Tuesdays and Thursdays to a lesser extent as the Devils will play more road games on those days than home games.
Finally, there are some notable days you can circle on your calender right now as being games to check out either live or on TV. Here's a short list:
- Games against Our Hated Rivals: October 19 vs. NY (Saturday), November 12 at NY (Tuesday), December 7 at NY (Saturday), January 26 at Yankee Stadium (Sunday), March 22 vs. NY (Saturday)
- Games against the Second Rate Rivals: November 2 vs. Philly (Saturday), November 7 at Philly (Thursday), January 7 vs. Philly (Tuesday), and March 11 at Philly (Tuesday)
- Nights to Laugh at David Clarkson and His Big Contract: November 8 at the Air Canada Center (Friday), January 12 at the Air Canada Center (Sunday), and March 23 at the Rock (Sunday).
- Nights to Boo Zach Parise Every Time He Has the Puck: November 3 in St. Paul, Minnesota (Sunday), March 20 in Newark, New Jersey (Thursday)
- The Home Game Against Edmonton Very Few People Want: February 7, 2014, Friday night.
- Nights to See the Defending Champions: December 23 in Chicago, January 3 in Newark.
- Nights to Thank Them for Cory Schneider: October 8 if you're in the Vancouver area; October 24 if you're in the Newark, New Jersey area.
- The First One: October 3 at Pittsburgh.
- The Home Opener: October 4 against the Islanders, a Friday night.
- The Closer: April 13 against the Bruins on a Sunday afternoon
What do you make of the Devils' 2013-14 schedule? How many games will you be going to? Which ones are you most interested in right now? Once pricing is up for the games, I'll try to sort out the ticket prices for this coming season. Please leave your thoughts and other findings from the 2013-14 Devils schedule.