January 24 2009 10:00AM
Browsing through TSN yesteryday, I couldn’t help but notice an item on Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis complaining about his team’s travel schedule. The interesting thing about this particular story isn’t that Gillis is complaining, but that the league is doing something about it:
"I think we have a great chance. In fact, we've got a draft in place for about 38 of our road games for next season already, which is unheard of. They made us a number one priority in terms of travel for a variety of reasons. One of them is injury history, crossing borders, and the fact that geographically, we don't have a team within a couple or three hours of us. We feel really good about their understanding now, and that they're prepared to work with us to get a better road schedule in place.”
Apparently, the league’s new-found willingness to accommodate the Canucks stems from a program that the Canucks instituted this season:
Thoughts that changing time-zones and length of road trips took a physical toll have been around for years but now the Canucks have proof. The club took a very close look at their schedule for the 2008-09 season with some interesting results. "When we did the Fatigue Management Program this year, those guys predicted where we would have a real problem," explained Canucks general manager Mike Gillis to Team1040 radio in Vancouver.
I’m not about to go as far as the TSN article does, blaming the Canucks recent six-game losing streak on their travel demands (although I would suggest that Gillis is doing a good job creating a distraction from some of the actual problems with his team, so good on him). Still, travel is undoubtedly a factor.
Many of the fans commenting on the TSN article ridicule Gillis for “whining” and “making excuses”, but all it takes are two functioning brain cells and a map to figure out that the teams in the West, and especially the three Canadian teams have some geography issues. The Oilers have one team within 1000 miles. The Canucks have none. Contrast that with a typical Eastern Conference team, like Philadelphia. The furthest they need to travel within their own conference is to Tampa Bay, just over 1000 miles away. Over an 82-game season, the varying mileages of these teams add up.
Compare the Oilers to the Rangers, for example. The Rangers started their season in Europe, so one might imagine that they have more travel miles than the Oilers. Far from it -- in fact the Edmonton Oilers will log over 15,000 miles more in travel than the Rangers this season. That figure jumps to 20,000 miles when compared to the Islanders. What about Vancouver? Vancouver travels 1,265 miles more than the Oilers over the course of this season.
So, rather than question whether Mike Gillis has something to complain about, perhaps we should be asking whether Steve Tambellini shouldn’t be following his lead.