With the OIlers going on a long road trip, there are the usual stories about how a long road trip can end a team’s season. There seems to be a theory that a long road trip is somehow harder than a short road trip. This has never really made any sense to me, because it’s not 1970, and teams travel from city to city in chartered planes that are ready to leave when they are, spend their nights in swanky five star hotels and (presumably) eat meals that are approved by a nutritionist.
I wanted to do a quick check on this, so I pulled up the long road trips (7 games+) that teams have endured since 2005-06. There are a total of 60. I looked at how many points per game teams got during the long road trip versus how many points per game they got out of shorter road trips. It turns out that there IS a difference.
On non-long road trip games, teams pull down 1.01 pts/gm. On long road trips, they capture an average of 0.99 pts/gm. Now, that may be a difference but it’s hardly significant – it means that every fifty games of games played on long road trips has cost a single point compared to if those games had all been played on a short road trip. Chicago’s played the most long-road trip games of the last seven years and they’re only at 39. Of course the average Western Conference team has played 15 long road trip games over that period, so Chicago’s only 24 worse than average. Another seven years and you could say that they might reasonably expect to have lost a point. Although, as Gene Principe pointed out in a pun filled spectacular the other night, the Hawks have had a tendency to have to vacate the United Center for Disney on Ice and they’re trying to ensure that doesn’t happen anymore.
The gap between non-long road trip points/game and long road trip points game does grow a little bit if you tighten the definition – if you cut it off at eight games, you get a sample of 17 and 1.05 pts/gm versus 1.00. Nine games gets you a sample of eight and a split of 1.04/0.98. It’s still not much of a gap. I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from of it.
All of which is to say that long road trips aren’t really the killer they’re made out to be. Sometimes teams get hammered on them, just like they do on short road trips, and they make a convenient narrative point. If I was an Oiler, I’d view this road trip as a positive, I think. You have to play those nine road games at some point and you might as well save yourself the extra trip to and from the Edmonton airport that it would take if it was split into a four game and a five game road trip if there’s a negligible impact on results.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org