• Long Road Trips

    by Tyler Dellow • February 27, 2013 • Hockey • 10 Comments

    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 mc79hockey@gmail.com

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    10 Responses to Long Road Trips

    1. Warren
      February 27, 2013 at

      You know before I read your stats I was thinking that maybe the real long trips might have been an advantage over shorter. Maybe allowing the team to get into a routine of sorts. In the Oils case since they suck hind banana at home maybe it’ll be a good thing!
      Good read, thanks

    2. February 27, 2013 at

      An interesting extension of this would be to see how likely a team was to win the “long” part of the road trip vs the “short” part — ie, the last few games of a long road trip. Do those marginal extra games show a statistically significant difference either way?

    3. February 28, 2013 at

      I would be interested to if the results are any different for the difference between long home stands and short home stands.

      I also wonder if teams that tend to have long road trips all so have long home stands and if the effects of each somewhat offset each other.

    4. Jim
      February 28, 2013 at

      I think you have to look at this as a hidden advantage. The Oilers now have nine games in a row where they might actually play on good ice or, at worst, ice better than their own.

    5. James
      February 28, 2013 at

      Just listened to your interview with ‘Boomer’ on NHL Network Radio XM 92. Excellent information and poised delivery… truly sounded as though you had him on his heels with the validity of your answers.
      Furthermore, your answer to his question regarding you ability to use stat-analysis and step into an advisory role for a GM was perfect – fusing the stats from the unseen with the back-history provided by scouting is EXACTLY what any NHL GM should be doing, IMHO.
      Thanks for the enlightenment from your interview.

      James.

      • Stephan Cooper
        February 28, 2013 at

        I’d be interested to hear that, is it recorded anywhere?

    6. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – February 28, 2013.

    7. February 28, 2013 at

      Yeah, it’s pretty much choose your own narrative.

      The Predators have a long road trip just about every season as Bridgestone Arena hosts the CMA’s in late November/early December (sometime in there), and the team has to get out of town for week or two. Barry Trotz routinely talks it up as his opportunity to mold the team and get them working together early in the season, in a way that maybe you can’t do at home when there are more distractions around.

    8. Oilanderp
      February 28, 2013 at

      I wish *I* could go on a long road-trip.

    9. Brad
      March 2, 2013 at

      I think for a guy like Smyth or N. Schultz, longer road trips are worse, for family reasons. But for Hall and Eberle, they don’ t give a shit. Hall and Ebs might even like it more because they don’t need to worry about groceries and they can leave the house without being hoarded.

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