The problem for Calgary is apparently that the Flames have expectations to pass through everywhere again.
And certainly, logging 55,000-plus miles is an absurd amount. At least it sounds that way.
But is it really that detrimental? Three of the five teams that logged 50k or more last season made the playoffs last season (San Jose, Calgary and Vancouver; Dallas and Phoenix did not), after all. And yeah, two of those three got bounced in the first round, but it doesn’t appear, to me at least, that the mileage suddenly took its toll over the course of a week and a half.
The Sharks, for example, won the President’s Trophy while putting a league-high 56,111 miles worth of red dotted line all over North America before they lost to Anaheim in the first round. You could blame the loss on the mileage, sure. But you could also blame it on the fact that Ryan Getzlaf put in an excellent series (well, he put in an excellent postseason, all things considered), scoring eight points in six games. You could blame it on a team that tended to rely heavily upon players that were north of 30. You could blame it on the Sharks simply being the Sharks and losing in the first round because that’s just what they do. But okay, the mileage could still have had an impact.
The Flames were, as you are well aware, the other playoff team to get bounced in the first round after flying 50,000 or more miles (52,941, actually factually). And knowing the team as intimately as we do, we know that the extra few miles were the least of the team’s concerns. Injuries, no defensive system, a coach with his head so far up his ass that it actually just missed the cut at 49,712 miles traveled, and so forth. They played so remarkably poorly for the latter third of the season that many (read: I) didn’t believe they’d do any better than get steamrolled. That they didn’t was a miracle.
Vancouver, the only playoff team we’re discussing to actually make the second round, did so in a gangbusters style, sweeping St. Louis on the back of the inimitable and immensely enjoyable Alex Burrows, despite the fact that the team flew 52,206 miles in the regular season (fifth-most in the league). But they snuck by the team with, I believe, the most man-games lost to injury of any team in the NHL (projected to be around 465, says Mirtle). But this was a seriously, seriously flawed Vancouver team and as such, a second-round exit was probably the best it could have hoped for headed into the playoffs.
The other two teams to travel over 50,000 miles were, as I said, Dallas (51,541, third-most) and Phoenix (51,233, fourth). So unless it was all the mileage that caused Marty Turco’s absolutely-hideous-from-Day-1 season, and not the recurring, crippling injuries to key players, it’s fair to say that the mileage was, once again, not the cause. Phoenix, of course, wouldn’t have made the playoffs if they’d played 82 in Glendale.
Traveling a lot is a fact of life in the Western Conference. It’s not like these guys are flying coach with screaming babies and guys typing away furiously to put the final touches on a presentation he has to give in Peoria in three hours. Hell, they’re not even flying commercial. They’re never going to face a Planes, Trains and Automobiles-type situation (note to Dion Phaneuf: those aren’t pillows!). It really could be a whole hell of a lot worse, is all I’m saying.
At least Darryl Sutter, whose team has traveled the second-most and now most out of anyone in the NHL, isn’t out there bitching to the league and press about it like some crybabies I can think of.