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Does early road trip success lead to a successful season?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames began their longest road trip of the season on Saturday night, losing by a 4-2 score in Pittsburgh. It’s the first game of a five-game trip that takes them to such other scenic spots as Washington, Buffalo, Columbus and Detroit.
There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the concept of an early road trip allowing teams to gel. But does success on early, long road trips lead to successful seasons? We looked at recent Flames history for some insight.
Generally-speaking, the NHL has been kind enough to give the Flames road trips of four games are longer fairly early in most of their recent seasons. The exception was 2018-19, when they didn’t get a long trip until January. Also, one weird trend we’ve discovered: the NHL just keeps adding trips to Chicago onto whatever trip they’ve got scheduled. A California trip? In 2016, it ended in Chicago. A Florida trip? In 2016 and 2018, ended in Chicago. (The United Center used to host the circus for a couple weeks in November, which meant that the league had to cram home dates into weird spots, and Calgary stopping into Chicago on their way to or from wherever apparently made sense.)
SeasonFirst long tripRoad recordPlayoffs?
2013-141-4-016-21-4No
2014-154-2-022-17-2Yes
2015-161-3-014-24-3No
2016-171-3-021-16-4Yes
2017-183-2-120-15-6No
2018-193-1-024-15-2Yes
2019-202-2-120-14-3Yes*
2020-212-3-011-15-2No
2021-225-0-025-12-4Yes
2022-232-3-118-11-12No
Now, we’ll freely admit that cherry-picking the road of the first long road trip is a gleefully arbitrary measurement. But a team’s road record seems to be pretty important regarding their overall playoff chances – broadly-speaking, winning more than half of their road games gives a team a good shot at being a playoff team – and so looking at the first big trips serve as a bit of a microcosm of how things should go overall on the road.
And generally-speaking, yeah, winning more than half of their games on their first road trips tend to be good indicators of being playoff contenders. Strong performances in 2014-15 and 2021-22 on their long trips seemed to showcase that those editions of the Flames had their games together away from home (and early) and might be teams to reckon with – especially that 2021-22 team.
Meanwhile, aside from that 2016-17 team that sorta got it together after their bad start on the road – they still were only a smidge over .500 on the road overall – bad starts away from home have generally been indicators that the Flames might have some challenges with their seasons as a whole.
A bad road trip won’t necessarily spell doom for a Flames season, but it’s not ideal. A strong road trip is usually an indicator of good things to come in the future.

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