Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
The unique challenge of a limited schedule
By Ryan Pike2 years ago
Quite often, folks on Twitter send me really good questions. Some are easy to answer in 280 characters or less. Some require a bit more length and nuance.
Earlier this week, I was asked a question related to the Calgary Flames’ limited schedule.
I don’t know for sure that if the Flames were in a non-COVID parallel universe and they were still in their usual division – with Vancouver, Edmonton, San Jose, Arizona, Vegas, Los Angeles and Anaheim – but I do think that the more varied schedule found in the traditional seasons provides more opportunities for a team to reset if things aren’t going well.
In the first 22 games of the 2019-20 season, the Flames played 18 different opponents – and only four teams more than once. Each team they faced had a similarly varied schedule.
Before each game, the Flames video coach and analytics team help pre-scout their opponents. The assistant coaches tweak their special teams and lines, and help the head coach game plan. And following each game, win or lose, the teams go over what went well, then decompress, refocus, and move onto the next opponent.
Last season in mid-February, the Flames had a four game road trip that took them to Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. After each game, the Flames could hit the reset button and look ahead to a new team. This season, much of the time it’s more difficult to reset because they’re playing the same team again. Oh, and the opposition is also prepping and pre-scouting against the Flames, and since they’re only facing six other teams instead of 30, the Flames are always fresh in their minds.
In other words: it’s challenging to get distance from rough outings when you’re facing the same team in rapid succession, something we’ve seen at times when things haven’t gone well for Calgary in the post-season. If you’re feeling good about your game and can make small tweaks to keep the good times rolling, facing Winnipeg over and over again is fine. Heck, it might be welcomed. But if you’re a team that’s having consistency or execution issues, facing the Jets repeatedly can push your challenges to the forefront over and over again, making it tougher to mentally get distance from your miscues and making it difficult to execute the necessary tactical changes to get past them.
Notice how a lot of teams clog up the neutral zone against the Flames – we saw Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver do it repeatedly, which have shifted the Flames into a dump-and-chase team for large swaths of the season – that’s probably a product of those teams having more time and attention to focus on preparing for the Flames and not having to immediately shift to thinking about the Minnesota Wild.
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