The Toronto Marlies announced their 76-game schedule for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Welcome to a new decade!
The AHL has slowly altered their traditional schedule — one that included many three-in-three’s and harsh travel demands for teams in order to minimize costs — to one that allows time for better development of their most valuable commodity (prospects) and tries to avoid bigger ticket sports events like football in order to maximize ticket sales. The Marlies have seen a nice improvement to the number of days they get at home, but their road trips are still pretty brutal.
Let’s go through the list of changes, focusing on the Toronto Marlies, aka the only franchise that matters. Below is a link to the official schedule for the Toronto Marlies. Below that I’m going to highlight some of the longer homestands, road trips, and the West Coast road trip.
When looking at the schedule I tried to put myself in the mind of the coaching staff and players. I looked for lots of time at home and short travel days that would help extend a typical homestand. I ended up with three major stretches of the season where the Marlies were at home for most, if not all of the time.
November 16th - December 15th
The Marlies get a month (mostly) at home right near the beginning of the season right after a two-week road trip in the first month of the season. During those 30 days, the Marlies have 10 games at Coca-Cola Coliseum, one game at Scotiabank Arena (home game), along with two quick one-day trips to Rochester and one weekday game in Utica, New York.
If they’re lucky with weather, the team shouldn’t spend more than six of the 30 days away from their own homes. Accounting for game days, the Marlies should be able to get close to 13 practice and rest days during this stretch. That’ll be a vital set of day for getting system cohesion together. The team had trouble last season as a result of few practices early on.
During the first of those one-day trips to Rochester, they do have to play on the Friday followed by a Saturday and Sunday weekend stint at home. The AHL has tried to limit three-in-threes this season, but the Marlies still have to deal with five this year (one more than last year). At least for three of them, the Marlies get to sleep in their own beds for the second and third legs.
January 26th - February 26th
The second homestand doesn’t come until the calendar turns to February. The Marlies get most of February at home, minus another couple day trips to Belleville and one Saturday in Laval. The team finishes a two-week long January road trip in Cleveland a week before their next game at home on the 31st. From there, they essentially get two weeks at home with only three games in between.
They will then have a near-identical pair of weeks where they start in Belleville on the Friday and finish the weekend at home. The first weekend is a Saturday Sunday, the second is a Saturday followed by Family Day Monday at Scotiabank Arena. After that, they spend a day in Laval, but get three full days off before a School Day Game against Cleveland at home.
Belleville and Laval trips can be made in one day so the Marlies will likely maximize the number of days they spend working with the development and coaching staff during this time. Lots of players will be either getting ready for the playoffs or a call-up to the Maple Leafs. Trade Deadline Day is right around that time.
Long story short, of the 32 days in this homestand, the Marlies will play nine home games and three road+travel days for about 20 practice or off days. Keefe must be foaming at the mouth for that.
March 15th - April 2nd
The final homestand. It’ll come right before the playoffs and will include seven home games and one road game within the 17 days. The Marlies will get four games in six days at the start of the stretch, but they’ll all be at home. They’ll then get two days off before a day trip to Rochester that gets followed by two days off before another weekend at CCC. When alls said and done, there’s another nine or so practice days right there.
Of the 38 games the Marlies will spend on the road, 15 will be over two major road trips; one at the beginning of the season, and a second right in the middle.
October 26th - November 9th
The first road trip is a little tough, but for a fresh team this should be a really nice bonding experience. It comes six games into the season and doesn’t include any three-in-threes, which is nice. The Marlies will start their trip with a weekend in central New York (Syracuse, Binghamton), followed by a travel-heavy weekend to Belleville and Laval, concluding with a three-in-four starting in Rockford, Illinois and ending in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That last trip is about a five-hour drive.
January 10th - January 25th
Everyone loves the road trip early in the season, but once you get into the dog days of the season, everyone is just tired. On top of being tired — and likely wishing their winter holidays were about four months longer —the Marlies will have to play a three-in-three, followed by three games in four nights, followed by a weekend in Cleveland. It looks quite bleak.
The bright side here is the trip starts in Texas and travels through San Antonio so there will be lots of Sun and no frostbite. It’ll be nice to meet up with the 2018 Calder Cup losers during this time, hopefully they don’t smoke us like they do their meat. The two back-to-backs in Charlotte and Cleveland will be slightly rough, but at least for both sides as the Friday night game gets followed immediately with a 1pm day game for each weekend.
As mentioned above, the Marlies will get to face some teams they haven’t had the chance to in a while. The Marlies will get to play the Texas Stars for the first time since the 2018 Calder Cup Final. The Marlies haven’t played the San Antonio Spurs Rampage since 2014-15. The Grand Rapids Griffins are a team the Marlies haven’t seen in the regular season since 2015-16 — though the two sets of players do face off against each other a lot in NHL prospect tournaments and in the preseason — they’ll meet twice at home and twice on the road this season.
If you want to read more about the AHL’s changes to the schedule, Patrick Williams has a nice thread on Twitter. We don’t get many of the changes he talked about, but the league as a whole did do a lot elsewhere.
Lots of takeaways from this upcoming season's AHL schedule, but one thing is very clear: teams are ditching those 3-in-3 weekends as much as absolutely possible.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) July 10, 2019
They're tough for development, and Sunday games mean going up against the NFL.#AHL
Finally, while writing this article, I took the schedule from the Marlies website and fiddled with it on Google Sheets. You can see a copy of what I worked with at the link below.