As the NHL introduced a drastic realignment plan on Monday, many in the Philadelphia region were asking what it would mean for the Flyers. The NHL will be split into 4 “conferences.” There’s a conference with the Atlantic teams, Northeast teams, Central teams, and Western teams. The Central and West both have 8 teams per conference while the Atlantic and Northeast teams have 7 in their conference.
There are many mixed opinions out there both within the Flyers organization and throughout the region amongst fans and critics. One thing that need not get lost here: It could have been worse. It could have been much worse for the Flyers and there are pros and cons.
The Flyers, along with their rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers were all heavily against drastic realignment that would have seen any of the current Atlantic Division teams move to another division or conference. That was “Priority A” for all of the Atlantic teams was to stick together in the Board of Governors meetings. Their wish was granted because all of the current Atlantic Division teams will remain together and will be joined by the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals will fit in nicely due to their already great rivalry with the Penguins as well as the Rangers and Flyers. The Hurricanes are really the only team without a historical rivalry in the group but you’d have to say everyone made out pretty well.
One thing that has many irked is the proposed playoff format. This format would have the top 4 teams in each “conference” making the playoffs. They would be seeded 1-4 and play each other in the first two rounds. After that, the proposal would likely call for the teams to be re-seeded 1-4. This means that two former East teams could possibly play in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it also ensures the Flyers could not play a divisional opponent in the Conference Finals, which is a bummer to many.
Also under the realignment plan, the Flyers would play each team in their division 6 teams each. As for the rest of the league, they would only play a home and home. That’s where some people are a little ticked as well. The travel is way up and the Flyers will now play the Edmonton Oilers just as much as former rivals the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. Let’s look at the pros and cons from a Flyers perspective.
• The Flyers stay with their traditional rivals the Penguins, Devils, Rangers, etc.
• The Flyers add the Capitals who they’ve had great games with as well as a mini-rivalry the last few years.
• The Flyers can market seeing some of the former Western teams every year in their building such as the Red Wings, Blackhawks, etc.
• There will be much more travel for the Flyers. They are going from having 7 or 8 games in the “west” every season to now having 16. That’s double the amount of travel to the west.
• The playoff scenario doesn’t allow for an in-conference opponent in the new “conference finals” whatever they might be called.
• The Flyers will play teams like the Oilers and Blue Jackets as many times as the Sabres, Bruins, Leafs, and Habs. Former rivals.
The Lack of Balance = Flexibility
As we’ve covered here on The Hockey Writers over the past couple of years there is uncertainty in some of the league’s franchises such as the Phoenix Coyotes. No one knows if the Coyotes will be in Phoenix next season and if they aren’t and ended up in let’s say Quebec, they could easily flip them to the Northeast conference.
One would have to say this drastic realignment is anticipating possible future relocations as well. Sources that I’ve kept in touch with regarding Glendale say it’s “50-50” as to whether the team will stay there next season even though there is an agreement that was supposed to leave it up to the City of Glendale if they wanted to cover the losses in the next 10 years.
More to come on this soon. The is the first domino of many to fall and many issues will likely be tweaked even if the league has to play under the system a couple of years to realize them.