If you’re a hockey fan anywhere in the Atlantic Division, this week’s NHL proposed realignment plan doesn’t shock you in the least.
Nothing changes for the Flyers or anyone else in their division. The new format sees the very same Atlantic Division clubs albeit, with Carolina, Washington and Columbus thrown in.
The Flyers have had some great games with the Capitals. What we like here is that for the sake of the Caps and Hurricanes, it kept their rivalry intact.
Columbus? Well, that franchise is teetering. The good news for the Blue Jackets is they can now establish a rivalry with a nearby club in Pittsburgh.
There was a lot of concern about the Penguins being moved into the other division [Central] in the East. There are two divisions in the East and West.
The East has eight clubs per division and the West has seven.
Losing the Penguins, who have become the Flyers No. 1 rival, would have been awful. Recall when the National League took the Pirates out of the NL East and placed them in the Central years ago? That ruined one of baseball’s best rivalries from the 1960s all the way through the 1990s.
The NHLPA and the league’s Board of Governors have their give their stamp of approval on this realignment, but it’s expected to sail through.
The last time the league tried to do this under the old CBA, politics entered the picture. The union felt it was being forced upon them without debate and flatly said "no," until the next CBA came around.
“The last time, I think it was more of ‘why are we doing this,’” said Braydon Coburn, the Flyers’ player representative.
“Geographically, [this] looks like it makes sense. Any time you have an uneven amount of teams in a four-[division] structure, there is going to be some disparities.
“For us, when you look at a seven-team conference [in the West], you say, ‘does that give teams in that conference a little more advantage to make the playoffs?’ I think that was one of the things last time. I think they have tried to address those concerns.”
The playoff format is tricky: The top three teams in each division get berths and the remaining four spots are wild cards. The division winner with the most regular-season points would face the lowest-seeded wild card in the first round.
Now getting back to the Flyers rivalry with Pittsburgh, in case you missed it, CSN’s John Boruk looked at the past five seasons in the NHL, applying this “new” realignment and playoff plan (see story).
Boruk figured out how things would have played out for the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs “if” this proposed realignment had already been in effect.
Based on the Flyers past finishes:
2011-2012: Third in the Atlantic Division; would have played Pittsburgh in the first round (no different);
2010-2011: Second in the Atlantic Division; would have played Pittsburgh in the first round instead of Buffalo;
2009-2010: Second wild-card team, would have played Washington in the first round instead of New Jersey;
2008-2009: First wild-card team, would have played New Jersey in the first round instead of Pittsburgh;
2007-2008: First wild-card team, would have played Pittsburgh in the first round instead of Washington.
So, three of the past five years, the Flyers would have played the Penguins.
Sounds like we’re going to see a lot more of that in the future, no?
Associated Press, Calgary Herald, Sportsnet.ca, and Yahoo! Sports contributed to this report.