The NHL released the 2013-14 schedule on Friday along with the new divisions under the league’s realignment. New rivalries will evolve as teams that have not usually faced each other in the past will face off much more in the division-focused season ahead. The realignment has also included shifts for the Red Wings and Blue Jackets from the West to East Conference. What are getting the most attention though are the new division names that have resulted from the NHL realignment. The Western Conference will be split into two seven-team divisions: Pacific and Central, while the Eastern Conference will be split into two eight-team divisions: Atlantic and Metropolitan. One of these things is not like the others, and that oddball Metropolitan division will include the Flyers. So yes, a “2013-2014 Metropolitan Division Champions” banner could be hanging soon in the Wells Fargo Center rafters. Although a great feat for our Broad Street Bullies, the division name is a little bizarre.
Three of the four new division names are geographically descriptive and used previously in the six-division alignment. However, the fourth division has a unique name that does not quite fit in with the rest. While the Pacific, Central, and Atlantic divisions coincide roughly to geographical regions where most its teams call home, Metropolitan, can be used to describe any large city that hosts a hockey team and does not do a great job of indicating which teams are including in that division. The geographical-based division names were also somewhat unreasonable from the beginning. With division teams being sprawled down coastlines, does it really make sense to try to group them into regional division names? This is apparently where the NHL had the most difficulty on the Eastern Conference side. The league supposedly decided to use Atlantic as a catch-all for the division that includes teams from as North as Canada as well as two teams from Florida. Then, they had to rename what was the Atlantic division, and they decided on Metropolitan. What’s most crazy about this all is that all the previous Atlantic division teams are still together, but not under the same name!
NHL fans have questioned why the league has not returned to division names of former hockey greats like Norris, Patrick, Adams, and Smythe. The commissioner has said that although that would be a tremendous honor to the four players whose names are chosen, it would be difficult for those players whose names would not be used as a division name. However, others have pointed out that Metropolitan could in fact be in honor of Glen Metropolit, but I don’t think the league thought of that. I can understand the theory behind not using player names, but I do not think the geographical region theory is much better. Deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, stated that the geographical names made it “easier for fans to follow.” First of all, I don’t think “Metropolitan” is a great descriptor of which geographical region its teams are from. A number of teams’ cities in other divisions could also be considered metropolitan. Additionally, how does keeping all the previous Atlantic division teams together, but under a different name make it easy for fans to follow? What’s even worse is that the league didn’t throw out the Atlantic division name altogether, they just changed who plays in that division.
Strange name aside, what does the new division alignment mean for playoff hockey? Well, the playoffs as well as the regular season schedule will focus much more on division play. Western Conference teams will play 29 division games and Eastern Conference teams will play 30 division games. The top three teams from each division will automatically make the playoffs with the last four remaining teams being the top two from each conference, regardless of division. In reality, this could mean five teams from one division could make the playoffs while another division only has three teams representing them. Let’s just hope that the Flyers will be one of the teams representing their new division, even if it is called Metropolitan.
The new division breakdowns:
Pacific: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, and Anaheim Ducks
Central: Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues
Atlantic: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Detriot Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightening
Metropolitan: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and Columbus Blue Jackets
Opening night Philadelphia Flyers tickets begin at just $60, according to ABC tickets. If you’re looking to see the Flyers play against new division rival Washington in the preseason, all you’ll need is $20 to grab a seat at the Wells Fargo Center.