Today, the NHL revealed the new names for the recently re-aligned divisions, along with each team's schedule for the 2013-2014 season.
Joining the Flyers in the newly named Metropolitan Division (yes, the Metropolitan Division) are former Atlantic Division foes, the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils, plus the Washington Capitals, Carolina Panthers, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who move to the Eastern Conference from the West.
The Atlantic Division now consists of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings (also moving East), Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottowa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the Western Conference, the new Central Division is now comprised of the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, and Nashville Predators. The new Pacific Division now includes the Los Angeles Kings, Anahiem Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and the Edmonton Oilers.
The realignment was designed to reduce travel times and costs for teams, some of whom played in divisions where the teams were geographically distant from each other. The change also makes it so that all 30 teams will play each other at least once during the season.
In addition, a wild-card system has been added to the playoffs. According to NHL.com,
"The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference -- regardless of division -- based on regular-season points. It will be possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined by regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the conference championship series.
The winners of the conference championships advance to the Stanley Cup Final."
The move to let each of the teams play each other this year, just like in the MLB, will probably be a welcome one to fans of hockey who don't get to see West Coast teams and their players except for the playoffs. There will be more matchups between Original Six teams, which will be interesting. Flyers fans can look forward to seeing some old friends that have moved to the West during the season, particularly when the Kings come to town with former team standouts Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. If the Flyers perform as well as they should, matchups against tough teams Chicago, Los Angeles, Anahiem, San Jose, and Minnesota will provide for even more good hockey.
The new playoff mechanics also look to be favorable for the Flyers. Even if they do not win the division, as long as they get a good amount of points, they can make the playoffs. And, as mentioned, one division could concievably send five teams to the playoffs. It just makes our odds (and, admittedly, everyone else's) better. Which is cool.
What do you guys think of the changes?