PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 07: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins exchanges words with Braydon Coburn #5 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center on October 7 2010 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NHL realignment is here, as is a new playoff system, and there are going to be a lot of changes to deal with come next season. We don't yet know the name of our new division/conference, but for now, we're just calling it the Patrick. We'll just force it on the league.
So let's answer all the questions.
The Flyers will play six games against their intra-conference opponents: the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. Three will be at home, three on the road. That's 36 of 82 games.
The rest will be filled out with games against the other 23 teams in the league. Each team will visit the Wells Fargo Center once per season, and the Flyers will visit each of those teams once per season as well. 23 teams, two games vs. each equals 46 games. There's your 82 game schedule.
Yes, this means the Flyers will only play teams like Boston, Buffalo, Montreal and Toronto twice a season. That sort of sucks. But I don't know. Personally speaking, I love the regional rivalries we have in the mid-Atlantic, and more games against them make me really, really excited.
Think about it like baseball: How awesome are NL East games in comparison to just run-of-the-mill games against Cincinnati or whatever? We know, even in April and May during baseball season, that those games mean something extra. It'll be the same thing in hockey, except even more pronounced considering
Winning your division means something now, but winning your conference is going to mean so much more. Here's the format: The top four teams in each conference make the postseason, and the first two rounds are played out until we get four conference champions.
Those four champions will meet in a Final Four round, where they'll battle to ultimately determine a Cup Finalist.
Yes, this means it will be harder to make it to the postseason. There might be a season where the Flyers miss the playoffs, especially as the Islanders continue to grow and will eventually become a legitimate threat. The Rangers, Penguins, Capitals and Devils are all perennial contenders. We might reside in the toughest conference in hockey.
But you know what? Who cares? Yes, it'll be harder to make the playoffs. And once we get there, we'll have to go through two teams from our own conference before getting a shot at the Cup. But think about how much more importance this places on intra-conference rivalry games during the regular season.
We might not have the same excitement at the end of the season, when a bunch of teams are battling for the bottom spots in the Eastern and Western Conference playoff pictures, but I think that excitement will be stretched across the entire season with intra-conference games that mean a whole lot more.
Besides, if the Flyers can't beat the Capitals, Penguins, Rangers and Devils in the regular season, they don't really deserve to be in the playoffs, do they?
The Flyers will actually have some of the easiest travel in the NHL -- if not the easiest -- according to numbers run by Dirk Hoag over at On the Forecheck. Nothing to complain about there.