Talks around the 2020-21 NHL season are starting to heat up. There have been recent reports of a January 13th target date to start a 56-game season, and we’re getting some more clarification on the potential divisions as well.
The Canadian teams are likely going to be in their own division due to travel concerns with COVID-19, so the NHL needs to re-align the divisions for the ‘20-21 season.
Last month, the Flyers were rumored to be in a division with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes. New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and the Washington Capitals. That would keep six of the eight Metropolitan teams together with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in other divisions.
In the latest rumored division re-alignment, the Flyers are with most of their Metropolitan Division foes as well as a few teams from the Atlantic Division.
Not finalized yet, and still subject to change, but the 2020-21 four-division re-alignment currently looks like this according to sources:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 9, 2020
The new “East” (Northeast? MidAtlantic?) division only has one change from the teams listed above. Rather than the Carolina Hurricanes being in the Flyers’ division, they are being replaced by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It only makes sense.
Breaking up the Flyers-Penguins rivalry wasn’t even the biggest problem with last month’s version of the divisions. It included the Hurricanes in a division with teams in the Northeast rather than teams in the south (Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay). Now, the Flyers’ division is localized with the southern-most city being Washington D.C., and the northern-most cities being Buffalo and Boston. With the Canadian teams all being in one division, this makes the most geographical sense for the NHL.
If this is the Flyers’ division for the 2020-21 NHL season, it’s going to be a tough one as it features five of the top seven teams in the Eastern Conference from last season. But let’s focus on the new piece of information: the Penguins in the division instead of the Hurricanes.
The Penguins have more name recognition as a good hockey team around the league than the Hurricanes do, but that could change soon. The two teams are fairly close in terms of talent level in the organization with Carolina on the upswing and Pittsburgh on the downswing. The Penguins didn’t even make the playoffs last year, after all.
Pittsburgh finished with 86 points (40-23-6) in 69 games last season, but were ousted by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, finished just behind the Penguins with 81 points (38-25-5) in 68 games, swept the Rangers in the qualifying round, and lost in five games to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.
The Flyers were able to handle the Hurricanes last year with a 2-0-1 record, while they went 1-1-1 against the Penguins.
Here is how the Flyers fared against the other rumored division opponents:
- Bruins: 2-1-0; 1-0 round robin
- Sabres: 2-0-0
- Devils: 2-1-0
- Islanders: 0-2-1; Lost in seven games
- Rangers: 3-0-0
- Capitals: 3-0-0; 1-0 round robin
A 13-5-2 regular-season record against those seven teams isn’t too shabby. But the Flyers can’t take anything for granted. They’re going to have their work cut out for them with extra games against the Bruins, which are always intense, and you can never count out any of the New York teams. The Sabres and Devils are the teams who will most likely be in the basement of the division, with the Rangers having a fighting chance due to recent lottery luck.
With the Flyers only getting better and the Penguins in risk of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, it’ll be nice if the Orange and Black get to beat up on Pittsburgh a little bit in this division.
No matter how the divisions shake out, it’s going to be nice to get the season underway (hopefully) next month.