The Philadelphia Flyers have done the unthinkable, missing the playoffs and disappointing legions of fans across the country. The team swore it won’t happen again, the management promised to make moves to ensure it won’t happen again, but with the NHL‘s realignment happening next year, they shouldn’t make promises they will not be able to keep.
What was once known as the Atlantic Division is going to be merged with half of the Southeast Division and the Columbus Blue Jackets will be added to the fold as well. Unluckily for the Flyers, it isn’t the often terrible Florida Panthers but instead the always-dangerous Washington Capitals and semi-recent Stanley Cup winners Carolina Hurricanes joining the already-stuffed Atlantic Division.
So on top of the always brutal competition in Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, and Rick Nash, you can add in a constant stream of Alexander Ovechkin, the Staal Brothers, and ex-Flyer and current Vezina nominee Sergei Bobrovsky.
The top three teams from each division will enter into the playoffs, squeezing the Flyers even further out if those new division rivals have the kind of seasons they had this year. The new playoff rule about wild cards may help, however, as the the top two teams, regardless of division, will fill the final two playoff spots.
But with plenty of players to re-sign, a growing money problem, an unreliable goaltender, and an aging and fragile blueline, Flyers fans shouldn’t expect a postseason berth next year. Having the #11 pick in this year’s draft may help, but not all players come out of the draft ready for the NHL which may benefit the Flyers in the long run to have another non-playoff season. Another high draft pick, a contract buyout or two, and a flushing of aging players may all add up to a decade of excellence as opposed to a few good seasons surrounded by plenty of bad ones.