NHL Teams Who Won’t Like Life in Their New Divisions
Which NHL Teams Are Going to Hate Their New Divisions?
As hockey fans know, the upcoming 2013-14 NHL season is bringing about a huge divisional makeover across the league. Gone is the sixdivision format we’ve been used to seeing for a while now, as teams will now be shifted into four larger groups; Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific.
In the Atlantic division, you’ll find all five teams from last year’s Northeast division: the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ll have new company this year with the additions of the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, the Metropolitan division will consist of the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Out west, we have the Central division made up with the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild. One region over, it’s the Pacific division featuring the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.
For some teams, it’s not quite a vast change in scenery. However, there are a few teams who are hardly looking forward to what lies ahead with their brand new divisional rivals. Indeed, it’ll be a culture shock for some, and it could end up drastically changing the fortunes they’re used to seeing.
Here are a few teams that could be sorely missing their old foes in the NHL’s brand new divisional layout.
Will they enjoy the fact that they won’t have to travel at nearly the same mind-numbing rate? Absolutely. But beyond loving their discounted flight budget, there's not much to like about the Jets’ new divisional setting.
They left the cozy life of the Southeast division, where only the Capitals made the postseason, and enter a division featuring three playoff teams from last year. Oh, and the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks are one of them. The Jets were just a few points shy of the playoffs last season. Something tells me the difference might be a bit wider this time around.
Columbus Blue Jackets
This could go either way. Earlier this week, I wrote that Columbus’ division was a bit friendlier than last year. However, this is contingent on a few things.
Pittsburgh will be a force yet again, and unless Henrik Lundqvist drops off the grid, the Rangers are going to be tough, too. From there, though, there are question marks abound. Will the Flyers be able to rebound from last year’s abysmal campaign? Are the Islanders for real, or was their playoff appearance the result of a flash in the pan?
If the answer is no for both of these questions, the Blue Jackets could reap some benefits. However, if both Philadelphia and New York become threats, things get bleak for Columbus.
Tampa Bay Lightning/Florida Panthers
Take your pick from the two Sunshine State squads. Neither is ready for the shark tank they just got dropped into.
Sure, being a bad team isn’t so difficult when the only real divisional competition you face is Alex Ovechkin. Now? The Bruins made the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit was one win away from knocking the eventual champion Blackhawks out of the postseason. Oh, and Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa all made the playoffs, too.
So, yeah, the Lightning and Panthers are both teams in transition, and said transitions are going to get rocky in a hurry.
Honestly, we could do the entire Southeast if we wanted to. However, no team from the NHL’s lesser division is in for a nightmare quite like the Caps.
It’s no wonder Washington kept making the playoffs year after year. When you play the Panthers and Hurricanes at such a consistent rate, wins just start showing up. But now, instead of dealing with the likes of Tomas Fleischmann and Cam Ward, the Capitals get to see Sidney Crosby and Lundqvist all year long. That ought to make life interesting.
Washington seems to be running low on fuel when it comes to this particular roster and making the playoffs. The fact is, life in a weak division made their postseason berth a formality. Don’t be shocked if this playoff staple is watching from home next year.
This could get ugly -- and fast.
Not only is Vancouver facing a vast change of scenery, they’re doing so at a time when it appears a rebuild is in the very near future.
Yes, they’ll still face their favorite punching bags in Edmonton and Calgary, but with those two comes a slew of playoff contenders. Unless you think swapping the Wild and Avalanche for the Kings and Ducks is an even trade, you know Vancouver is already sweating. Add in the always-formidable Sharks, and new coach John Tortorella’s job got tougher before he even stepped into the arena.
The time of contention for the Canucks is winding short, with their latest postseason debacle signaling the final days of an era in the Pacific Northwest. It certainly looks like this new division could be the deathblow to a team who was competing for a Cup just two years ago.