Despite frequent back-and-forth talk between players and league officials, the NHL recently announced a realignment and consolidation of divisions. The league is now composed of four divisions and two conferences (Eastern and Western), split geographically. The Philadelphia Flyers find themselves with familiar foes in the newly formed Metropolitan Division.
Named for the Metropolitan area the division encompasses, the Flyers will be seeing some familiar faces as well as some less-seen teams. All teams from the Atlantic Division have been moved to the Metropolitan Division, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes have been added as well.
Fortunately, the Flyers rivalries with the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and, to a lesser extent (just kidding), the Pittsburgh Penguins will remain in tact. There remains tremendous potential for new rivalries to form.
When facing the Hurricanes, the Flyers will be pitting their brother duo of Luke Schenn and Brayden Schenn against the Hurricanes’ brother trio of Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jared Staal. If the Hurricanes can manage to acquire fourth brother Marc Staal from the Rangers, match-ups between the Flyers and Hurricanes would serve as an absolute field day for NBC announcer Doc Emrick.
The Blue Jackets are a team that is in the processing of acquiring and building talent. Fortunately for Blue Jackets fans, they’ve acquired a dominant goaltender in 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, the 2012-13 Vezina Trophy winner for most talented goaltender. Once highly touted in Philadelphia, the Flyers traded Bobrovsky to the Blue Jackets in June of 2012, establishing Ilya Bryzgalov as their starting goaltender.
Oh how things change.
As we now know, Bryzgalov is no longer a Flyer, amnestied and destined to play somewhere else, possibly in Europe. Who will be replacing Bryzgalov? None other than Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets’ goalie who backed up Bobrovsky during much of the 2012-13 season.
Finally, we have the Capitals. Both fan bases are spirited, and Flyers fans love to berate opposing superstars. Alexander Ovechkin is no exception. During the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers and Capitals fought in a gritty seven-game series, with the Flyers ultimately winning Game 7 in overtime. All the pieces are in place for the Flyers-Capitals rivalry to become particularly noteworthy and vitriolic.
While some ridicule the realignment (I’m no fan of the name Metropolitan), the Flyers are fortunate to continue their notorious rivalries. They’ve been given an opportunity to establish a few new ones as well, and all hockey fans should embrace that.