From the files of “necessity is the mother of invention’’ comes this offering about NHL scheduling in the years to come.
As we know, the pandemic forced the league to completely restructure this season, limiting the schedule to 56 games and going with a complete realignment, featuring intradivision games only.
Some believe the NHL will entertain the notion of going back to some sort of “unbalanced’’ schedule, like there was in years past, when the pandemic winds down to a hopeful close.
While eight games against teams like the Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Penguins and Caps might seem like a bit of an overkill, a lot of fans wouldn’t mind seeing those teams five or six times a year and just playing one game, rather than two, against the Western Conference clubs.
After all, if you’re going to have a division-loaded format for the playoffs, why not carry that rivalry spirit over to the regular season?
There are lots of benefits: Less travel, more intense “four-point’’ games against Eastern Conference foes and greater fan interest when it comes to TV ratings, etc.
General manager Chuck Fletcher says he believes this matter will be discussed at league meetings in the not too distant future.
Fletcher gives the sense the Flyers would be in favor of some sort of northeast corridor-centric structure for scheduling purposes.
“Since I’ve been in the league, we seem to have a little bit of an ebb and flow where at times we emphasize the divisional matchups and then we tried to make sure we play everybody twice,’’ Fletcher said during a media Zoom call.
“There’s been sort of a give and take over the years. In terms of playing the same team back to back and going to a city and playing two road games, I think there’s certainly some elements of that that make a lot of sense from a travel perspective and a cost perspective and a rivalry perspective.’’
Back in the day, the Flyers played New York-based rivals such as the Rangers, Islanders and Devils eight times each from 2005-08 and, heck, they played the Penguins a whopping 10 – 10! – times in their inaugural season (1967-’68)
There is precedent for this. Look at the Phillies. They play the Mets, Nationals, Marlins and Braves 19 times each. That’s 76 games out of av162-game schedule.
A lot of eyes will be on the Flyers’ schedule this season to see how it’s received.
“I’m sure there will be a good debate on that,’’ Fletcher said. “ I’m sure at our spring meeting here that will be something that will be brought up. Everyone will continue to analyze the schedule this year, the impact it has on their team, what they like and don’t like. There should be some good discussion on that as we go forward.’’
Our preference would be one game each against the Western clubs and divvy up the rest against the East.
>Williams should be Hall of Famer
No doubt Justin Williams, who just retired last year, will make the Flyers’ all-time “Ones That Got Away’’ first team.
He would be on a talented young cast which includes Patrick Sharp, Brayden Schenn, Peter Forsberg, Sergey Bobrovsky and Jeff Carter.
Williams was just named special advisor to the Carolina Hurricanes, one of two teams he won a Stanley Cup with (2006-07; plus two others with Los Angeles Kings).
These few numbers alone explain why Williams deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto: He is the all-time Stanley Cup playoffs Game 7 point leader with 15 (seven goals, eight assists) in nine career Game 7s.
Williams’ teams posted an 8-1 record in Game 7s. And he is one of nine players in NHL history to score 100 or more goals and win the Stanley Cup with two different teams.
Think the Flyers would do that Williams to Carolina for Danny Markow trade if they had it to do over again?
Don’t think so.
>Hextall possible candidate for Penguin GM job
Several media outlets have reported former Flyers player and general manager Ron Hextall will be interviewed for their vacant general manager position.
The opening was created by the sudden retirement of Jim Rutherford last week due to “personal reasons.’’
Hextall played parts of 13 seasons in the NHL, most of them with the Flyers. He helped build the Los Angeles Kings’ two Stanley Cup champions as assistant GM to Daryl Sutter. He became Flyers general manager in 2014 and was responsible for drafting many of the players on the current roster. He was let go in November, 2018.
Wouldn’t it be something if Hextall got the job and joined Sidney Crosby as perhaps the Flyers’ most hated rivals? Hextall would have a lot to work with, as several key pieces from the former two-time Stanley Cup champions are still in place.