|Stevens talks about the changing schedule format and Saturday's Dallas game: FlyersTV |
(Voorhees, NJ) – The NHL on Thursday night announced that it would change its schedule format
in time for the beginning of the 2008-09 season.
For the past three seasons, the NHL has emphasized division rivalries which meant eight games apiece against the other four teams in the Atlantic for Philadelphia. Next season that number will be cut to six games against the Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Penguins and the number of inter-conference games will increase. Every team in the league will face one another at least once during the regular season.
The new schedule was supported wholeheartedly by the Flyers on Friday morning after their practice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone
“I think it’s better,” said Derian Hatcher. “The teams in the East I think will notice it more than the teams in the West. The teams in the West, their closest games are a two-hour flight so it probably won’t be that big of a deal. For the teams out East that are used to train rides or bus rides, it will be a little bit more [travel], but I think it’s a good idea.”
|Jason Smith and the Flyers, who won in Vancouver earlier this season, could be back there for a game as soon as next year. (Getty Images) |
The eight games against division rivals are too much, said Hatcher.
“We play the Devils twice in preseason so that’s 10 times,” he explained. “I think they thought it was going to create rivalries, but I think when you play a team that many times it actually takes away from it a little bit.”Danny Briere
agreed that a couple less games against division teams and more against the Western Conference is good for players and fans alike.
“It’s great for the players and I think it’s great for the fans too to see different teams,” said Briere. “We’re still going to play six games against the [division] teams. It’s only two games less than everybody in our division, but it’s going to help the [rivalries].”
Goaltender Martin Biron thinks the change makes sense for another reason altogether. Currently the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs, meaning that a team in a tough division, like the Flyers in this year’s Atlantic, are more hard pressed to make the postseason than a club that plays in a weaker division within the conference.
“If it was back to the top four teams in your division that would make the playoffs, it would make sense, but now you’re battling everybody in the conference,” said Biron. “If you have a strong division, it’s a little tougher to get to the playoffs. Now, with six, it’s going to keep those rivalries there and we’ll get to see everybody.”
John Stevens is not against how the schedule is now, but also sees the benefit of playing more games outside the division. According to Stevens, it will allow for the stronger clubs to get more of a cushion on the weaker teams. Currently, the first-place Flyers are just eight points ahead of the last-place Penguins in the Atlantic Division.
“If you look at the way it is right now, our division kind of moves along like a big block because everybody’s always playing each other,” said Stevens. “Some nights one team gets a point and the other team gets two, and we just seem to all move along together.
“When you play more games outside your conference and your division, you can get separation and get points when other teams don’t get any. I’m fine with how it is now, but I certainly see the positives and am fine with the change.”