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What NHL Realignment Means For The Flyers

5 Dec

The Flyers already have a pretty good rivalry with the Washington Capitals, but now the NHL has made it official and just thrown them in the same division. As part of the NHL’s radical realignment program, the Flyers will add the Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes as divisional opponents starting next season. The league announced a four-Conference alignment format that was authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman, pending input from the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

Although the new proposal doesn’t use the terms “Eastern” or “Western” the teams that are geographically in the west will be divided up into two eight-team divisions with the east comprised of two seven-team divisions. Under this format, every team will have a home-and-home with non-conference teams.

In seven-team conferences, the divisional foes will play six times, like they do now. In the eight-team conferences, teams would play each other five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. That will alternate every year.

The playoffs will take the top four seeds in each division where the No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed, the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed. The four conference champions will play in the third round, but it’s unclear if they will be re-seeded or if it will be determined by geographical location. The remaining teams obviously play in the Stanley Cup Final.

Below is the new look…

Conference A Conference B Conference C Conference D
Anaheim Ducks Chicago Blackhawks Boston Bruins Carolina Hurricanes
Calgary Flames Columbus Blue Jackets Buffalo Sabres New Jersey Devils
Colorado Avalanche Dallas Stars Florida Panthers New York Islanders
Edmonton Oilers Detroit Red Wings Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers
Los Angeles Kings Minnesota Wild Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers
Phoenix Coyotes Nashville Predators Tampa Bay Lightning Pittsburgh Penguins
San Jose Sharks St. Louis Blues Toronto Maple Leafs Washington Capitals
Vancouver Canucks Winnipeg Jets

According to TSN, the voting was 26-4, but the league only needed 20 teams to sign off on it. If the new division for the Flyers looks familiar, it should. Aside from the addition of the Hurricanes, it is identical to the Patrick Division from 1982–1993 when the Colorado Rockies moved to East Rutherford and became the Devils.

What this means for the Flyers isn’t much change from the division standpoint. Playing every team at least once on the road means a little more travel, which was a concern of a lot of teams that are currently in the Eastern Conference according to multiple reports. However, apparently none of this matters to Peter Laviolette.

“Here’s what’s going to happen for me,” said Laviolette after practice on Monday. “Somebody is eventually going to come down and put a piece of paper on my desk and say this is your division, and I’m going to say, ‘OK, that’s great.’ That’s how it’s going to work. Something is going to come down and it’ll get sorted out and we’ll figure it out.”

He did offer, however, that he is a fan of playing divisional opponents six times, not eight as it had been a few years ago.

“Eight gets to be a little bit much, I think,” said Laviolette. “That’s a lot of games, the same teams, it’s nice to play the Bruins or if you go out west it’s nice to play Detroit. I think when you put eight games in your division, that’s when you maybe see Detroit once a year. The traffic’s tough, but it’s also nice to get a mix in there.”

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Claude Giroux Not Concerned With The Points

5 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — Claude Giroux was sitting at the top of the NHL scoring leaderboard, tied with Phil Kessel heading into Monday night’s action. He knows this. He looks at the standings occasionally, but the challenge isn’t scoring more goals or racking up assists. It’s to not pay attention.

“I think anyone would like to win that,” said Giroux who has 15 goals and 17 assists in 25 games. “It’s only 25 games into the season; there’s a lot of hockey left to play. I’ve got other things to worry about.”

But it’s significant in team history because the last Flyer to lead the NHL in points after 25-plus games was Eric Lindros, who in the 1998-99 season was tied for the lead with 43 points after 33 games. He was tied with Jaromir Jagr who ironically has helped Giroux get a good number of his points this year. He was out for a few games with a groin injury, but Giroux is happy to have him back.

“It helps a lot,” said Giroux. “Obviously he’s got a great shot. He means a lot to this team. To be able to have him in the lineup obviously helps a lot.’’

Now, it seems that Giroux is filling in well to the spot that Jagr used to have.

“There’s lots of good hockey players in the league,” said Peter Laviolette, “but there’s always a few players that take that next step and they push to become the elite players in the league. I wouldn’t think it would be shocking that Claude’s done that.”

In his fourth season with significant time, Giroux is without question the team’s offensive leader and a sure-fire All-Star. But the Flyers have been spreading the offensive wealth this year, so it’s probably a bit much to ask of him to be the NHL’s leading scorer. That’s a title no Flyer has ever held.

“I didn’t know that. It’s a long season,” said Giroux. “Obviously there are a lot of games to play. I’m not really looking at that.”

And if he wants any part in the scoring title, he really can’t focus on the stats. For him, the important thing is to keep playing his game, one that mixes his incredible stickwork with a physical element that isn’t seen from many skill players. For that, he fits the Flyers’ system quite well.

“There are some players with their experience and with their maturity and with their physical development, they continue to take steps,” said Laviolette. “And that’s when it starts to really weed down and become a few select players, and for me Claude is one of those players.”

Rookies Stand Strong As Flyers Try To Heal

5 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — With all the change that happened in the offseason, the Flyers weren’t supposed to have this kind of offensive output. Then they got slammed with injuries, which made it even less likely they would be proficient in goal scoring. Yet here they are, leading the league with 88 goals.

A big part of it has been the contributions of rookies. There are seven of them on the active roster while the Flyers try to heal a few injured players. Danny Briere, Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn all had maintenance days on Monday and will rejoin the team on Tuesday. Chris Pronger’s status remains the same and James van Riemsdyk is “possible,” according to Paul Holmgren, to play on Wednesday against Buffalo.

In their places, the Flyers have gotten some help from a few young players. The seven rookies have accounted for 17 goals, or 19 percent of the Flyers’ total offensive output.

“My first year in Anaheim we had seven rookies too and we finished the season in the conference finals,” said Ilya Bryzgalov who is impressed with his young teammates. “The next year we won the Stanley Cup. I think we have a pretty good group of young guys here too. It reminds me of the team in Anaheim too and I expect the same thing, same result.”

Part of what makes life easier for the rookies is that there is a bunch of them, not just one which can be a little intimidating.

“It would be tougher if they were only one guy and you’re pushing them on the side,” said Jaromir Jagr, “but because we have so many of them, and coach knows how important it is for them to play in tough situations on the ice, the penalty killing, last minutes on the ice, faceoff situation, that’s where you build your confidence.”

Injuries have forced rookies to contribute even more on the blue line. The Flyers have three defensemen currently on long-term injured reserve, but they’ve been lucky to get help from the Adirondack Phantoms, who play the same system.

“I mean, I think the last few years here we’ve been pretty fortunate with injuries and I’ll knock on wood but it’s just something that we have to deal with,” said Matt Carle. “It just shows the depth of the organization and we’ve had these two young guys come up, and even [Erik Gustafsson] when he was playing here and playing well. It’s been good to see the guys step in and play well and they know our systems. That’s what they’re doing down in the minors so when they come up here not too much changes for them.”

The effect that these seven players have had on the team has been tremendous, and something the coach is very pleased to have in his arsenal.

“They’re good kids. They’re not loud. They’re not cocky,” said Peter Laviolette. “They’ve come into the room and they’ve really fit in. I think everyone sees the value that they bring to the team. Like I said, their roles are different, completely different. Their roles are from A-to-Z in everything we’re asking them to do and they’re doing it really well.

“You’ve got to give them credit because young players look for opportunity but once they get the opportunity, they’re gonna try make the most of it and do the right things and do what’s asked of you and do it properly. Because they’ve done that, they continue to get those opportunities.”