Last week, the NHL released their schedule for the upcoming regular season. With division realignment, reverting to an 82 game season, and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi coming up in February, it’s safe to say the schedule will look different from years’ past.

Realignment was discussed after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg to resurrect the Jets, and enacted around the end of the lockout in January of 2013. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings joined the Eastern Conference while the Jets moved to the Western Conference. As a result, the divisions consolidated from six to four and the Eastern Conference ended up with two more teams than the West.

The NHL released the schedule for all 30 teams along with a formula as to how the schedules correlate:

Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs. three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 5 X 5 =25 games
* 1 X 4 = 4 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 7 = 21 games
Non-Conference: 32 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 16 = 32 games
(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside Division and one more game inside Conference outside Division)

Eastern Conference (8-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 30 games
* 5 games vs. two teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. one team, 2 Home/3 Away vs. one team) AND 4 games vs. five teams (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 5 X 2 =10 games
* 4 X 5 = 20 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. four teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 8 = 24 games
Non-Conference: 28 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 14 = 28 games


Whoa. Confusing right?

My focus wasn’t so much on how many times the Penguins will play one team in the “Metropolitan Division”, but rather how many games are actually played in the division. That number is 30 for the Eastern Conference and 29 for the Western Conference.

Thirty divisional games.

That means teams will play less than half of their games against divisional opponents. At the same time, each team will play a team out of their conference twice. That means Western Conference teams will play three more games against Eastern Conference opponents than in their own division.

With this schedule the NHL is showing that divisions don’t hold a whole lot of weight. The league isn’t promoting rivalries, showcasing tight divisional races, or rewarding teams for winning divisions. Yes, Pittsburgh is still in the same division as Philadelphia, ridiculously named the Metropolitan Division (seriously, why not name the other three divisions Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte?) and Detroit moved to the Northeast with Toronto. But what’s the point if, at most, they wont play each other more than five times a season?

The Penguins and Flyers played each other eight times a year through the 2007-2008 season. Then the league cut divisional games to six match ups a season afterward. Now it is being cut to five, making room for two games a piece against the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Dallas Stars.


The good news is, this is probably a temporary solution. With the Florida Panthers offering eight dollar tickets (with free parking), the Phoenix Coyotes’ future still in doubt, and the league looking to expand, more moves will be made over the next 5-10 years.

For now, we’ll have to enjoy watching a regular season that relies on outdoor games and the “excitement” of seeing teams from other conferences. In the end, the Stanley Cup playoffs is the most dramatic, intense, and exciting event in the league. But the NHL has taken it to another level by further making the regular season less exciting.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins