The 2021 NHL season has been like no other. A 56-game campaign that started in mid-January, highlighted by its realigned divisions. The NHL split the league up into four new divisions that would only play other teams in the same division, mainly as a way to stop the spread of coronavirus and as a way to get around the Canadian boarder issues. In that sense it may have helped, as it limited the spread only to teams in the division, but each division had their own separate outbreaks throughout the season so it really didn’t matter regardless. Either way this is the path they took and the results were less than hoped for.
When the idea of the Flyers facing the same seven opponents was originally floated, it didn’t sound so bad. In theory, it builds a competitive edge and each game has higher stakes and by season’s end. There will be rivalries built up like we haven’t seen in years.
But that just didn’t end up happening.
Partially because the Flyers suck, but mainly because their repetitive nature of the schedule didn’t build the competition like originally believed. It wasn’t like the Flyers built up a season series with anyone that grew better and better by the game, in fact, it was pretty much the polar opposite. Each game against the exact same team felt the exact same way. Their game against the Rangers on February 18 felt the same as their game against the Rangers on April 22. There was no building to a crescendo, no higher stakes, no big-game feel. That kind of thing obviously doesn’t help when the Flyers were out of a playoff race by the middle of March, but the division as a whole was stale.
There were four good teams, two mediocre teams, and two bad teams, and the four good teams ran away with the playoff spots pretty early in the year. The Flyers and Rangers stayed within reach, but never really got close when it mattered most, and the Devils and Sabres were there because, well, the NHL doesn’t relegate bad teams.
Maybe things will go back to normal next season, though that depends on the continued vaccine rollout and whether or not the Canada/USA boarder issues can get worked out. Playing every team across the league twice will be a welcome throwback.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com