Hey, somebody call Rod Langway and Reijo Ruotsalainen. The Flyers schedule this year is gonna look like the 1980s.
“The Patrick Division,” general manager Chuck Fletcher quipped. “We’re bringing it back!”
The Flyers will play 56 NHL games in 116 days, an unprecedented sprint, but one that Fletcher sees as very fair. They open with Pittsburgh on Jan. 13, the first of four home games to start the season – two against the Penguins, two with Buffalo.
“Certainly, every game will be difficult,” Fletcher said. “In terms of schedule construction, I think it’s better than I anticipated. We only have eight back-to-backs. We obviously don’t change time zones. In terms of our division, I don’t think any of us could have any complaints. I’m sure we’ll have the fewest air miles flown. There’s going to be more recovery time than I think I anticipated. I guess I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Fans are not allowed in the Wells Fargo Center because of pandemic restrictions, and game times will be announced later.
In addition to the Penguins, Washington, New Jersey, the Rangers and the Islanders remain grouped with the Flyers from last year’s Metropolitan Division. Columbus and Carolina were swapped for Boston (which led the league in points last year) and Buffalo (which signed the hottest free agent on the market, Taylor Hall).
The top four teams in each division make the playoffs with 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3 in the first round, and the winners playing in the second round. The survivors of the four divisions will be reseeded according to regular-season point totals.
“Last year, I felt we had the best division in the league, and I think it’s the same this year,” Fletcher added. “Any of the eight teams can make the playoffs. We all can make it. We all can miss. There’s going to be some drama and some tension.”
The eight back-to-back games all are in the same city, which will give the players a little taste of their minor-league days, minus the turnpike burgers (urp!) at 1 in the morning.
“We have four cities we can bus to and only three cities we’ll have to fly to,” Fletcher said. “Pittsburgh, Boston and Buffalo are all about a one-hour flight. The three New York [area] teams and Washington are all relatively easy bus trips, particularly these days.”
Fletcher said the league this year has given teams the option of traveling the day of games, a departure from the requirement of visiting teams arriving the day before a game. The condensed schedule will mean less practice time, however.
The Flyers close with back-to-back games in Washington May 7-8. The playoffs are slated to start May 11 and end in early July.
“We’re very fortunately of the division we’re in, in that our travel should be really manageable compared to the other three divisions,” Fletcher said. “Every team in our division should be thankful for that.”