So the “new” NHL divisions created to cater to the pandemic will shape different rivalries and outcomes for many of the NHL teams for the shortened 56 game scheduled 20-21 season. Some teams will benefit from the changes and some will be hard-pressed to make something happen for the upcoming season.
Biggest Loser #1: Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres can’t catch a break. They will be in a stacked division where they will face the surging New York Rangers, the defensively stifling Islanders, Bruins, Flyers, Caps and Penguins NINE TO TEN TIMES EACH! They might as well crawl back to the basement with the New Jersey Devils.
Biggest Loser #2: Dallas Stars
It’s very weird how the Dallas Stars end up in the new Central Division while the Minnesota Wild end up in the new West Division. It should be the other way around. Minnesota is in a much more favourable situation where they can feast on the weaker California teams for a great chance at a “wild card” (No pun intended) spot. This now leaves Dallas entering new territory where now have to face stronger teams like the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and the ever resilient Columbus Blue Jackets. That’s a bummer for them.
Biggest Loser #3: Boston Bruins
The aging Bruins will be taken down a few notches now that they have to be in a division against teams with younger and fresher legs like the Rangers. The Flyers and Capitals are powerhouses and the Penguins can still be challenging on a good day. The Bruins will not be able to take advantage of the rebuilds of the Panthers and Red Wings anymore as they’re gone off to different divisions. The Sabres and Devils, although not as talented, are younger and are on an upward trend and could take advantage of the now slower Bruins team.
Biggest Winner #1: Florida Panthers
Let’s not forget that the Panthers finished 15th in the entire league in points the previous season. Normally that would result in a playoff appearance if the East and West was evenly matched but the East is stacked. Being in the Atlantic division hurt the Panthers as they’re a team on the cusp of breaking through for a playoff spot. They now have that opportunity being in the new Central Division where they will face easier competition like the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Yes they’ll still face Tampa Bay but they can compete with Columbus and Carolina for a wild card spot. They won’t have to face the Maple Leafs and the Bruins anymore either.
Biggest Winner #2: Toronto Maple Leafs
The new “Canadian” North division will benefit the Leafs immensely! No more big bad Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their next biggest competition are the Oilers and Canucks which aren’t as strong as the aforementioned. Leafs will likely win this division and they will have an easier path in the playoffs than ever before now that they won’t have to face the Bruins. Leafs nation should be very excited.
Biggest Winner #3: Canadian Division and the Fans
The fans of Canadian teams still won’t be able to attend the games live but everyone loves an all-Canadian matchup and its happening all season long starting January 13th. The Flames and Oilers are ready to kill each other in an increasingly prevalent Battle of Alberta as they face other a ton this season. The Leafs and Habs will continue their long and storied rivalry as well. Plus the Canucks, Senators and Jets are going to increase their rivalry with every other Canadian team across the board. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch!