The National Hockey League finally came to an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation regarding NHL player participation in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia (they’re playing), finally allowing the NHL to release their 2013-14 schedule. Now, the Florida Panthers leaked theirs earlier in the week, but general manager Dale Tallon always was a little loose with the fax machine…so I suppose that was understandable.
The Columbus Blue Jackets released their schedule as well today. And we have plenty to discuss.
OPENING NIGHT: It’s October 4th at home against the Calgary Flames. With all due respect to the Flames, who clearly are trying to clean up a horrendous roster mess that’s built up over a few seasons, I’m optimistic that we’re looking at the possibility of a big old hockey party on Nationwide Boulevard. The Blue Jackets have to do their share, of course, but I’ll guess at this point that the team will look more like they did at the end of the 2013 season than the beginning. If the CBJ are anything close, opening night will be lots of fun.
COLUMBUS HAS GONE METRO: Hey now! We’re talking about the name of the new Eastern Conference division that the Blue Jackets are playing in!
Seriously, the Blue Jackets are in the Metropolitan Division. Why the league chose to call it that and not, say, the Atlantic Division is beyond me. I’m just happy that they’re not in the (chuckle) Leaders or Legends division.
TUESDAY, TUESDAY, TUESDAY!: Good golly, there are a zillion home games on Tuesday nights in Columbus. Of the 24 Tuesdays on the 2013-14 NHL schedule, a full 12 are filled with CBJ home games. Every Tuesday in March and April – six in total – have the Blue Jackets facing off at Nationwide Arena.
Should we be calling Tuesday “Hockey Night in Columbus”?
RIVALRIES AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE: Remember how the Blue Jackets were stuck playing nothing but Western Conference teams all through the 2013 season…and seemingly a division foe every other night? Well, it’s nothing like that in the new scheduling model.
First off, the league finally has scheduled every team in the league for at least a home-and-home series over the course of the season. That means that every single one of the NHL’s teams will make at least one stop at Nationwide Arena. The two-game series model covers games against the Western Conference (and means only one away game per team on the West Coast and Western Canada!). So that’s 28 games – two games against each of the West’s 14 teams.
Then you have 24 games against what the league has designated the real Atlantic Division. That means three games against each of the Atlantic’s eight teams. The Blue Jackets get two tastes of Detroit, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa at home this season, and I presume that the two home-one away/one home-two away format will send the other four Atlantic teams (Boston, Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo) to Nationwide twice next season.
28 games to the Western Conference and 21 to the Atlantic Division leaves only 30 games in the Metropolitan Division – or 5 games against each two divisional foes and four games against the other five. That means we’re looking at a three home-two away for one team (Pittsburgh) and a two-home-three away format for one team (Carolina). The Blue Jackets will then play two home and two away games against New Jersey, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers. After playing all those games in the Central Division last season, four division games against the majority of the division seems quite small, doesn’t it?
ONLY TWO KILLER ROAD TRIPS: Make extra coffee from November 19-22, when the CBJ roll through Western Canada, and from February 3-7, when the Blue Jackets roll up the West Coast. But other than those two weeks, there aren’t any 10 o’clock start times!
CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS: One way to take the sting out of a killer western swing is to take a few weeks off to relax. My friends, that’s exactly what we’re going to do as the West Coast trip leads right up to the Olympic break. Sochi is eight hours ahead of us, so their primetime (when I presume most of the Olympic hockey will be played) starts at noon in Columbus. So expect a lot of morning Olympic hockey, but nothing late at night. Of course, NBC might try to tape delay the good stuff…