Realignment is official and the schedule format for next season has been revealed. I'm sure that the main contributors here will have a lot to say on the topic, but I want to dive right into the facts and look at the schedule changes the Devils will face in the upcoming season.
The Devils will play each of their division opponents at least four times (twice home and twice away). In addition they will have an additional home game against one division opponent and an additional road game against another opponent. Against the other Eastern Conference division, the Devils will play each team three times (12 home games and 12 away games). Finally, they will get to play each Western Conference team twice (one home/one away). This brings us to 82 games in a season.
The Devils previously played 24 games in-division against four different teams. This will be going up to 30 games but spread out across seven teams instead. This dilutes the competition within the New Atlantic division. This is a pretty big loss for the fans in my opinion. Where we used to have three home dates against the Rangers, islanders, Penguins and Flyers, we will now only see these teams twice a season, with an additional home game against one of these teams every seventh season. We'll still see Carolina and Washington as much as we are used to, with that additional one visit every seven years. And then there will be the Columbus Blue Jackets. I know we all missed Brandon Dubinksky, so rejoice, I guess.
In the old system the Devils played 40 games, nearly half the schedule, against the other 10 teams in the Eastern Conference. Now, there will only be eight other teams and we'll only play them three times each, bringing this down from 40 to 24 games. 12 home games against the rest of the Eastern Conference is going to be a huge change compared to the 20 we are used to. In fact, it is a massive drop-off when compared to...
Hello Western Conference! 15 home games will be played in-division and only 27 will be played in-conference meaning the remaining 14 home dates in the 2013-14 schedule will play host to the Western Conference. This means we'll be treated to two very important dates next season. First, barring a re-match this June (which I would love), we'll see the return of the Los Angeles Kings to the Prudential Center. Second, barring injury or something unexpected, Captain Friendship will make his return to the Prudential Center as well. This is a win for everyone.
I'm not thrilled with the dilution of games in the East. In-division play will be a little less meaningful and in-conference play will feel almost the same as out-of-conference play. While I'm happy to get to see every team from the West every season, I'm not sure it's necessary. All-told, I'm looking forward to a lot of events in the new schedule, but not everything. What do the rest of you think?