Report: Caps and Penguins may play in different divisions originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The 2021 season is obviously going to look very different from anything we are used to and that may mean splitting up one of the best rivalries in the NHL. According to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, the potential NHL divisions for the 2021 season would have the Capitals in the East and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Central.
Among the myriad of issues the NHL is facing when trying to put together the 2021 season is the issue of the border. There are seven NHL teams located in Canada and the Canadian government has closed the border to non-essential travel through Dec. 21. That date can be extended and likely will be considering there is no end in sight to the current wave of the coronavirus striking the continent. As a result, the NHL is expected to group all seven Canadian teams into their own division. If you do that, you then have to adjust all the other divisions and that could mean splitting the Caps and Penguins.
This does not mean the Caps and Penguins won’t play, we just don’t know enough about the season format to know how much they will if these divisions hold.
Let’s be fair to the NHL. Adjustments have to be made to account for the Canadian teams being taken out and there is no realignment that will please everyone. This is also expected to just be a temporary realignment with the regular divisions returning in 2021-22 plus Seattle joining the Pacific.
Still, it seems curious that the league would decide to move Pittsburgh out of a division with Washington and Philadelphia at a time when the league should be drumming up as much interest in the game as possible. It is also strange considering the emphasis the league puts on rivalries. Heck, the entire ridiculous wild card format the league uses as its playoff format in a normal season is used for the explicit purpose of matching rivals against one another in the postseason. I am not sure how separating the Penguins from the Caps and Flyers accomplishes that goal.
If rivalries are not a priority in 2021 when the league should be seeking out as many storylines as possible, maybe the league should not base its entire playoff format on those rivalries.