Hi Flyer fans, thank goodness its finally October and the 2009-10 season has started. All things are good again now that the hockey season is officially upon us! Im really looking forward to this season as this years Flyers team looks strong enough to compete with the rest of the big boys in the East. In addition, the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver promises to be one of the best hockey tournaments ever! The "dog-days" of summer are finally behind us and now we can get back to playing some hockey!
As with most fans, as soon as the 2009-10 schedule was released I looked at my favorite teams schedule and gasped when I saw what October has in store for the Flyers. I thought last years 0-3-3 start was bad, but with the schedule this year the start has the potential to be even worse. The Flyers first 5 opponents (Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim) all made the playoffs, 4 of which made the 2nd round. Of those four teams that made it this far, the two that were eliminated happened in game 7s! The remaining two teams played each other in the Semis with Pittsburgh eventually winning the Stanley Cup.
If those first 5 games werent bad enough it doesnt get any better for the remainder of the month with games against the Presidents trophy winning Sharks, the best team in the East (Boston), second games against both division winning Washington and Eastern conference semi-finalist Carolina, and two games against Florida (who only missed the playoffs due to a tie breaker).
The only "saving grace" is the Flyers play 7 of those first 11 games at home, which will hopefully add up to some extra wins. However, if they get off to a slow start at home again like last year (losing 5 of the first 7) the Flyers will dig themselves a big hole and will be chasing the rest of the year to catch up.
Lets juxtapose the Flyers schedule against that of the rival Penguins. The Pens play 14 games in October, 7 of which are against non-playoff teams. Of the seven contests against playoff teams from last year, only 1 of those teams advanced past the first round and three of those teams didnt register a single playoff win! The Pens have a great opportunity to get anywhere from 20+ points in those 14 games, while the Flyers will have to struggle to get 10-12 points. I know the season is long, but points missed in October cannot be made up and always seem to bite you in the end.
Should the Flyers stumble out of the gate this year and the Pens leave them far behind in the Atlantic division race early into the season, how long will it be before John Stevens starts looking over his shoulder? Will management be open-minded about the difficulty of the first month schedule or will pressure to win now lead to an early termination and changes ala Hitch in 2006?
The good news is the Stanley Cup isnt won in October and thankfully the schedule lightens up in November. I just hope the deficit isnt too large by that point. Heres hoping the Flyers start better this year than last year