Blue Jackets’ new home in East: ‘Metro’
Columbus, a fast-growing town with an ever-present inferiority complex, has finally been deemed a Metropolitan city by a group of well-suited New Yorkers.
The Blue Jackets knew they were moving to the Eastern Conference next season, but it was learned yesterday — upon release of the NHL’s 2013-14 regular-season schedule — that their new eight-team division in the realigned NHL will be known as the Metropolitan Division.
The Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will join the Blue Jackets in the “Metro.” Three of the league’s previous division names — Atlantic, Central and Pacific — were preserved, but with reshuffled clubs.
For the Blue Jackets, next season’s schedule is tangible proof that a new frontier awaits.
A move to the East was long-sought by club officials for ease of travel, more convenient start times for fans and a greater chance of developing regional rivalries.
The Blue Jackets play only 14 games outside the Eastern time zone — none until Nov. 19 at Edmonton — and will have 73 of their 82 games start at or before 8:30 p.m.
The marquee games, which easily could grow into rivalries, are hard to miss, too.
The Rangers, with former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, as well as Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore, will play in Nationwide Arena on Nov. 7 and March 21. Nash hasn’t played the Blue Jackets since he was traded, at his request, last summer.
The Penguins, who have never played a game in Nationwide that wasn’t sold out, will make three trips to Columbus next season: Nov. 2, Dec. 29 and March 28.
Games against Philadelphia should be interesting, too, with former Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky now starring for the Blue Jackets and former Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason playing for the Flyers.
“I’m used to looking at the schedule from the perspective of a Western guy,” said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who previously coached the Minnesota Wild. “So it feels different to look at the dates and see Pittsburgh and Boston and the New York teams all over it, with Toronto and Montreal mixed in there, too. This is going to be fun.”
• The NHL confirmed it will be taking part in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Blue Jackets won’t play from Feb. 8 to Feb. 26. • The Blue Jackets open on Oct. 4 against Calgary, then play five of their next six games on the road.
• The schedule is compacted for all teams because of the Olympics. The Blue Jackets have 17 back-to-back games, about the league norm. New Jersey has 22.
• The Blue Jackets’ longest homestand is four games — twice. But from Jan. 10 to Feb. 1, the Jackets play nine of 12 games in Nationwide.
• The longest trip is a five-game, nine-day back-and-forth tour of Canada: Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto.
Richards said that assistant coach Dan Hinote was elevated to bench assistant, replacing Keith Acton, who recently was named associate coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Hinote has been with the team for three seasons, serving as a third assistant and the “eye in the sky” during games.
Richards said the third assistant’s job will be filled later this summer.