The next NHL schedule is expected to be released next week, and at least one of the features that defined the schedule in the pandemic-affected season of 2020-21 will be incorporated into the new one.
That feature will be more of the back-to-back home/road “series” format that was so much a part of this past one, a league source tells National Hockey Now Sr. reporter Adrian Dater.
While it will not be as heavily a part of the last division-only schedule, because every team is expected to play each other at least once in the 2021-21 season, there will still be many instances in which teams play back-to-back games in the same city.
That became a popular innovation to the 56-game, inter-division schedule forced by the pandemic. Players enjoyed not having to run around as much and hopping on airplanes after every road game.
It also greatly cut down on teams’ travel expenses and, frankly, cut down on carbon emissions from all that airplane fuel. CHN was the first to break the news of such an innovation last December.
The Panthers were one of the teams that really enjoyed the “series” format, being one of the teams that has always had to travel more miles to games than most NHL teams.
Players said that it made them feel more rested and pointed to it as a reason why they had the best record of any team in the regular season.
Florida coach Joel Quenneville also said he liked being able to land in a city and settle in for a few days.
For so many years, the Panthers would finish up a road trip and have to hop on a plane and get back home at 3 or 4 in the morning.
With more of the back-to-back series concepts, players were able to go back to the hotel and get a real night’s rest.
It is something that may become a permanent part of the NHL landscape beyond this coming season as well.
So, it looks like we would see more one-off trips to places like Tampa, Boston, Montreal and Toronto for the Panthers this coming season.