As the Flyers ride off into the sunset/All-Star break fresh off a thrilling win over the NHL-leading Capitals, it's a good time to look back at the first 47 games of the season and take inventory.
The Flyers are in 7th place in the 8-team Metropolitan Division with 50 points. They're chasing Carolina (54 points), New Jersey/Pittsburgh (55), the New York teams (56/59), and Washington (74).
There are, of course, a lot of teams to climb in the division. Carolina and New Jersey are generally thought to be in "rebuilding" mode, so maybe they could tank down out of our way. Nobody is going to catch Washington. The Rangers and Penguins are too old and overpaid to not give everything they can to compete for a Cup this year. And the Islanders have established themselves as one of the top teams in the East.
So, finishing high enough in the division to make the playoffs is almost certainly out of the question. How else can we maybe sneak in?
Wild Card Standings
As it stands now, Boston (57 points) and Pittsburgh hold the Wild Card bids to the postseason. New Jersey, Carolina, Montreal (52), Ottawa (52), and Philadelphia are all reasonable contenders for those spots, and it will be interesting to see who's buying and who's selling at the trade deadline.
Wild Card Part II: Buyers & Sellers
Carolina and New Jersey are both projected to have more than $8 million in cap room at the end of the season, and that's before we factor in what the 'Canes might do with the Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner. If you're a fan of those two, are you rooting for them to bottom out and target Matthews/Tkachuk/Chychrun/Nylander/Puljujarvi/Laine? If you get a ready-for-the-NHL rookie and throw some money at a couple free agents, you could maybe compete next year.
One major note I want to make here: I am so glad that I am a Flyers fan and not a Hurricanes or Devils fan. Those rosters... woof.
Boston and Philly are in situations similar to Jersey and Carolina, though with much less cap room and much more demanding fans. Both teams have their core group of forwards locked down with minor exceptions (Marchand/Eriksson for the Bruins, Schenn/Raffl for the Flyers) and they have some work to do on figuring out their defense. Time will tell if these two are buying or selling.
Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Ottawa all planned on competing this year and that doesn't figure to change as the year goes on. I think you can mark each of these three as probably buyers in February.
The Sabres, Maple Leafs, and Blue Jackets are not going to compete this year and will likely also be selling off current assets for future assets.
Out West, the Jets and Flames will probably look to move some older pieces to build around younger cores. The Canucks probably have to go down with their ship with the Sedin twins. And I have absolutely no idea what's going on in Edmonton. Rough time to be a hockey fan from Western Canada.
Rough time to be a hockey fan from Canada in general, I guess.