Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - When the NHL announced last week it had
approved its realignment plan beginning in the 2013-14, the Winnipeg Jets were
thought to be one of the immediate winners of the move.
The reincarnated Jets have played in the Southeast Division since relocating to
Winnipeg from Atlanta for the start of the 2012-13 season which has caused many
travel-related headaches as well as forced them to adopt the previously-natural
geographic rivals of the Thrashers as their own chief adversaries.
While it's assumed that moving into the Western Conference would allow the Jets
to start picking up some new rivals, that process might be one that takes some
time considering most of the old Jets' previous top foes - in particular the
current three Western Canadian teams - are situated in what is being
temporarily dubbed as Division A while the Jets are the lone Canadian entrant
in the new Division B.
But while they might not get to face their old Smythe Division rivals like
the Canucks, Oilers and Flames as often as they want, there's plenty of
opportunities to build bad blood with their six new division opponents.
Here's a look at three teams in Winnipeg's new division that could end up being
their top rivals starting next season.
Geography dictates that the Wild would naturally be a top contender to be one
of the Jets' new top rivals.
The Wild are the closest NHL team to Winnipeg so there's likely going to be
more than a few occasions where fans of either team will be making that cross-
border trek to cheer on their respective teams in hostile territory.
There's not been a lot of on-ice history between the two teams - the new Jets
and Wild have only played two head-to-head games, both coming in the 2011-12
season, but the fact Winnipeg has won both previous meetings will give Jets'
fans some early bragging rights.
That being said, at least at the outset, this rivalry will be one that will be
fueled more by the fans in the stands than anything that happens on the ice.
The Blackhawks are, without a doubt, going to be the class of their new
division which means there won't be any shortage of teams, including the Jets,
that will be fired up to try and knock them down a peg.
Beyond just wanting to take down the best of the bunch each time they meet,
there are a few former players on both sides that could make future meetings an
interesting affair. The Jets boast several members of Chicago's 2010 Stanley
Cup winning team, including blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien and team captain Andrew
Ladd, while one of the Blackhawks' top defensemen is ex-Jet - Johnny Oduya.
Add in the fact that the face of the Blackhawks' franchise and their team
captain is none other than Winnipeg-native Jonathan Toews and you can see why
future meetings between the Blackhawks and Jets will be must-see match-ups.
A potential rivalry against the Jets might be perhaps the most intriguing one
considering the similarities between both clubs.
Both teams are loaded have a number of young, talented players with the likes
of Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane on the Jets and Matt Duchene and Gabriel
Landeskog on the Avalanche and both teams seem to have the pieces in place
where, perhaps with a tweak or two, could be considered legitimate Stanley Cup
Neither of these teams will be considered favorites to win the new division in
the immediate future, but there should be plenty of interesting battles for a
playoff spot, which is a sure fire method to develop bad blood in a hurry.
The Sports Network