Ranking the Top Rivalries in the NHL Today

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IAugust 8, 2012

Ranking the Top Rivalries in the NHL Today

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    The NHL is full of amazing rivalries that involve teams, players, coaches and media members alike.

    There are so many different stories that involve teams seeking retribution by inciting a brawl, coaches getting into shouting matches with media members after games and coaches calling out other coaches. 

    Some rivalries have been around for years and others have just entered the NHL realm.

    While it is hard to rank rivalries involving different criteria, here are the top rivalries in the NHL today.

20. Sean Avery vs. Dion Phaneuf

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    Sean Avery has not officially retired so this rivalry can be considered active. When Avery uttered these controversial words, he openly declared war against Dion Phaneuf. Whenever the two men faced off against each other, there was tons of animosity and physicality.

19. John Tortorella and Larry Brooks

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    There are not many documented rivalries in today's NHL that feature the media interacting with coaches or players. However, things are a bit tense in New York between Larry Brooks and John Tortorella.

    There have been many moments featuring these two men and if you search the two individuals names on YouTube, there is tons of footage featuring no-holds-barred exchanges between the two. 

18. Brad Marchand vs. the Vancouver Canucks

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    This rivalry is a smaller one that carried over from the Stanley Cup final featuring the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. When the Bruins faced the Canucks during the 2011-12 season, Brad Marchand continued to act like the effective pest he is.

    This incident featured Marchand illegally taking out Sami Salo with a hip check and it re-churned the rivalry between the team.

17. Pierre McGuire vs. Mike Milbury

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    "Mad" Mike Milbury is back in action and his opponent this time is everyone's favorite inside-the-glass reporter, Pierre McGuire.

    The topic at hand during this debate was head shots. Mr. McGuire is in favor of a more stringent zero-tolerance policy but Mike Milbury disagrees.

    The exchange ends with Mr. Milbury dismissing Pierre by calling him a soccer mom.

16. Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    There was the Claude Lemieux hit that rocked Kris Draper. Then there was Patrick Roy and Chris Osgood tussling outside of their respective creases. Moments like these define the rivalry, as does the playoff series from the spring of 2002.

    Watching this rivalry during the early '90s and 2000s was like watching a powder keg with a short, lit fuse waiting to explode. No one knew what would happen after a devastating bodycheck. 

    Many often overlook this rivalry due to the fact that many of the participants have since retired, but it still has roots deep within each of the two fan bases.  

    All it would take to rekindle the rivalry today would be for someone to lay out Pavel Datsyuk or Gabriel Landeskog.

    Not that it is an open challenge to any member of the Red Wings or Avs, but the hockey world would love to see that happen and have this rivalry be on fire again.

15. Shane Doan vs. Dustin Brown

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    There have been a few incidents involving Dustin Brown and Shane Doan. There is a mutual dislike for each other. The two have dropped the gloves on occasion and the most recent incident involving the two came during the Western Conference final.

    After Dustin Brown got away with a cheap shot in Doan's eyes, the Kings scored a game-winning goal when Phoenix should have been on the power play. 

    During the handshake line, Doan really chewed out Brown and gave him a piece of his mind.

14. John Tortorella vs. the NHL

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    John Tortorella has a reputation of being a loose cannon during his exchanges with the media and his mouth has often gotten him into trouble. Last season he was fined $50,000 dollars for candid comments he made against the NHL's officiating and the NHL's treatment of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    These harsh reactions to Tortorella's comments have really impacted the way he interacts with the media now, especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

13. Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks may have tons of playoff moments from the past few postseasons, but this rivalry dates back to 1982. Before appearing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks had to defeat the Blackhawks. 

    Before that, the two teams were divisional rivals in the 1970s. However, it is moments like Raffi Torres laying out Brent Seabrook that really make the blood boil between the players, owners and fan bases.

    The Blackhawks ended up having the last laugh because they still had won a Stanley Cup the year before, but the repeat Presidents' Trophy winners (Canucks) have been eliminated in two consecutive seasons.

    This rivalry runs deep and has many moments from the past few years. With both teams eliminated from this year's playoffs, you can be well assured they will battle for supremacy in the 2012-13 season.

    It is still one of the league's best top rivalries because there is always tons of physicality when the two teams meet.

12. Raffi Torres vs. the Chicago Blackhawks

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    In the Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks slide, it was touched upon that Raffi Torres infamously laid out Brent Seabrook during the playoffs. However, Torres and his physicality against the Blackhawks continued this playoffs while Torres was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.

    This cheap shot ended both players' postseasons and really got the blood boiling between both Torres and the Hawks. When Phoenix and Chicago square off again, you can almost guarantee that there will be a few brawls between both sides.

11. Broadway vs. Broad St., or New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

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    The rivalry between New York and Philadelphia has existed for quite some time in the sports world, involving not only hockey but baseball, basketball and football. However, the rivalry between the Broad St. Bullies and the Broadway Blueshirts was thrown into the limelight once again during the 2011-12 season.

    With HBO's "24/7" and both teams squaring off at the Winter Classic, a ton of time was devoted to this storied rivalry.

    As of late, the Rangers own the Flyers as the Blueshirts swept Philly 6-0 during the regular-season meetings.

    This rivalry can be defined by moments like Winter Classic, Olli Jokinen's infamous shootout fail, and many other moments that go back to the early 1970s.

10. Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The rivalry that exists between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs has featured many blood-boiling moments like the one above.

    Although today the two teams aren't at each other's throats during the playoffs, history runs deep between them and it comes into play whenever the two teams meet.

    This rivalry started back in 1920s when the original Senators were in the NHL. When the Senators left the league, the rivalry died.

    The teams reacquainted themselves with one another after a divisional restructuring paired the two teams in the NHL's Northwest Division.

    The Senators own the lifetime advantage with a 49-33-3-5 record against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Moments like the above hit and the Daniel Alfredsson fake stick-toss incident have further intensified this rivalry, and that is evident with Toronto fans still booing the Sens captain to this day.

    At the end of the day, this is still one of the NHL's best rivalries today.

9. Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick

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    These two men don't like each other and this moment on television was so tense that the two men were not paired on the same broadcast until the Stanley Cup final. These men both played the game of hockey during different eras so they obviously have different opinions.

    However, the tension is still palpable between Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury because the two took subtle jabs at each other during the Final.

8. Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    When Niklas Kronwall leveled Martin Havlat, a rivalry of historic proportions was rekindled. The animosity between both teams was always high because of the past history during both the regular season and playoffs.

    This rivalry wasn't always as intense as it is now and that has to do with the different directions the teams were going in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    While the Red Wings were winning multiple cups during the 2000s, the Blackhawks franchise, owned by Bill Wirtz, saw some darker days in terms of team success. Attendance was low, the quality of talent was lower and there wasn't much to be proud of if you were a 'Hawks fan.

    Then the elder Wirtz died and the team was passed onto his son. When coupled with a few top draft picks, the Blackhawks reemerged as a Stanley Cup champion.

    Hits like this and playoff series' as of late have really restored this rivalry. They battle each other for the Central division crown every season.

7b. John Tortorella vs. Peter DeBoer

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    You can't really showcase the rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils without including the rivalry between John Tortorella and Pete DeBoer.

    The two coaches exchange comments about the other at certain points when the two teams faced off and the two coaches got into a shouting match during the playoffs.

    This is certainly a rivalry that will continue to fester into next season.

7a. New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

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    he Hudson River divides these two franchises from each other, and there is always a strong contingent of fans from both sides in attendance. The Rangers' and Devils' rivalry goes back to the late '80s and early '90s, but the powder keg was lit during the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    The Rangers edged out the Devils and went on to win their first title in 54 years, and New York was on top. The following year, the Devils won the cup after a shortened season (as a result of the lockout) and also went on to win cups in 2000 and 2003.

    Needless to say, the current series is very important. The Rangers are looking to advance to their first final since 1994 and reclaim the Stanley Cup.

    Games featuring the two teams result in fights on and off the ice, and tons of raw emotion.

    Moments like Stephane Matteau's overtime winner in 1994 remain ingrained in the minds of both franchises as a starting point, but moments like the Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur incident only have helped intensify this rivalry.

6. Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres

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    This moment has become very infamous in the minds of the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. If you don't think Darcy Regier took the time to remember this moment to get revenge, explain his acquisitions of John Scott and Steve Ott.

    The rivalry is one of the newer ones in the Northeast division and when you look at the recent additions to the Buffalo Sabres, it is only a matter of time before both sides spill blood while exacting revenge and dropping the gloves.

5. Sidney Crosby vs. Claude Giroux

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    This is a relatively new rivalry and both players are elite playmaking forwards. Both Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux are the face of their Atlantic division teams and they face each other quite frequently.

    During the past playoffs, the two really battled against each other. They dropped the gloves and Giroux laid out Crosby with a series-defining hit.

4. Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames

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    The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames share the province of Alberta, and both teams have engaged in many contests throughout their storied rivalry.

    Both teams were at each other's throats during the 1980s, especially when you consider the success of each team during that decade. 

    Currently the two teams are not playoff threats and they both are going in different directions as franchises. Nonetheless, whenever the two sides get together, there is always a battle for supremacy as the province's best team.

3b. Dan Bylsma vs. Peter Laviolette

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    This is another companion rivalry and one that is going to continue. Dan Bylsma and Peter Laviolette really showed their displeasure with each other this past season and during the playoffs.

    With the Flyers on the verge of completing a defeat against the Penguins, Bylsma sent out his fourth-line goons to send a message to the Flyers. Laviolette was furious when a brawl started and the two coaches entered a shouting match from the bench.

    Just wait until next season to see how this rivalry continues to play out.

3a. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

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    The first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs was a war between the two teams, and it got ugly early. There were suspensions, blood on the ice, and tons of fights on and off the ice between fans on both sides. 

    The Flyers took a 3-0 series lead, and Pittsburgh crawled within a game of tying the series before the Flyers ultimately put the nail in the coffin.

    These two teams call the state of Pennsylvania home, and even though geography separates the two teams over a significant distance, this rivalry is one of the most intense in the NHL today. The aforementioned playoff series only made things more intense between the two sides.

    Despite the outcome of this series, the Penguins hold the title dominance with three Stanley Cups to the Flyers' two. 

    This rivalry has taken a new face and involves marquee players like Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux at the forefront in an individual rivalry of their own.

2. Original Six: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

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    This rivalry has been ongoing for the past 90 years and has further intensified in recent years partly as a result of the Zdeno Chara incident.

    The above video only further thrusts this rivalry back into the mainstream view.

    These two teams are a part of the Original Six brotherhood and have quite the history when it comes to the playoffs, in addition to regular-season contests.

    The Habs and Bruins have faced each other for a total of 32 playoff series in the time the two teams have been in existence.

    Moments like above and those that involved Hall of Fame players like Jean Beliveau and Bobby Orr will always make this one of the NHL's biggest rivalries.

1. Old-Time Canadian Hockey: Habs vs. Leafs

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    This is one of the NHL's oldest and most intense rivalries, going as far back as 1917. Between 1944 and 1978, the Leafs and Habs faced each other in the playoffs 15 times. Those years also include five Stanley Cup Final matchups.

    This rivalry is historical, cultural and huge between the fan bases in addition to the players. The Canadiens have been the superior team with their Stanley Cup dominance, while the Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

    This rivalry has had numerous highs and lows with the most recent years involving playoff droughts for both teams. It has been a long time since the Leafs and Habs did playoff battle in 1978, so it is safe to say that both teams and fan bases are primed for a lengthy playoff run.