NHL Realignment: Why Losing the Chicago-Detroit Rivalry Isn't a Horrible Thing
According to CBC's Elliotte Friedman, the NHL is looking over a new realignment proposal that would move Detroit and Columbus out East. The conferences (or divisions) would look like this:
I: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
II: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning
III: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets
III: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks
So far, it is unclear if these will be considered four different conferences, or two conferences of two divisions each.
One thing that stands out, however, is that long-time Original Six rivals Chicago and Detroit will be separated, regardless of whether or not it is divided into conferences or divisions.
It's Chicago-Detroit. It's the Original Six. It's two teams that have been among the best in hockey since 2009. But now, they will play each other a maximum of twice a year as long as this new plan is passed by the Board of Governors and the NHLPA.
Obviously, hockey fans would miss the rivalry that these two teams share, but losing it would not be as detrimental as it may seem.
What do you think about the new realignment plan?
Even though the Blackhawks and Red Wings have been playing good hockey over the past few years and the match ups are always meaningful, the games between the two arguably don't have the same luster as the glory days from the '80s and early '90s. The new generation of Chicago fans probably has more hatred for St. Louis and Vancouver, while the new generation of Detroit fans probably share more hatred for Nashville and San Jose.
To compensate for this lost rivalry, Chicago will still keep its rivalry with St. Louis and also add potential rivals in Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg, and especially Minnesota.
Detroit will have new Original Six rivals in Boston, Montreal, and Toronto.
Also, looking back to the past, Detroit lost a major Original Six rival in the Maple Leafs when the league realigned for the 1998-99 season. If Detroit dealt with losing Toronto back then, it can easily deal with losing Chicago now—especially since the Red Wings move back with the Bruins, Canadiens, and Maple Leafs and don't have to deal with several strenuous West Coast trips.
This may be a little harder to swallow for Chicago, but it shouldn't be all that bad. The rivalry that the Blackhawks hold with the St. Louis Blues has provided for more exciting games recently than those against Detroit, and the Minnesota Wild could provide an excellent rival, especially since Minnesota appears to be trending upward for the future.
If the new realignment passes, it would create several big changes in the NHL, but would likely benefit most, if not all teams in terms of travel and fan engagement.
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