New Rivalries That Will Emerge in 2013-14 NHL Season
The NHL decided to realign this season for a couple of primary reasons.
When the Atlanta Thrashers decided that they could no longer make a go of it on Peachtree Street, they moved from the deep South to the Canadian hinterlands and became the Winnipeg Jets.
That team spent two years in the Eastern Conference, but had no geographical business playing there. At the same time, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets continued to sing the blues about their Western Conference affiliations. Both teams wanted to move to the Eastern Conference, so the NHL swallowed hard and realigned.
The Jets are now in the West, while the Red Wings and Blue Jackets are in the East. As a result of those moves and the decision to divide the two conferences into two divisions apiece, several new—and some new old—rivalries have been created.
Here's our take on them.
Boston Bruins-Detroit Red Wings
Why It's Special
These two Original Six clubs have not played in the same conference since both were in the Prince of Wales Conference in 1980-81. The Red Wings have been the NHL's best team over the past 20 years, while the Bruins have represented the Eastern Conference in two of the last three Stanley Cup Finals.
The Red Wings want to assert themselves in their new neighborhood. They may be new to the Eastern Conference, but they are not going to let the Bruins or any other team show them how it's done. They want to dictate how the Atlantic Division plays out and not let the Bruins do the talking.
Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins' best all-around player and is going to be challenged by Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings.
Zdeno Chara is the epitome of a shutdown defenseman, but how will he fare against the speed, quickness and creativity of Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and former Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson?
How will goalie Jimmy Howard hold up in his personal battle with Tuukka Rask?
Minnesota Wild-Dallas Stars
Why It's Special
The Dallas Stars played as the Minnesota North Stars from their first season in 1967-68 through 1992-93. Then they moved to Dallas, leaving the "State of Hockey" without a franchise until the Minnesota Wild began play as an expansion team in 2000-01.
There's a bitter undercurrent whenever the two teams play—particularly for the games in Minnesota.
Prior to this season, the two teams did not play in the same division.
The Stars and Wild are both in the Central Division of the Western Conference. The Wild made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2007-08, while the Stars have not made the playoffs since that same season.
There's a good chance that the two teams will compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Zach Parise (four goals) is the centerpiece of a Minnesota offense that must show significant growth if the Wild are going to establish themselves as a legitimate contender.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (29 minutes of ice time per game) is a stud on the blue line who could be a finalist for the Norris Trophy and lead the league in TOI.
New Stars forward Tyler Seguin (three goals, five assists) was acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins to give the offense more speed and explosive scoring.
Jamie Benn (six points) may be the Stars' most dependable player and head coach Lindy Ruff will count on him to play physical hockey as well as score clutch goals.
Tampa Bay Lightning-Toronto Maple Leafs
Why It's Special
The Maple Leafs appear to be a surging team that should make the playoffs for a second year in a row. They could even challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy.
The Lightning will compete with them in the Atlantic Division, and while they have been disappointing for the last two seasons after making it to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011, they have explosive scoring and are off to a solid start.
If the Lightning can sustain their hot start and the Maple Leafs don't backslide, the two squads could have an interesting rivalry because both are high-scoring teams, which could result in some dramatic games.
The Lightning have a superb duo in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, while the Maple Leafs will try to counter with Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk.
In an era when defense dominates, the Maple Leafs and Lightning could both turn out to be offensive juggernauts.
Stamkos (five goals, five assists) can score from anywhere inside the offensive blue line and may be the most dangerous goal scorer in the league. St. Louis (10 points) has explosive speed, excellent hands and the instincts to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Kessel (eight points) is one of the most consistent snipers in the league, while Van Riemsdyk (five goals) is a power forward who can hold his own with the toughest defensemen around.
The goaltending battle between Toronto's Jonathan Bernier and Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop may decide who gets the best of this rivalry.
Chicago Blackhawks-Colorado Avalanche
Why It's Special
The realignment has left the Blackhawks and Avs in the same division, and the two could become rivals. The Blackhawks have an established rivalry with the St. Louis Blues, but the defection of the Red Wings means they need a new rival to take their place.
The Avs may be a year or two away from seriously challenging the Blackhawks, but new coach Patrick Roy has a team that is loaded with offensive skill and should only get better from here.
The Avs will use the defending Stanley Cup champions as their measuring stick. Roy will get his team pumped up every night, but especially when it has a chance to play against such a high-profile opponent.
The Blackhawks surely remember that the Avs ended their 24-game point streak to start the 2013 season.
This rivalry may start slowly, but it will grow over the next few seasons.
Patrick Kane is one of the league's best offensive talents, while Colorado rookie Nathan MacKinnon is going to attempt to best him with his speed and moves.
Jonathan Toews may be the best all-around player in the game, while Gabriel Landeskog is going to try to show himself as a worthy competitor.
Finally, Roy gets his chance to coach in the NHL and will have to match wits with Joel Quenneville—one of the best minds in the NHL.
Calgary Flames-Winnipeg Jets
Why It's Special
The Jets and Flames don't share the same division, but they are both in the Western Conference. While the Flames already have a provincial rivalry in Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers, we see another rivalry developing with the Jets, who are the pride of Manitoba.
The Flames are going through a rebuilding season, while the Jets could struggle in their first season in the Western Conference. It may take a few seasons for both teams to get competitive, and they could do it at the same time.
The fans of both teams will dictate how big this rivalry becomes. Canadian teams, especially those in the Western Conference, like to beat each other. So if Winnipeg can get the best of the Flames, it will likely become a point of pride for the team. The same holds for the Flames.
Center Jiri Hudler of the Flames is off to a solid start with eight points in the first six games of the season. Young Sean Monahan (four goals, two assists) appears to be a future star in his rookie season. He is a creative player who can distribute the puck to his teammates.
Evander Kane (three goals, two assists) is the best player on the Jets and can be difficult to stop when he gets on a roll. Shifty defenseman Tobias Enstrom (six assists) is one of the league's most underrated offensive defensemen.
Detroit Red Wings-Montreal Canadiens
Why It's Special
The Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens formed one of the game's classic rivalries throughout the 1950s. The Red Wings dominated the first half of that decade, while the Canadiens owned the second half of that 10-year period.
Fast-forward to the current decade and the well-established Red Wings will find that the Canadiens are speedy and explosive—much like their predecessors.
Every team in the Atlantic Division will measure itself by how it does against the Red Wings, but Detroit will likely measure itself by how it fares against Montreal.
The Canadiens won the Northeast Division last year and were formidable for most of the season. While they slumped at the end of the year, they have the kind of talent in Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Lars Eller to push the Red Wings hard.
Goalie Carey Price (2.01 goals-against average, .938 save percentage) is going to have to be at his best to hold the Red Wings' highly skilled players in check.
Subban (10 points, plus-six) may be the best offensive defenseman in the league and excels at creating scoring opportunities off the rush. Alex Galchenyuk (one goal, six assists) has a chance to develop into a superstar for the Habs.
The Red Wings have a slew of young talent on the blue line and head coach Mike Babcock is anxious to see Danny DeKeyser (19:26 of ice time per game) and Jakub Kindl (18:22) develop into stars.
Babcock may be the best coach in the NHL and appears to have an advantage over Montreal's Michel Therrien, who tends to lose his cool when the Canadiens have problems.