NHL Realignment: Is the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks Rivalry Dead?
With the NHL Board of Governors nearly unanimous in their decision to change the structuring of the NHL conferences last night from a Western Conference and an Eastern Conference to four separate conferences, some rivalries have been hurt or lost altogether in the movement. On the Western side of things, a budding rivalry over the past five seasons through 35 games between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks seems to be over.
With the new format in the realignment, each team will play each out of conference team twice a season in a home and home format. This would result in the Canucks and Blackhawks meeting just twice, opposed to their usual four meetings per season.
We all knew some rivalries could get axed in the realignment movements, but the Canucks/Blackhawks rivalry was among the best in the "new" post-lockout NHL. Sure, the two teams could potentially meet in the playoffs, but a purely playoff rivalry isn't nearly as good as one that see's the two teams meet multiple times in the regular season and battle it out as though it were a playoff game.
We are no longer guaranteed to see the two sides play each other as often as they have the past few seasons and post-seasons, and it truly is a shame. There will of course be new rivalries formed within the new conferences, but a rivalry between a team from California, where there seems to be more Canucks fans than in-city fans, and the Canucks versus a rivalry with Chicago where not only is it two teams battling out, but two overly passionate fan bases going at it, just does not compare.
Most people presume the rivalries on the West Coast mean nothing, or that because the Canucks have been in the NHL just 41 seasons their rivalry with the 'Hawks is not important. However, the Blackhawks and Canucks have eliminated one another in each of the last three playoff seasons.
The two sides hate each other, legitimate hate. Some could say the best rivalry from the West has been killed.
Realignment may have got a lot of things right, but one of the few cons is the loss of this rivalry. The Canucks will always have their rivalry with the Calgary Flames, but that rivalry has become somewhat defunct over the past couple of seasons, as the Flames have been struggling.
The Blackhawks and Canucks were a guaranteed good old hockey game. It would have hits, fights, skill, speed, saves, and plenty of talent. With the new system fans will only get to see it twice a year and with the lack of competition within a single conference inclusion of the two sides, who knows where the rivalry will take us next.
Is it fair to say the rivalry is completely over? Probably not, but right now it feels as though that is the case. If it is indeed over, it was fun while it lasted.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow him on Twitter: @JohnBainSports
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