Detroit Red Wings: Top 5 Opponents If They Host Next Winter Classic
This would of course be a great thing for the city of Detroit, but it would also thrust the other team involved into the spotlight.
There are a number of good teams the NHL could send to Detroit that would make for a great game and an interesting 24/7 series on HBO.
And now that we've learned about the conference realignment to take place next year, I'd say all 29 teams should be considered as opponents, whereas in years passed it was always a conference rival.
These are my top five choices for the Red Wings opponent if they were to host next year's Winter Classic.
5. Edmonton Oilers
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They are the youngest team in the league and look like they will be extremely good in the next few years.
It is an excellent way for the NHL to showcase some of the future superstars of the league in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, as well as other great young talent like Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, and Ryan Jones. (Shoutout to Chatham, Ontario's own Ryan Jones, my hometown as well.)
The Oilers went from being a dynasty to irrelevant the last few years, and the NHL as a whole would benefit from them returning to the spotlight.
All the young players would be great for HBO.
There has never been a Canadian team in the Winter Classic.
You run into TV issues because of Edmonton being in the west.
The Red Wings and Oilers don't have any real rivalry to speak of.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
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They played against the Red Wings in Chicago in the 2009 Winter Classic and the game lived up to the hype as it was a wide-open 6-4 victory for Detroit.
While Chicago has lost a few pieces from that team, they are still a very young, dynamic club with two of the more recognizable faces in the game in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Kane in particular seems like he'd be gold on HBO.
They are a division rival and will remain in the same conference after the realignment.
We've already seen this matchup.
People will likely want to see new teams involved in the Winter Classic that haven't participated before.
With both teams being from the Midwest, you lose some interest from other areas of the U.S.
3. San Jose Sharks
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They've had a great rivalry going on for the last few years, including some amazing playoff series.
They've been a powerhouse team consistently for quite a while now, so there is little risk of them not being good.
It should help draw interest from the southwest states, another area that isn't exactly a hotbed of hockey.
They have lots of personalities that would work for HBO (Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski)
TV would be the biggest deterrent to this happening.
The game would have to start at 4 p.m. EST to accommodate fans on the west coast.
You are risking low ratings by playing a California-based team.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
These two teams both have a very long and storied history and a rivalry that goes back a century.
It is a game we don't see nearly enough since the Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference.
The two teams are only 240 miles apart and selling 120,000 tickets to this game is definitely possible with both teams' fans attending.
I believe the Maple Leafs are not quite Stanley Cup contenders yet but by next season they have a chance to make some noise.
As much as I can't stand Brian Burke, he'd probably be entertaining on HBO.
The Maple Leafs have a strong following across both Canada and the U.S.
The teams' close proximity to each other could also be a negative, perhaps alienating the NHL's casual fans in other areas of the U.S.
While the Leafs have been better this season they are still a risk to be a bad team next year.
There has not yet been a Canadian team in the Winter Classic.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
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This matchup has star power all over the ice and nobody draws more national attention than Sidney Crosby.
We've seen how good these two teams can be in the spotlight with back-to-back NHL Finals that both came down to the last few seconds. This could be hyped as a rubber match of sorts.
There is very little risk of the Pittsburgh Penguins not being a contender considering how well they played even without Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Lots of people suited for 24/7 as we saw in Pittsburgh's appearance last season.
Pittsburgh has a good following across the U.S. due to their recent success and Crosby's popularity (last year's game had the highest ratings for a Winter Classic by far).
The Legends Game involved would be unreal. Yzerman vs. Lemieux would be enough on it's own despite the countless legends both teams could send out.
This would mark the third time having Pittsburgh in the game, perhaps getting repetitive.
Not that it's very relevant, but this is the game that started Crosby's concussion issues last year.
Which team would you like to see most?
Let me know in the comments below!
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