With NHL Realignment a done deal, it is time to say goodbye to our Northwest Division rivals and hello to a new bunch in the unnamed Central Conference. While I'll miss watching Roberto Luongo skate to the bench mid-period after being pulled, I have a hunch I'll like getting to bed a bit earlier and not having to watch many away games starting at 9:00 Central Time.
With that in mind, who in the the new Conference will become the Wild's biggest rival? Here is a quick look at the contenders using a 5 star rating system:
(1) Chicago Blackhawks (****) ~ I wouldn't mind seeing a rekindling of the old North Stars-Blackhawks rivalry, but Steve Larmer and Al Secord are no longer active. Can I grow to hate Jonathan Toews and Company? To quote Jeff Dubay, "Yeah, I think so!"
(2) St. Louis Blues (***) ~ another good past rival, but they've fallen a bit. Having said that, it'll be nice to pencil in 12 points at the beginning of the season.
(3) Columbus Bluejackets (1/2 *) ~ assuming they'll still be around next season, I have some trouble getting excited about playing a hockey team from Ohio, Miami excluded.
(4) Nashville Predators (**) ~ a competitive team with a neckless coach. Something tells me I could muster some hatred towards Jordan Tootoo also.
(5) Dallas Stars (****) ~ the natural pick with the Norm Green history and all. We'll see what develops.
(6) Detroit Red Wings (***) ~ who knows. The way they're whining about not being in the Eastern Conference they may end up there sooner rather than later. That, and the fact that their roster is aging faster than Giada's provolone, makes me shy away from them as a legit rival.
(7) Winnipeg Jets (**) ~ again, we'll have to see what develops. One thing to look forward to is more Wild appearances on early HNIC games. We'll also get to see Dustin Byfuglien shatter the magical 300 lb. number.