When the NHLPA finally agreed to the realignment setup the owners wanted, it provided relief around the NHL. Especially for the Winnipeg Jets. This will be the last season the Jets will play in the Southeast Division before moving to the new Midwest Division, in time for the 2013-14 season. First off, the move makes geographical sense. The Jets don’t belong in a division with Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Washington. The travel is absurd. Secondly, the Jets will play the majority of their games in the central time zone, which will make travel much more bearable.
The other thing realignment will bring is new rivalries. The Jets never really developed a hatred with any of their Southeast brethren. This move should help in creating rivalries that the players and fans can anticipate. Here’s a look at the new Midwest division that will start in October.
The class of the NHL. The Hawks currently have the best record in the NHL, and will be the team to beat in the new division. This has potential to be a great rival for the Jets. With Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews leading the way, there are no shortage of Blackhawks fans in Winnipeg. Don’t forget, current Jet stars Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd were on the 2010 Blackhawks team that hoisted the Stanley Cup, ending a 39 year drought. Chicago’s first trip to the MTS Centre next season will be one of the most hyped games on the calendar.
The closest team in terms of geography to Winnipeg, St. Paul, Minnesota is only an 8 hour drive from the Manitoba capital. Therefore, road trips will be very easy for fans who want to make the drive down to the Twin Cities. These two teams are similar in that both are still searching for an identity. Back in December 2011, the Wild made their only visit to the MTS Centre, and the game turned out to be one of the most intense games of the season. The Jets emerged with a 2-1 victory in a bitterly hard-fought contest. Wild coach Mike Yeo accused the Jets of “pumping in noise” into the MTS Centre. This one could get very nasty.
St. Louis Blues:
Some trivia here. The Winnipeg Jets version 1.0 first ever playoff opponent was the Blues back in 1982. The Blues won the first round best-of-five series 3 games to 1. It could very well be the Jets 2.0 version’s first playoff opponent is the Blues depending on what happens this season. It might take a playoff series to get this rivalry going though. The Blues are a good team but somewhat anonymous. There are no big stars on the Blues roster. In fact the one name Jet fans may recognize is Alex Steen, who is the son of Thomas Steen who played for the old Jets from 1981 till 1995. If they do meet in the playoffs, then a rivalry could happen. Otherwise, it isn’t there as of yet.
There is potential here. Back on March 14 2012, the Stars and Jets had their only meeting since the Jets moved from Atlanta. The Jets played one of their best games of the season defeating the Stars 5-2. However, it was late in the game when fireworks exploded. Stars pest Adam Burish provoked Tanner Glass into a fight. Afterwards, Burish threw Glass’s gloves into the crowd sparking a melee between the teams. It’s a shame the teams won’t meet this season, but if that melee carries over into next season, then a rivalry is born. Keep an eye out for this one.
Two young teams with bright futures? Sounds like a potential rivalry to me. The Avalanche have struggled this season, but with young studs like Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, they have the potential to make waves in the future. The Jets are also a young team with an eye to the future. With the likes of Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian expected to lead the way, the Jets also have a bright future. These two teams could collide in some big-time games next season and beyond. Very much looking forward to this one.
On paper, this would take a playoff series for the rivalry to take shape. The one Manitoba connection for the Predators is long-time head coach Barry Trotz, who was born and raised in Dauphin, and played university hockey for the Manitoba Bisons. With Shea Weber locked under contract till 2026, the Predators will have their face of the franchise to lead the way. Nashville isn’t the most exciting team, but they do work their tails off every night. But with little history between the Preds and Jets, it will take a bitter playoff series to get a rivalry going.
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