Feb 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) checks Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) in the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
What fans can look forward to however, is the creation of new inter-divisional rivalries between the Blues and teams that were a part of other divisions in years past. A rivalry I personally am looking most forward to creating is with the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets have a great fan base, and are already sold out well into the future at the MTS Centre. Playing in that rabid environment will really test the Blues, and is sure to create some tension between the two teams. The two teams were both in the Norris division for one season in 1981-82, before Winnipeg moved back to their previous division, the Smythe.
Another potential new rivalry that could be created in this division is with the Minnesota Wild. It’s a natural geographical rivalry, much like with the Blackhawks. I was too young to remember, but I’ve heard from some of the older Blues fans that the rivalry between the Blues and North Stars back in the late 80’s and early 90’s was a fantastic one. Minnesota boasts another great fan base, and this seems to be a trend in this division, with the exception of Dallas.
Jan 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) checks Minnesota Wild right wing Pierre-Marc Bouchard (96) off of the puck during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Wild 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Rivalries with Chicago and Nashville will be present in the foreseen future, as they stay. Columbus is the only other team leaving what fans knew as the Central Division, and I think that they’re a team that they can live without. It makes much more sense for the Blue Jackets to be placed in a new conference with teams from the same geographical area as them, limiting travel and hopefully getting the team back to relevance in the National Hockey League. There were flashes of a rivalry between the two teams during the Blue Jackets’ run in the Central division, but nothing ever surfaced to the level of a rivalry the Blues have with the Blackhawks.
Overall, I think that this move by the league was a very good one for hockey overall, and it will prove to make the regular season a little more exciting and competitive. It was a great move to make with the lost chunk of season that the lockout created, and will hopefully make hockey for the casual fan more intriguing. The new division that the Blues are a part of will not be an easy one, but the level of intensity and competition may be upped from recent years as teams are now closer than ever. I look forward to what the future of these new divisions hold for the league and the people that support it.