August 23, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
Cups & Pucks covered the new Eastern Conference divisions last week, so naturally it’s time to discuss the Western Conference. The difference between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference is the West is a 14 team conference rather than the 16 teams in the East. The West is broken into two divisions: the Pacific and Central Divisions.
The Pacific Division’s teams already have a bit of history. The Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks make up the Pacific Division. Many of these teams have had heated playoff series in the last couple of years. Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes had a 5 game series back in 2012 which ended with some bad blood between King’s captain Dustin Brown and Coyote’s captain Shane Doan after Brown laid out Michal Rozsival with a borderline dirty hit.
The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Shark have dominated the Vancouver Canucks the last two years. In 2012, when Los Angeles won the cup, the Kings trumped Vancouver with their physical play. In 2013, the Sharks didn’t even keep it close when they walked all over Vancouver who was struggling to determine their starting goaltender. Also the three California teams have a bit of a rivalry. San Jose has had a steady fan base for a while, but the success of the Los Angeles Kings and the skill level of the Anaheim Ducks over the last 6 years (inconsistent as it is) have made the The Golden State a competitive place for puck. The Kings and Ducks literally a few miles away from each other, which keeps the tension nice and close.
The biggest rivalry in the division is between two rebuilding teams: The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The battle for Alberta is one of the league’s most hated rivalries. Steaming back from the days of dynasty Oilers, the rivalry continues to build a story each time the two teams meet. Even with younger, less experienced teams, the hate between the two continues to grow.
The Pacific Division has some already defined rivalries. Aside from the playoff match-ups, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton were part of the Pacific Division while Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Jose were all part of the old Pacific Division. The tension that was already there will continue and the new teams will build from their playoff match-ups (look for San Jose and Los Angeles to build a stronger rivalry with Vancouver).
The Central Division has experienced the most change with the new divisions. Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets make up the new Central Division. Obviously the biggest rivalry entering the season is between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. The two have built a relationship that was typically shadowed by the Hawks and Wings rivalry. Blackhawks and St. Louis played with Nashville in the old Central Division but the tension was lacking, even with playoff match-ups. Also the Wild and Avalanche will display some aggression from their days in the Northwest Division.
What could be really interesting is Winnipeg and Minnesota re-establishing rivalries with Chicago and St. Louis. The Minnesota North Stars and old Winnipeg Jets had a rivalry with St. Louis and Chicago before they relocated to Dallas in 1993. If Detroit remained in the West; those five teams would be awesome to watch.
Other than fast, young teams like Colorado and Minnesota being added to the Central Division, there is going to be a learning curve as well. These are teams without much history between them and will need to experience playoff match-ups before you really see a potential rivalry develop. Time will tell how exciting this division really will become.