“Realignment was a no-brainer for us,” Wild owner Craig Leipold said. “It’s good for our players, good for our fans, good for our TV ratings and it’s good for our pocketbook because travel costs are less and our TV ratings always drop as we get into the 10:30, 11 p.m. time period.”
Teams to beat
The Central Division will be tough. It’s hard to imagine Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champion, and St. Louis, many pundits’ preseason Cup favorites, not going 1-2 in either order. Plus, the Wild often struggles in Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and even Nashville. Winnipeg, and its intimate, ear-piecing crowd of 15,000, can be an intimidating place to play.
“But every division is tough in this league,” Leipold said.
Most importantly, the Wild will be able to develop a true rival or two. In the past, Vancouver was probably Minnesota’s biggest rival, but ask any Canucks fan, and it’s doubtful they’d reply Minnesota as Vancouver’s biggest.
“A team like Winnipeg holds great promise as a team that our fans can grow to hate very quickly,” Fletcher said.
St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, the former Spring Lake Park and Minnesota State Mankato standout, says this will be tremendous for Wild and Blues fans.
“It won’t be long for the rivalries to be rekindled,” Backes said. “St. Louis-Minnesota seems to dial it up every time. Now Wild fans will see Chicago more like the old North Stars-Blackhawks rivalry. And I know Winnipeg will be a natural rivalry.
“I think we’ll all be fighting to establish territory. Like St. Louis-Minnesota, I don’t know if the rivalry’s boiling yet, but there’s water in the pot and heat underneath it.”