Who will be Nashville Predators’ division rival in the new alignment?


Mar 12, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) defends against Nashville Predators center Craig Smith (15) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Predators shut out the Stars 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville’s involvement in the realignment is just like moving from the second to third grade. There are some kids in your class you were with before and some new ones you get to meet. Whatever the case, for all of these classmates, the relationship has to be defined for the upcoming school year.

Nashville only has two old Central Division mates that they have faced in the past, but with three new division rivals, there is a question lingering of who will be the new top rivalry for the Preds for the next few years.

I have written about what makes a rivalry in Fan Card and I believe the five components that make a good rivalry are division, distance, playoff history, player rivalries and shady incidents. With Nashville, it’s harder to pin down who will be that hated team, because they have little history with each of the new division opponents. There isn’t a team that fits perfectly with Nashville. However, there is potential for a rivalry to develop. Here are the most likely candidates for the position of Nashville’s

5. Winnipeg

Winnipeg doesn’t have a beef with Nashville so it’s hard to say how this rivalry will turn out. The Jets are a former Eastern Conference team so the history between the two clubs is almost non-existent.

However, Nashville could market this as a rivalry to the new fans from Atlanta. If the advertising was done in a way that made Winnipeg look like the bad guys that stole the Southern team away, that could generate a little bit of buzz. The storyline of “Candadian team steals away Thrashers” could fly. Is it true? No, but the Preds have done a good job of reaching those fans and creating headlines to get fans up for these games.

4. Chicago

Nashville, stop trying to make the Blackhawks happen. It’s not going to happen.

Yes, these two teams have playoff history and, yes, Nashville will need to beat Chicago in order for a chance at a division title, but there is not enough chemistry between these two teams to generate a hateful relationship.

Chicago is an Original Six team with multiple playing styles. Whenever the ‘Hawks come to play, the arena has way to many red jerseys and they are more obnoxious than a train horn at night. Chicago fans could care less about Nashville. They will be just fine.

Some fans have tried to compare Chicago to a new Detroit. I respectfully disagree.  Detroit was Nashville’s “rival” because Nashville needed a team to model its team after. The Preds needed a “big brother.” It didn’t mean much to the Detroit fans, but the players and fans of Nashville took it to heart and we finally beat them in the playoffs in 2012.

Chicago isn’t the new Detroit that the Preds will try to measure up to. The Predators are out of the “expansion team” phase. Nashville doesn’t need a big brother anymore. The Preds are for real.

3. St. Louis

St. Louis has the proximity edge on the rivalry, being 310 miles from Nashville, but that’s about it on the rivalry scale. It is close enough to which Nashville fans can go to the games, but has there been an incident where St. Louis has wronged Nashville? I can’t think of one, and with no playoff history, it is going to be tough to promote as a serious rivalry.

2. Minnesota

When the Wild came to Nashville, the crowd booed every single time “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” got on the ice. Every time he touched the puck, the fans let him have it. It was well deserved to. He lied to his then boss and said he was going to stay with the team. Then he didn’t. Nashville has every right to boo No. 20.

This incident is what can make the Nashville/Minnesota rivalry work. Pretty soon, it’s going to affect the players. And that will be a joy to watch.

1. Dallas

The Preds and Stars have the most potential in developing a rivalry in their new conference. In fact, most of us remember the March 12 game of anarchy this past season where the Predators shut out the Stars 4-0. Clune scored, Shea Weber goes nuts in a donnybrook and Lehtonen suckerpunches Mike Fisher. Video of proof below.

That’s where the rivalry started. The bitterness is only gonna grow between these guys. It’s gonna fester and these teams will be at a point where they just plain don’t like each other. Nashville signed free agents to add toughness and grit to the lineup. With those additions, maybe we will see more games like this where brawling lives. The new Money Green vs. Glittering Gold. That could be a fantastic rivalry.