Today, Craig Leipold, his staff, and the entire State of Hockey can feel good when going to bed tonight. Starting next year, the Minnesota Wild will take part in the NHL realignment which will see the league go to a 4 conference set up (2 conferences of 8 teams, 2 conferences of 7 teams). Ever since taking over as princpal owner of the Wild, Leipold has lobbied for the Wild to get moved into a division with these teams, and he finally got his wish. Leipold will watch his team play in the more centralized conference with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, St Louis and Winnipeg. Also, any team not in your division you play a home and home series with them that year. The rest of your games come within your own division.
This is terrific news for the State of Hockey. They no longer have the long Canadian road trips from playing in the Northwest division, more road games will be starting at friendlier times for Wild fans (6, 630, or 7 pm), and they can rekindle the old North Stars rivalries with Chicago and St. Louis (These games are pretty intense already). The only main rival the Wild have currently are the Vancouver Canucks, and lately this rivalry has been boring and lopsided (In favor of Vancouver). So this is a perfect time for the team to relocate.
But perhaps the best news of all, is the fact this will be the weaker division in the foreseeable future. So this will give the Wild a better opportunity to win and make the postseason (Something the Wild have yet to achieve with Leipold running the show). The front runner here will obviously be Chicago and they will have sustained success with core players (Kane, Toews, Hossa) locked up for years to come. St. Louis is a team on the rise and will pose a big threat Detroit is a sinking ship due to largely the fact that their star players are getting older and past their prime. Dallas and Nashville will be wild cards for now as they have had recent success, but do not have any marquee names power the team past the next few years. And then you will have the bottom feeders Columbus and Winnipeg who will not be successful in the near future, but a top draft pick could easily change that.
So clearly, with the talent the Wild have and the talent they have coming up, they have the potential to be successful in this division for many years to come. And their record against the Central teams so far this year (7-0-1 against CHI, CBJ, DET, NSH, STL) is a huge positive for them moving forward.
The Wild and their fans are a big winner in this realignment. Now all they have to do is build a solid hockey team that contends for years to come. And they can get far closer to achieving that in this new division...
Here's the other conferences and their teams:
Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver
Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto
Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington