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By Daniel Fung, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Jets face new division rivals after realignment
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - When the NHL announced last week it had approved its realignment plan beginning in the 2013-14, the Winnipeg Jets were thought to be one of the immediate winners of the move.

The reincarnated Jets have played in the Southeast Division since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta for the start of the 2012-13 season which has caused many travel-related headaches as well as forced them to adopt the previously-natural geographic rivals of the Thrashers as their own chief adversaries.

While it's assumed that moving into the Western Conference would allow the Jets to start picking up some new rivals, that process might be one that takes some time considering most of the old Jets' previous top foes - in particular the current three Western Canadian teams - are situated in what is being temporarily dubbed as Division A while the Jets are the lone Canadian entrant in the new Division B.

But while they might not get to face their old Smythe Division rivals like the Canucks, Oilers and Flames as often as they want, there's plenty of opportunities to build bad blood with their six new division opponents.

Here's a look at three teams in Winnipeg's new division that could end up being their top rivals starting next season.

MINNESOTA WILD

Geography dictates that the Wild would naturally be a top contender to be one of the Jets' new top rivals.

The Wild are the closest NHL team to Winnipeg so there's likely going to be more than a few occasions where fans of either team will be making that cross- border trek to cheer on their respective teams in hostile territory.

There's not been a lot of on-ice history between the two teams - the new Jets and Wild have only played two head-to-head games, both coming in the 2011-12 season, but the fact Winnipeg has won both previous meetings will give Jets' fans some early bragging rights.

That being said, at least at the outset, this rivalry will be one that will be fueled more by the fans in the stands than anything that happens on the ice.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The Blackhawks are, without a doubt, going to be the class of their new division which means there won't be any shortage of teams, including the Jets, that will be fired up to try and knock them down a peg.

Beyond just wanting to take down the best of the bunch each time they meet, there are a few former players on both sides that could make future meetings an interesting affair. The Jets boast several members of Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup winning team, including blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien and team captain Andrew Ladd, while one of the Blackhawks' top defensemen is ex-Jet - Johnny Oduya.

Add in the fact that the face of the Blackhawks' franchise and their team captain is none other than Winnipeg-native Jonathan Toews and you can see why future meetings between the Blackhawks and Jets will be must-see match-ups.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

A potential rivalry against the Jets might be perhaps the most intriguing one considering the similarities between both clubs.

Both teams are loaded have a number of young, talented players with the likes of Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane on the Jets and Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog on the Avalanche and both teams seem to have the pieces in place where, perhaps with a tweak or two, could be considered legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Neither of these teams will be considered favorites to win the new division in the immediate future, but there should be plenty of interesting battles for a playoff spot, which is a sure fire method to develop bad blood in a hurry.