This could be very interesting…

22Mar07

Remember the good ol’ days of the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings beating the living snot out of each other on a regular basis? Remember the palpable hate between the teams? Remember Claude Lemieux, Darren McCarty, Patrick Roy, Mike Vernon, and all those other players that just loved to say hello to each other with their fists?

You can’t go home again, but there’s something very interesting brewing out west that could just add a new twist to this slumbering rivalry: what if the Avalanche played Todd Bertuzzi and the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs?

For the longest time, everyone basically thought that the west’s top eight were set with Colorado sitting well out of eighth place. The Bertuzzi trade to Detroit was more about his health and the Red Wings’ gamble and I don’t think anyone was even considering how it might bring the old burgandy vs. red rivalry back into prominence.

However, things have turned around for the Avalanche, and the Red Wings — who were behind the Predators for top spot in the west for a long time — are now realistically within striking distance of claiming that top seed. As it stands this morning, Colorado is four points behind Calgary, Detroit’s one point behind Nashville, and Todd Bertuzzi is set to debut tonight against Columbus.

So, let’s just think for a moment about the right cards falling into place here:

1) Calgary fails to heat up during the final stretch of the season
2) Colorado wins consistently and overtakes eight place
3) Detroit surpasses Nashville for first overall
4) Todd Bertuzzi stays healthy

Granted, a lot of the bad blood between these two teams is mostly fan-based these days — I don’t think Wojtek Wolski wants to kick the crap out of Henrik Zetterberg. The Avs and the Wings are both more skill-based teams rather than the mix of sandpaper and talent that the late 90’s squads had. And even with Bertuzzi, so many players have left Colorado since the actual incident that there’s not the same level of vitriol towards #44 as there was several years ago.

Still, if this happened, the first thing that would happen is that the fans, especially in Colorado, would go nuts about a chance to go after Evil Team #1 and Evil Player #1. Second, the mainstream and local media would pick up the story and run with it, much to the delight of Gary Bettman and co. Third, with all of the hype surrounding it and the naturally chippy style of play during the playoffs, the old hatred could very easily return.

Usually, it only takes one or two games during a playoff series for teams to really dislike each other. Even the San Jose/Edmonton series last season, which everyone wrote off as boring since they had no history against each other, turned into the requisite playoff mix of nasty and tough. So if you take two teams that have a long history with each — even if the true animosity has been dormant for a few seasons — with the most hated hockey player in Denver and you have the making of what could potentially be a rebirth of The Rivalry. It might not last past this season, but it could still be fun to watch.

So for those of you rooting for the return of good ol’ fashioned bad blood between Colorado and Detroit, time to start hoping that Calgary and Nashville lose.

By the way, for anyone looking to refresh their memory on the Avs/Red Wings rivalry, you can pick up Blood Feud by Adrian Dater over on the right side of the blog. Just click on the photo of Patrick Roy getting punched.

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