Commentary

There's Leafs-Habs, and then there's these new rivalries

Updated: December 6, 2007, 2:00 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

We all know about the storied rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. The "Battle of Alberta," the Islanders vs. the Rangers and Detroit vs. Colorado are clashes that will always hold a special place in our hearts.

But with new teams, new players and new story lines, we have some fresh rivalries ready to hit a boiling point. In the latest 10 Degrees, we look at the best "new" rivalries in the NHL.

[+] EnlargeSidney Crosby and Mike Richards
AP Photo/H. Rumph, Jr.Mike Richards, right, has made on-ice life more difficult for Sidney Crosby this season.

10. Vancouver vs. Minnesota
Here are two teams without much head-to-head history, geographical ties or any reason to despise one another. That all changed on Nov. 16, when the mild-mannered Mattias Ohlund took a two-hander to the leg of Mikko Koivu after he was elbowed by the Wild center. The fallout from what became an international incident between Ohlund (Sweden) and Koivu (Finland) was a four-game suspension for Ohlund, a cracked fibula for Koivu and some bad blood between the Canucks and Wild. When the two teams faced each other again on Dec. 2, a scrap broke out just three seconds into the game and four misconducts followed. These teams face off five more times this season, so don't be surprised if we see more fireworks as they battle for the Northwest Division title.

9. Anaheim vs. Los Angeles
Separated by less than 40 miles, the Ducks and Kings have become bitter local rivals. Last season, the teams played eight times; seven were decided by one goal and three of those tilts were shootouts. This season, they have already played five games, including the back-to-back, season-opening games in London, England. Despite playing in a division with Cup contenders Dallas and San Jose, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle calls the Kings "our fiercest rival." The numbers don't lie. In their meetings this season, there have been eight roughing penalties, six boarding penalties, two fights and four misconducts, including a game misconduct. Next up, Jan. 24 in L.A. Game on!

8. Philadelphia vs. Boston
Considering their leader is 5-foot-9, 175-pound Daniel Briere, the Flyers aren't exactly the reincarnation of The Broad Street Bullies. But with five player suspensions (52 games) already in the books this season, Philadelphia is stirring things up around the NHL. No team has felt the effects more than the Boston Bruins. Patrice Bergeron's season may be over after suffering a concussion and broken nose in October, courtesy of a nasty hit from Flyers defenseman Randy Jones. In the teams' next meeting one month later, Scott Hartnell smashed Andrew Alberts head first into the boards, knocking the Bruins' tough guy out of the game. Both Jones and Hartnell were given two-game suspensions. The league has spoken, but what about the Bruins? Most players and teams subscribe to the "eye for an eye" philosophy. We'll find out in "Flyers vs. Bruins, Part III" on Jan. 12.

7. Derek Boogaard vs. Georges Laraque
The NHL's top two heavyweights have had a running feud since 2005. They have fought four times overall, with the lefty Laraque getting the better of Boogaard each time. The last scuffle one season ago sent the 6-foot-7 Boogaard to the injured list with a knee injury and he sat out nearly a month. With Laraque now in the Eastern Conference, the next edition of this rivalry will have to wait until the 2008 season since he missed this season's Penguins-Wild matchup. Still, at just 25, Boogaard has made it clear he plans to unseat Laraque as the game's most feared pugilist. Time will tell, but Round 5 between these two enforcers is bound to happen.

6. Ottawa vs. Buffalo
As if meeting in the playoffs four times over the last decade wasn't enough, the Senators and Sabres get to face each other eight times during the regular season in a matchup of two of the better skating teams in the league. Every game is a physical, end-to-end affair, with both teams' fans well represented in each city. This growing rivalry has been particularly hot since last February, when Chris Neil ran over Chris Drury, injuring the then-Sabres' leading scorer. The hit sparked a brawl, including goaltenders Martin Biron and Ray Emery. Even though Drury (Rangers) and Biron (Flyers) left Buffalo, the ill will between the teams remains. They play three games over a 15-day stretch starting on Dec. 26.

[+] EnlargeGeorges Laraque and Derek Boogard
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriGeorges Laraque, left, and Derek Boogaard? No love lost there.

5. Chicago vs. Detroit
Superman had kryptonite, Seinfeld had Newman and the Detroit Red Wings apparently have the Chicago Blackhawks. Of all the possible Original Six matchups, this is the most improbable of rivalries. Since the last time the Hawks won a playoff series in 1996, the Wings have won three Stanley Cups and seven Central Division titles. But, this season, a rivalry has been revived out of what has recently been a mockery. Chicago is 4-0 vs. Detroit this season, the only team to beat the Wings at The Joe. After missing the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons, this maybe the season where the Windy City has the final say against Hockeytown.

4. Edmonton vs. Anaheim
On the ice, this rivalry has been timid compared to what has been said and done off it. It started in June 2006, when Chris Pronger asked for a trade from Edmonton after helping the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup finals. GM Kevin Lowe obliged by shipping the former MVP to Anaheim. The following offseason, just weeks after Anaheim won the Cup, Lowe presented restricted free agent Dustin Penner with a five-year $21.25-million offer sheet. Some considered the move "breaking protocol" with GMs and Ducks GM Brian Burke called it "colossal stupidity." Burke went on to say, "If I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn't have thrown a grenade at the other 29 teams, and my own indirectly." Lowe shot back, calling Burke an "egomaniac" and a "blowhard." The war of words paved the way for some passionate on-ice battles. The Oilers recently swept a home-and-home series from the Ducks, outscoring the defending champs 9-1.

3. Sidney Crosby vs. Mike Richards
By all accounts, Mike Richards is a goal scorer. He leads the Flyers in scoring and sits in the top 10 in the NHL. But he can also be a pest. Just ask Sidney Crosby. Last season, the Penguins won all eight regular-season matchups vs. the Flyers and Crosby delivered seven goals and nine assists along the way. This season, with Richards draped all over Crosby, the Penguins are winless in two games. In their last meeting, a 5-2 Flyers win, Crosby was accused of diving, an accusation that left the reigning MVP seething and led to some jawing with Richards during the game. Neither will discuss what was said on the ice, but they both concede it was a spirited conversation. They may have won two gold medals as teammates for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, but, right now, Richards and Crosby are bitter rivals with six more matchups this season. Next up, Dec. 11 in Philly.

2. Claude Julien vs. the Montreal Canadiens
It used to be former Boston coach Don Cherry that caught the ire of the Montreal Canadiens. Move over Grapes; say hello to former Habs bench boss Claude Julien, who has picked up right where Cherry left off. The rivalry began in earnest Nov. 8, when Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward suffered a concussion after getting elbowed by Francis Bouillon. Julien was incensed no penalty was called, and no suspension followed (Ward missed two games). In a rematch in Montreal nine days later, Julien let his players loose after the Habs held a comfortable lead in the third period. A series of fights ensued. After Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart roughed up non-fighter Andrei Kostitsyn, Julien and Montreal assistant coach Kirk Muller were screaming at each other from the benches. Following the game, Julien sent a message via the media to his Montreal counterparts: "Take care of your own business, and we'll take care of our own." There will be plenty of business for Julien to take care of with five more meetings between these clubs.

1. Sean Avery vs. ...
Where do we begin? Since making his NHL debut six seasons ago, Avery quickly established himself as a pest. In last season's ESPN.com NHL Players Survey, 38 percent of the 141 players polled said Avery was the dirtiest player in the league. The 27-year-old Rangers forward has a number of ongoing feuds, both on and off the ice. Within the last three seasons, he was suspended by his former team, the L.A. Kings, for conduct detrimental to the team; he made an inflammatory comment about French-Canadian hockey players; he was accused of uttering a racial slur at Georges Laraque; he had a very public and heated argument with Ducks broadcaster Brian Hayward; and, last month, he had a heated pregame and in-game battle with Toronto's Darcy Tucker. But let's not forget, Avery can play. He's been the spark in the Rangers' lineup since joining the club before last season's trade deadline. And it's safe to say Avery will be stirring up new rivalries once he returns from a wrist injury.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.