NASHVILLE -- It must all still seem so new for the Winnipeg Jets. They've picked up and moved into their new home in the NHL's Central Division and have already been introduced to some of their new neighbours.
But there are boxes to still unpack and some real settling in to do yet. And this week's jaunt through the Central -- with stops in Nashville, Dallas, Denver and St. Louis -- is as good a way as any to get acquainted to their new locale.
"That's a process as well," said Jets coach Claude Noel Wednesday. "But we watch enough tape that we understand how they play and we see how they play. The difference is the players themselves don't know their opponents, they don't know them on the faceoff dot. They don't know their habits. So it's our job to educate them, whether it's through tape or talking."
OK, so the 2013-14 campaign is already some 10 games old. But call this our Central Division meet and greet.
Yes, it's time to kick those boots off, step inside and find out a little about who is on the other side of the fence because -- as most are already aware -- these folks are nothing like the old crew in the Southeast Division.
Here's a quick primer on the four clubs Winnipeg is facing in the next six days:
QUICK HISTORY: Awarded a franchise in June of 1997, two years after the New Jersey Devils were rumoured to be relocating there and after the city failed in an attempt to bring the NBA's Sacramento Kings to Tennessee.
HOME: Bridgestone Arena (17,113)
OWNER: Predators Holdings LLC (ownership group includes 10 investors)
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME VS. PREDS: 6-8-3
THIS SEASON VS. PREDS: 0-1-0
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME IN NASHVILLE: 2-6-0
FOUR FAST FACTS ABOUT THE PREDS
1. The Preds hockey management team has some deep Manitoba/Jets 1.0 connections: their head coach is Barry Trotz, the proud product of Dauphin, who coached both the U of M Bisons and MJHL's Dauphin Kings; their assistant GM is former Jet Paul Fenton and Phil Housely, an assistant coach, is also a former Jet. Stu Grimson, another Bison hockey product, is the Preds' radio colour analyst.
2. Trotz is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL and the only coach in Preds history.
3. David Legwand, the Preds' first-ever draft choice (second overall in 1998) is still with the team and the franchise's all-time leader in points, goals, assists, games and game-winning goals.
4. The Predators media guide lists Mike Fisher's wife as 'Carrie.' That would be Carrie Underwood, the country music star and former American Idol winner.
QUICK HISTORY: Originally the Minnesota North Stars, the franchise joined the NHL as part of its first expansion in 1967. New owner Norman Green relocated the team to Dallas in 1993-94 due to attendance problems.
HOME: American Airlines Center (18,532)
OWNER: Tom Gaglardi, a Canadian.
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME VS. STARS: 3-11-1
THIS SEASON VS. STARS: 0-1-0
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME IN DALLAS: 1-6-0
FOUR FAST FACTS ABOUT THE STARS
1. The Stars have won two conference championships and one Stanley Cup, in 1998-99. Dallas beat Buffalo in six games for the title with the title-deciding goal a controversial one by Brett Hull (he was in the crease) in triple OT. Coincidentally, the Stars' new head coach -- Lindy Ruff -- was the Sabres boss in '98-99.
2. The Stars finished 2013 with a 22-22-4 record, their 16th consecutive season with a .500 record or better. There are currently four teams in pro sports (NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL) with an active streak of 15 or more consecutive seasons with a record of .500 or better. Only the Detroit Red Wings (21) and New York Yankees (16) have posted more active consecutive winning seasons than the Dallas Stars while the San Antonio Spurs are also working on a streak that has reached 16.
3. Kari Lehtonen, the Stars' No. 1 netminder, was Atlanta's first-round draft pick (second overall) in 2002. He is still the Thrashers/Jets all-time leader in wins by a goaltender with 94, although Ondrej Pavelec's next victory will move him atop the list with 95. On Feb. 9, 2010 he was traded to Dallas for Ivan Vishnevskiy and the Stars' 2010 fourth-round pick (Ivan Telegin).
4. Jim Nill, named Stars GM in April, played for the Jets 1.0. He was acquired from the Boston Bruins in 1985 for Morris Lukowich and played parts of four seasons with Winnipeg from 1984-85 to 1987-88.
QUICK HISTORY: Originally the Quebec Nordiques, who joined the World Hockey Association -- along with the Jets -- in 1972. Relocated to Denver after the 1994-95 season when the team was sold to the COMSAT Entertainment Group.
HOME: Pepsi Center (18,007)
OWNER: E. Stanley Kroenke (also owns the St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, Pepsi Center, Colorado Rapids of the MLS, Colorado Mammoth of the NLL, a majority shareholder of Arsenal).
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TME VS. AVS: 9-5-3
THIS SEASON VS. AVS: 0-0-0
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME IN DENVER: 6-2-1
FOUR FAST FACTS ABOUT THE AVS:
1. The franchise has a rich championship history, winning two Stanley Cups in 1995-96 and 2000-01 and the Avco Cup in 1976-77 (knocking off the Jets in seven games). The '95-96 title was the first major championship brought by a team to Denver.
2. Joe Sakic, named the executive VP of hockey operations in May of this year, is the franchise's all-time leader in games, goals, assists and points. He named Patrick Roy the team's new head coach 13 days after his own appointment. Roy is the franchise's all-time leader in goaltender wins, shutouts and goals-against average.
3. During a stretch from Nov. 9, 1995 to Oct. 16, 2006 the Avs sold out all their home games, an NHL record of 487. Last season they had just three with five in the three years prior to that.
4. The Avs will honour longtime defenceman Adam Foote, now one of their assistant coaches, by retiring his jersey No. 52 next week.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
QUICK HISTORY: One of the NHL's first expansion franchises when the Original Six added six more teams in 1967 (also including the Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and California Seals).
HOME: Scottrade Center (19,150)
OWNER: TowerBrook Capital Partners (chairman is Tom Stillman)
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME VS. BLUES: 6-7-3
THIS SEASON VS. BLUES: 1-0-0
JETS/THRASHERS ALL-TIME IN ST. LOUIS: 2-3-1
FOUR FAST FACTS ABOUT THE BLUES:
1. The Blues made it to the Stanley Cup final in each of their first three seasons as the winners of the West Division, featuring the expansion teams, faced the winners of the East Division, featuring the Original Six. The Blues, led by Scotty Bowman, would be swept in each final -- in 1968 and 1969 by Montreal and in 1970 by Boston.
2. Two current Blues players -- Alex Steen and Ryan Reaves -- are the offspring of two Winnipeg sporting heroes. Steen's father is former Jet Thomas Steen; Reaves' dad is ex-Blue Bomber running back Willard Reaves.
3. The Blues have retired six jersey numbers: Brett Hull (16), Al MacInnis (2), Bernie Federko (24), Brian Sutter (11), Barclay Plager (8) and Bob Gassoff (3).
4. Why the Blues? Back in 1967 team owner Sid Salomon Jr. said the team had to be named the 'Blues' after the famous W.C. Handy song Saint Louis Blues. FYI: At all Blues home games and at the end of the U.S. national anthem, fans drown out 'home of the brave' with 'home of the Blues.'
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