Around these parts many people refer to the Rangers as "Our Hated Rivals," and while they are definitely high on the list of most hated teams by most Devils' fans, are they really "rivals" beyond the obvious divisional sense?
It seems to me that the term is more about the "hated" part than the "rivals" part, which is quite understandable when one considers what it is about certain teams that incite intense hatred among other teams: the fans, dirty/jerk players, sense of entitlement, etc.
A true rivalry, however, requires more than just not liking one another. A rivalry is defined as "competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field," but looking at things historically, are the Rangers really "rivals?" Sure the two teams compete for the same objective in the same field, but my sticking point is on the word "superiority."Consider:
* The Rangers have not won the division since 1993-94
* The Rangers have missed the playoffs entirely in 8 of the last 12 seasons, including 7 years in a row in the late 90s to early 00s
By way of comparison, since the last time the Rangers won the Atlantic Division (and won their only Stanley Cup in the past 50 years in their only Finals appearance), the Devils have won the division 9 times and finished ahead of the Rangers in the standings in 14 of the 15 seasons, in most cases by quite a comfortable margin, and won three Stanley Cups in four Finals appearances.
Not exactly compelling evidence of a competition for superiority.
To their credit, the Rangers did defeat the Devils in two of the three playoff series in which they met over this time period, and that may go a long way toward helping develop the "hated" part, but the sweep of the Rangers by the Devils in 2005-06 does help balance out the "rivalry" part.
With this taken into account, and weighing what makes a rival by strictest definition, I contend that the Devils biggest rivals are actually, in fact, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Despite their up-and-down seasons and general inconsistency, since the Atlantic Division came to be in the 1993-94 season, no team other than the Devils has won the division more than once except the Flyers (5 times). Despite early success against the Flyers in the playoffs (series wins in 94-95 and 99-00), they've been beaten in an equal number of series (03-04, 09-10).
So what do you think? Do you have additional evidence to support my claim? Am I full of bologna and bitterness from the Devils' recent struggles against the Philthy Philadelphians? Do you feel there is a different team that better fulfills the role of the Devils' biggest rivals? Do we perhaps need to further define what makes a rival before declaring who is the team's biggest rival?
Spit it out.