Hitchcock on new-look Wild: “They will be a real tough challenge for everybody”

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Last year’s proposed NHL realignment put the reigning Central Division champs, St. Louis, in a division with the Minnesota Wild.

After the summer Minnesota’s had, Ken Hitchcock is probably okay with that realignment plan being shot down.

The St. Louis Blues head coach recently spoke with the Post-Dispatch about the flurry of movement during summer’s free agent period, including Minnesota’s blockbuster signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Hitchcock feels the two marquee acquisitions will make the Wild a very difficult opponent in 2012-13.

“For me, it was whoever got Suter or Parise, they were the two players that were going to make a dramatic difference,” Hitchcock said. “The rest (of free agency) was going to be replacing Player A with Player B.”

The Blues are somewhat fortunate neither Parise or Suter ended up in the Central Division. Many pundits had them pegged for Detroit — one of the Blues’ fiercest rivals — but with them headed to the Northwest, St. Louis will have a much different task in defending their divisional title.

Three major stars have moved on: the Preds will be without Suter, the Wings without Nicklas Lidstrom and the Blue Jackets without Rick Nash.

Regardless, Hitchcock sees the Wild as a major threat in the West.

“They’ve loaded up,” Hitchcock said. “They will be a real tough challenge for everybody.”