By Nathan Currier @nathancurrier
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it. You believed it, I didn’t. Season after season in the NHL the debate renews over which Conference is superior. The East or the West?
The Stanley Cup winners during the past 6 seasons would suggest the answer is settled. Since the 2008-2009 season there have been 2 winners from the East (Penguins and Bruins) and 4 from the West (Red Wings, Kings, and a double-dose of the Blackhawks).
But consider this. If regular season dominance is a primary determinant of which Conference ruled supreme, then last season didn’t provide for that. The lockout-truncated 2012-2013 regular season featured no games pitting East against West.
For the sake of our argument here the Blackhawks Stanley Cup win last season will be excluded from the exercise below. Yes, they beat an Eastern Conference team 4 games to 2 to win the Cup, but those were the only East vs. West games in the entire 2012-2013 season. With one single team pitted against another, the significance is minimized when considering one Conference versus another. We’re looking for a larger sample size.
Thus, the final tally of Stanley Cups over the past 5(+1) seasons breaks down to 3-2 for the West. Too close a result to call based on Cup success when declaring the winner of the title “Dominant Conference”.
The Results Won’t Lie
Our only recourse then is to look to the regular season win-percentage-breakdown from games featuring Eastern teams against the West. The two tables of results below have done that for the 5 seasons back to 2008-2009, where the East played regular season games against the West. Winning percentage (Win %) was calculated considering that an overtime loss (OT Loss) is a loss. The data for the current 2013-2014 season was compiled including games up until November 2nd, 2013.
Eastern Conference Team Winning Percentage Against West, by Season
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Western Conference Team Winning Percentage Against East, by Season
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Who is Dominant?
If it’s not immediately obvious to you, the Western Conference has had consistent success over the Eastern Conference teams in seasons past. They’ve steadily won more than 50% of the time, where an even 50/50 split would be expected if both Conferences were equal. From the 2008-2009 season, the Western teams have the strong majority of wins over the East.
However, this season the West is running amok. Western teams have a 60-26-9 record over the Eastern teams, equaling a 63.2% win percentage. Perennial blame usually fell on the now-defunct Southeast Division who had traditionally been the weakest division in the East, and upon who the West gathered a good proportion of their wins.
However, the Tampa Bay Lightning (now in the new Atlantic Division) are currently 5-0-0 against Western Conference teams so far this season. The Washington Capitals, a former Southeast team, are 4-5-0. This year it is Buffalo (0-6-0 against West), New Jersey (0-2-3) and Philadelphia (0-3-0) who are dragging down the East.
The West IS Best Right Now
All of these results would be disregarded if the scales tipped differently from year to year, alternating or switching back and forth between the two Conferences. It seems, at least as it stands right now, that the West really is proving ‘West is Best’. Consistently.
Can’t wait to see who wins the Stanley Cup though.
Lead Writer for the Montreal Canadiens at TheHockeyWriters.com. Also, tracking man games lost data for pro sports at ManGamesLost.com. PhD in cell biology from McGill University. Lifelong Habs fan.