Myths of the Northwest

A popular myth maintains it's difficult for a dominant team to emerge in the Northwest Division cuz it's such a tough group top-to-bottom. There's no way to fatten up on the dregs the way Detroit has done for years in the weak Central, or San Jose did this year in the suddenly-soft Pacific. Every team in the poor old Northwest faces a "tough schedule".

But in 2008-09, not so much. Here are the combined records of the NHL's six divisions:

Division .... GP * W - L - OT * Pts * Pts%
Central .... 410 * 219-141-50 * 488 * .595
Northeast .. 410 * 205-151-54 * 464 * .566
Atlantic ... 410 * 209-159-42 * 460 * .561
Pacific .... 410 * 201-162-47 * 449 * .548
Northwest .. 410 * 201-170-39 * 441 * .538
Southeast .. 410 * 195-165-50 * 440 * .537

In recent years this method has been complicated by the infernal Bettman Point, whose effect can be clearly seen above in that the worst division in hockey collected 53.7% of the available points. The Pts% of the league as a whole is a fluctuating value which seems to have found its level at ~.557 in each of the last three seasons, as about 23% of games reach overtime and generate the "free lunch" point.

The former laughing-stock Central is now the league's best division: first in Wins, Points, GF, GA, and by extension Win%, Pts%, goal differential.

Meanwhile the Northwest fares poorly by almost any standard: 5th in points (1 measly point ahead of the perennially poor SouthLeast), tied for 4th in Wins, 4th in goal differential, 6th and last in GF. Vancouver had the lowest points total of any division champion.

The local picture hardly improves for the post season:

Division .. Playoff Teams .. Series Wins
Central ........ 4 .............. 4++
Southeast ...... 2 .............. 3+
Atlantic ....... 4 .............. 2+
Northeast ...... 2 .............. 1
Pacific ........ 2 .............. 1
Northwest ...... 2 .............. 1

That's just through two rounds of course, but three divisions including the Northwest will be doing no further damage in 2009.

The Central continues to dominate in the post-season, having produced both conference finalists and a guaranteed pennant winner. In the process the Central's second-best club, Chicago Blackhawks, handily dispatched both NW representatives.

Given that Southeast teams have won 3 series with Carolina still hanging around, it seems that division has surpassed the Northwest for overall performance in 2008-09. The inescapable conclusion is that the local group has been the worst division in the NHL this season.


Bruce said...

Boy, that was interesting.

Doogie2K said...

Well, I enjoyed it. I just haven't been visiting the blogs much lately. Lost interest in most of them, to be honest.

I dunno, I probably could've told you without the statistical analysis that the NW was no longer the toughest division in hockey. The Oilers have waffled between mediocrity and shit for the past three seasons, Vancouver goes as Luongo goes, Minny has been very adept at playing middle-of-the-pack hockey, Colorado fell into a deep well this past season, and Calgary has a twenty-year tradition of shitting themselves in mid-April which was compounded by poor cap management. Meanwhile, Chicago's been awakened in a big way, St. Loo and Columbus were playoff teams, and Nashville could've been one, too. Doesn't that sound similar to the NW from 2006?

That being said, having the numbers laid bare like that paints a pretty stark picture. It's a near-inversion of the status quo from three or four years ago. (Though the more things change, the more the Southeast stays truly horrible. Death and taxes, I guess.)