MC79 brought up an issue over at his blog the other day that's always a touchy one at least among fans I've known the other day - the dynamic of the East versus the West.
I've long argued on the part of the Western Conference, and in fact, I think it's the quality and the excitement of the play on that side of the league that made me such a Wings fan to begin with, even growing up with the Leafs. I bash Eastern Conference hockey with the rest of them; it's boring, their style of play sucks, c'mon have you ever watched a Devils game, etc., etc. - and a lot of it is just good fun. Never once did I actually consider the Western conference to be so much "better" than the East (though I admit, give me a good Western team matchup and I'll watch them in a split second over Eastern).
But what about the argument being made here - is the Eastern Conference really on such a completely different level than the Western? Does that explain why everyone's always bashing Eastern hockey? Even though current standings-wise (and here is where you can picture me raging about the current interdivisional-heavy play schedule if you'd like) show both conferences running even with each other, the truth is:
As of the All-Star Break, the East is at 34-51-12 against the West, a .412 winning percentage. They’ve scored 244 goals and allowed 292. That’s GF/GA ratio of 0.84.A pretty convincing stat, and one that's not only the worst it's been since the 1985/1986 season, but one that's also been perpetuated for seven years. So okay, the East has a terrible record against the West, and I'm sure anyone can come up with any number of reasons why that make as much sense as the next one. And okay, the East is playing horribly against the West this season too (cue a bunch of whining on my part about the schedule and how all this interdivisional play against teams each as weak as each other isn't going to help).
But this is the first year I've taken an major interest in Eastern Conference hockey outside of the Leafs. Why? Because the East, with their struggling and falling all over each other trying to catch the West's coattails have wound themselves up as the teams with the breakout players - they're the young teams, and, let's face it, even if they can't keep those players in town when their contracts are up, they're the teams that are hosting the new faces of the NHL. There isn't a hockey fan alive who can't tell you they like Crosby or Ovechkin better.
So sure, statistically, it's the same as it has been for seven years. But the difference that's hitting now? You can argue that it doesn't change anything and that it's not necessarily a good thing overall (and it isn't, of course I want to see things even out), but it doesn't change this fact: Anyone who's had any interest in the NHL as a whole and not just their one little team has been all but forced to pay attention to the Eastern Conference this season, even if it's just for the players.
And would you look at what we found - there's hockey, Eastern hockey, that's fun to watch.