07 February 2007

Anything You Can Do...

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.


Elly said...

Yes, I'm biased, but I've always loved Eastern hockey just for the action that it usually brings. This could just be because my favorite team is there in the middle of it, but also there are boring teams in every conference, no matter their coastal location (yes, I am thinking of the Devils AND the Flames). Interesting thoughts.

Besides, just admit you like the Eastern conference, it'll make you feel better.

Steph said...

Yeah yeah, you and your East coast teams! I never said I didn't like them, just that the West is more fun!

That's a good point about the Flames though, they don't get ragged on nearly as much as the Devils for playing boring hockey (though you do hear it, admittedly). Also a really good point about the action - it seems to me the Western Conference games are always strong, hard, games but don't often have the stand-out players and highlight-worthy plays of the East. It's definitely a different hockey in some ways, but it's really been proving itself lately, to me at least.

The Forechecker said...

Very good point there - I follow the Wings and Preds primarily, but when flipping around Center Ice, I invariably stop to check out the Caps, Penguins, Thrashers and Lightning. Sure, some of the teams might not be as solid, but for sheer entertainment, I'll watch a Pens/Lightning 6-5 game over a 2-1 Calgary/Vancouver snoozer anytime...

Elly said...

Well, the Flames have pepped up a little bit this year, but they've always had a conservative style of play. The Devils I get more because Pittsburgh gets them more.

You just love our flashy players, heh.

mudcrutch79 said...

Small world Steph. My godfather's son plays on the Western Michigan hockey team.

Steph said...

Forechecker: Exactly! When it comes down to it, I'm far and away a Western Conference supporter - but the Eastern teams are just so much fun to watch these days. It's like a different breed of hockey some nights.

Elly: Maybe so! At least I like something about you!

MC79: No way, really? Small world indeed - who is he? I bet I've worn my voice out cheering for him more than a few times.