Post to Post: The NHL’s Balance of Power Has Shifted from West to East

December 21st, 2016 by Jonathan Willis Leave a reply »

For years, the NHL’s balance of power rested in the West. In the regular season, Western teams dominated their Eastern rivals. In the playoffs, the Stanley Cup headed West with shocking regularity.

Then, last spring, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the first Eastern team in five years to win the Cup and just the third in the last decade. This came on the heels of a 2015-16 regular season which had seen the two conferences move to near-parity, with the West winning 221 games and the East triumphing in 217.

Even that was a remarkable achievement. Only a year earlier, the West had been 26 games over 0.500 when playing the East, and as Matt Larkin of The Hockey News noted this wasn’t a short-term trend. By his math, between 2010 and 2015 the West as a whole won 126 more games than it lost.

Yet we’re well past parity now. This year, the East is already 13 games above 0.500, a pace which matches the West’s dominance in 2014-15. After years of being the conference where real hockey was played, the West is now taking a backseat to the East.

Mostly, it comes down to two divisions. The emergence in ...

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