If you are a Sharks fan, you are no doubt tired by now of the way that the press has knighted the Vancouver Canucks as the preemptive Stanley Cup favorites. Despite a blistering second half, only this week has this perception started to turn around. As a west coast fan, there has likely been a little voice in the back of your head saying "but they play in the north west… can WE play Edmonton, Colorado, Minnesota, and Calgary 6 times next season? Please?"
Vancouver has won the Presidents trophy, which should clearly mean something, but they are in a weak division. The Sharks are in the strongest division in hockey. But what does that really mean? In the world of the NHL's unbalanced schedule, questions like this will always be around, and there is no perfect way to compare teams. But here is one attempt, which I believe also has something to say about the upcoming playoffs.
Let's compare the western conference teams based only on their records against STRONG teams. How do we define strong? Easy - the teams that are currently in the playoffs. Here are the # of points and # of games played, and average number of points per game for the 8 teams in the playoffs from the west (as of right now) when they played each other:
Team games points avg points/game
SJS 31 42 1.35
CHI 30 38 1.26
VAN 28 35 1.25
NSH 32 37 1.15
PHX 31 32 1.03
LAK 31 31 1.00
DET 30 28 0.93
ANA 31 28 0.90
If you are like me, comparing percentages makes your head swim, so to put this into context, here is what those points per game would mean over an 82 game schedule:
This should give the crowds ready to hand the cup to Vancouver pause. Not only are they significantly behind the Sharks on this metric, they are behind their old nemesis the Black Hawks - a potential first round rival. Only the playoffs will tell the real story, but this should provide some confidence to the Sharks fans out there.
*** Later edit ***
I've done the same calculations for the East as well now:
Team games points percentage points against eastern strength
WAS 30 41 1.36 112.1
TBL 24 30 1.25 102.5
MTL 28 35 1.25 102.5
PHI 27 32 1.18 97.2
BOS 28 31 1.11 90.8
PIT 28 28 1.00 82
NYR 28 27 0.96 79.1
BUF 27 26 0.96 79.0
Tampa Bay and Montreal are both teams to watch.