Which conference is dominant?

I’ve noticed that since the start of the season if a team is struggling, commentators in the media and on the forums remark that X team needs to be better in a dominant Y conference. If it’s Boston struggling, the line goes: “The Bruins can’t afford to leave point on the ice in the powerhouse Eastern Conference”. If the team in doubt is Vancouver we’re told: “The Canucks will need to play hard to climb the ranks, especially with how strong the West is this year”.

So the question is this: Which conference is more dominant this year?

Let’s take a quick look at the team point totals from last season (2010-2011):

East: 1366 pts total
Atlantic Division: 459 pts total
Northeast Division: 454 pts total
Southeast Division: 453 pts total

West: 1391 pts total
Central Division: 468 pts total
Northwest Division: 427 pts total
Pacific Division: 496 pts total

Here we can see a slight edge to the West; however, the West also had the lowest point totals for any single division (Northwest). Now let’s look at the totals thus far this year:

East: 154 pts total (140 GP)

Atlantic Division: 53 pts total (47 GP)
Northeast Division: 49 pts total (47 GP)
Southeast Division: 52 pts total (46 PG)

West: 155 pts total (139 GP)

Central Division: 44 pts total (46 GP)
Northwest Division: 53 pts total (48 GP)
Pacific Division: 58 pts total (45 PG)

So far this year the West has a slight edge over the East, but the season is not over and not all teams have played the same amount of games. Let’s look at it another way: team points earned per game.

Starting with last season, each division played a total of 410 games, and each conference 1230. Their points earned per game (PEPG) Looks like this:

East: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.111| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.100
Atlantic Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.120| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.128
Northeast Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.107| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.043
Southeast Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.105| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.130

West: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.131| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.115

Central Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.141| 2011-2012 PEPG: 0.956
Northwest Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.041| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.104
Pacific Division: 2010-2011 PEPG: 1.210| 2011-2012 PEPG: 1.289

It seems from these numbers that the West was better last year, and on average earned .02 more point per game played. Though much is yet to happen this year, the West is again in the lead, earning an extra 0.015 points per game, slightly less than their lead last season. Again, the West also has the best (Pacific) and worst (Central) divisions overall.

As far as heads up match-ups go, so far this year it’s close to parity, with the East winning a total of 19 games against western opponents and the West winning 20 against eastern opponents. Last year, the West won the heads up battle between conferences by a score of 142 wins to 128 – a significant difference.

By these number I’d say that the West won last year: they earned more points per game, and more importantly, won more games against their eastern opponents (perhaps indicating more difficulty in winning within their own conference). This year it is very close. The West still garners slightly more points per game, but the match-ups between conferences have been even. Interestingly, the West seems better if you go by the stats presented here, but an eastern team won the cup. Over the last 10 season, each conference has won 5 cups a piece.

Discuss: Which do you believe to be the stronger conference and why? What could re-arranging the divisions do to change this dynamic? What division do you predict will be most dominant this season?

Thanks for reading (if you got this far).