Just another day in the Northwest Division
Three days ago, the mighty Spector offered us his 'halfway point' analysis of all 30 NHL clubs. Colorado's struck me as odd:
COLORADO AVALANCHE: The Avs are in an unaccustomed spot, trying to hang onto one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. Goaltending and their team defence have been issues this season, spurring rumours that GM Pierre Lacroix might pull another rabbit out of his hat and trade for a big name netminder. Anything's possible, but the salary cap limits Lacroix's bargaining power, and he may be stuck with the goalies he's got the rest of the season and hope they improve.Odd, I say, because three days later, the Avalanche are leading the Northwest Division, at least prior to Calgary's game against Minnesota tonight. In fact, should Calgary lose and Vancouver and Edmonton win, there will be a four-way logjam at 55 points atop the division.
A little nutty, no?
The NHL's new loopy schedule has done a number on the NHL standings and one of the most pronounced ramifications is for teams in either strong or weak divisions.
Mudcrutch's stats package here shows how the strength of the NHL schedule has affected various NHL teams. Not surprisingly, all four of Vancouver, Colorado, Calgary and Edmonton are four of the top eight teams, mainly because each team will face one of those three clubs 24 times this season.
On the flip side, Detroit and Nashville have been pounding the bottomfeeders in their division — St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus — and skewing their record towards the high end. The Red Wings and Predators combined records versus those three teams is 23-1-1 (12-1, 11-0-1).
That is plain ridiculous.
A lot of pundits have complained about the league's new unbalanced schedule because fans aren't getting the chance to see every team, but the real tragedy is how the standings are being affected.
Not a lot of fans are going to shed many tears for them, but one of the teams that has been put in a really tough position is the Minnesota Wild, who have played much better hockey than their record would indicate.
The answer? Well, if the NHL is hellbent on keeping schedules heavily weighted by division, it's time for a return to a four-division league. I've addressed this in the past, but it's having too big an impact to continue to ignore.