The Southleast Division
A five-season study (2002-2008)
My post last week on the Southeast Division's struggles this season didn't win over many believers in Raleigh, Tampa, Miami, Washington or Atlanta.
Here's another attempt, this time taking into account regular-season games from 2002-03 until last night.
The Northeast has consistently been the strongest division since 2002-03, with our pals down south predictably bringing up the rear. And while that 7 per cent may not look like much, it includes all of those pesky interdivision games.
If we eliminate Southeast-on-Southeast action, they fall further.
Record vs. teams in same conference, different division
(with 82-game projection)
Notice the gap between the teams widening now, and keep in mind that the Western Conference has been stronger for the bulk of these five seasons. That means that, if we go to play only against the other conference, things will get uglier for the Southeast:
Record vs. teams in other conference
The gap has turned into a chasm.
Honestly, that's not even close, especially considering that a 50 per cent points percentage is well below the playoff pace these days. Keep in mind the fact that the Central has a team that has never made the playoffs (Columbus) and a perennial also-ran (Chicago), and the Atlantic has had two basement-dwelling Pittsburgh teams and one from Philadelphia.
The Southeast's only winning record against the other conference came in 2005-06 when Carolina and Tampa Bay beat up on the West.
It's actually quite amazing that a division with two recently dominant teams (the Lightning in 2003-04 and Hurricanes in 2005-06) can be that bad otherwise. This is the ninth season for the Southeast Division and only three teams out of 45 will have topped 97 points by the end of this year. (The team with the best record this season, the Capitals, would need to go 25-9-1 over the rest of the season to put up 98 points.)
To me, the "expansion division" argument simply doesn't fly: After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning turn 16 years old this fall.