by PuckStopsHere on 02/16/12 at 02:34 PM ET
The Southeast Division has been the NHL’s weakest for several years. Although they won two Stanley Cups in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, they have never had more than two teams in the division make the playoffs in the same season.
This season the division is somewhat changed as the Atlanta Thrashers have moved to Winnipeg. That isn’t a move that helps the division. It merely adds more travel for all of its teams.
At this point no team in the division has more wins than losses. Florida may be in first place but they do so with a league leading 11 regulation tie points. Florida has 11 points in games that they lost. Without that they would not be as high in the standings. They have 27 wins and 29 losses.
Washington has the best record in the division when regulation tie points are removed. They are a true .500 team with 28 wins and 28 losses but with only five regulation tie points they are behind the Panthers.
Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Carolina are behind the top two teams. Winnipeg is a “.500” team in that their record appears .500 if you include regulation tie points. Tampa and Carolina are behind that.
There is no simple reason to explain why the Southeast Division has performed so poorly. Three of its teams are expansions from the 1990s. Enough time has passed that they should be able to win by now if they had been well managed. Washington and Carolina (via Hartford) were 1970s expansions and have even less excuse. The biggest systematic problem is ownership issues. Atlanta ownership failed and the team moved to Winnipeg. Florida is on shaky financial ground. Tampa Bay has had their share of financial issues, though current owner Jeffrey Vinik has done a good job to end them. Instability in three of the five teams has pulled this division down. If the division stays together in the future, stable ownership will help to improve it. Likely it won’t stay together since Winnipeg is not in the southeastern US.
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