by PuckStopsHere on 12/27/11 at 07:04 PM ET
The Southeast Division has been a historically weak division. No more than two teams have qualified for the playoffs in any season since the NHL shifted to a six division format in 1998. Five times only one team has qualified for the playoffs. This season is no different. The Florida Panthers lead the Southeast Division. They have an 18-18 record with seven regulation tie points. They sit in 14th place in the NHL. Behind them is Washington in 22nd overall, Winnipeg in 23rd overall, Tampa Bay in 25th overall and Carolina in 27th overall (these rankings are all by number of wins). I argue that ranking teams by wins is more meaningful than points because it reduces the value of regulation tie point. If the season ended today only Florida would make the playoffs and they are the weakest of the division winners.
It is possible that some of these teams (most notably Washington) could improve in the remainder of the season.
This division has some individual talent. Alexander Ovechkin, Steve Stamkos, Martin St Louis, Eric Staal and other perennial all star players are in this division. Stamkos is its top scorer so far this season. He is 11th in the league. Kris Versteeg, Niklas Backstrom and Stephen Weiss all appear in the top 30 scorers. The division scoring is not as strong as an average division but it is not too far below average. There is enough talent that it could climb to an average or above average standing.
The division’s problem is better shown by its defencemen. Brian Campbell has probably been the best Southeast Conference defenceman so far this year and he is stronger offensively than defensively. In terms of ice time, Jason Garrison of Florida and Zach Bogosian of Winnipeg lead the division. As a division, that is a weak group of top defencemen. There isn’t a serious Norris Trophy candidate in the bunch.
Among the division goalies, Jose Theodore of Florida is the saves percentage leader and he is 13th in the league. Tomas Vokoun is perhaps the most proven goalie on a career level of the bunch. He is currently a bit back in the pack.
This season the Southeast Division has tougher travel than it has had in the past as the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and Winnipeg is definitely not a southeast team. Nevertheless each team travels there for inter-division games and this increases all of their travel. Winnipeg especially is hard hit. They should be a West Conference team and are stuck in the furthest East Conference division.
The Southeast Division has been a historically weak division. It remains weak this year as well. In fact it is weaker than it has been in recent memory. Perhaps the increased travel this division has been subjected to showing up in the standings.
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