by PuckStopsHere on 03/07/13 at 08:14 PM ET
This season the NHL is effectively two separate hockey leagues. At no point will a West Conference team play and East Conference team until the Stanley Cup finals. They have not played at all yet this season.
In recent years the West Conference has been better than the East Conference. Last year there was evidence that this gap was lessening but the West Conference remained better. The West Conference has a winning record in inter-conference games despite the fact they have to endure tougher travel over the course of a season. It is hard to gage the levels of the two conferences when they never play each other.
However there is one interesting fact that is obvious upon looking at the top scorers. The East Conference is higher scoring and produces more top scorers. The top seven scorers in the NHL are East Conference players.
This is likely a sign that the West Conference remains the better of the two. Generally higher quality hockey is lower scoring over the long-term. This trend is obvious when we look at historical scoring levels in the NHL. Wartime and expansion are the highest scoring eras ever in NHL history. The ECHL is higher scoring than the AHL which is higher scoring than the NHL.
We should look at the West Conference as a separate league this season. So I thought I would look at the top scorers in the West Conference this year:
|Joe Thornton||San Jose||5||18||23||19th|
This is a solid group of ten players. Nine of whom have been all stars at points in the past. Sam Gagner is the exception and is a young player who has been full of potential who is coming into his prime for the first time. I would argue that this group of players is equivalent to or even better than the top ten scorers in the East Conference but they have been buried underneath them. While players like Andrew Ladd and Alexander Semin may have more points than many players on this list, they haven't been as good scorers so far this year. They have merely played in a higher scoring league this season.
In order to properly judge players this season we have to take into account which league they play in. Since the West Conference is lower scoring that needs to be taken into account when comparing between conferences. I don't think that is properly considered by most people. As a result, I think the East Conference will likely win the majority of individual awards this season despite being the weaker conference.
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