by PuckStopsHere on 11/24/13 at 06:49 PM ET
It has been clear for several years that the West Conference has been a better group of teams than the East Conference. The western teams have had a better record in common games for many years. That fact has been forgotten somewhat since last season had no inter-conference games at all due to the lockout. This year, this fact is made more significant because there are more inter-conference games under the new alignment than there had been in the past.
This season we can look at the standings and see that the first place team in the East Conference Boston Bruins, with 32 points, would be tied for eighth (the last playoff spot) if they had that total in the West Conference. No other East teams would be in the playoffs at all.
The difference between the conferences is masked by the travel differences. The East Conference teams travel far less than the West Conference teams. The entire East Conference is in the Eastern time zone. The West Conference is scattered throughout three western time zones (Pacific, Mountain and Central). It is inevitable that western teams travel further - even to play their nearest rivals. That takes a toll on these teams. It costs them time that could be used for rest, recovery and practice. It costs them points. It keeps the differences between conferences closer than they appear in the standings. The western teams are better than the eastern teams by a larger margin than the standings show and the standings show the margin to be significant.
This has allowed eastern teams to think they are good enough, when they are not as god as their western rivals. This has forced western teams to continue to strive to improve even when they are already better than their eastern rivals. Maybe the increased number of inter-conference games will force the east to confront the fact that it is the weaker conference. Right now, the difference between the conferences is significant. It will be embarrassing how much worse the weaker eastern playoff teams are than the stronger western non-playoff teams. This level of imbalance cannot last indefinitely into the future.
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