Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

A different take on 'the West is best': competition breeds Cup domanance

06/12/2014 at 2:27pm EDT

The New York Times' Lynn Zinser offers a take on the Rangers-Kings series which ponders, "Is the West simply better?" theory from a slightly different (and noteworthy) perspective:

This ridiculously uphill battle, however, is brought to you by an N.H.L. that has seen its balance of power slip out of whack. The West has been reliably the better of the two conferences for quite some time, with its teams winning the season series against the East in every season since 2005-6. The West has also won five of the last seven Stanley Cups and six of the last eight Presidents’ Trophies, for the team with the best regular-season record.

That strength has only been increasing. In these playoffs, the quality of the two conference finals series were so far apart that a Stanley Cup finals sweep might have been predicted no matter which team won the West. The Chicago Blackhawks, after all, have won two of those recent five Stanley Cups, and the Kings were champs two years ago.

The most logical explanation for this is that because several Western teams grew so strong, their closest rivals were forced to gear up just to compete nightly. They were forced to manage their salary caps better, make smarter choices in free agency and build their teams to compete all over the ice. The result has been faster teams, built to compete against the more wide-open style of the West and the more battle-tested ones.

N.H.L. realignment should have helped that a bit, with Detroit sent from the West to the East. The Red Wings are usually penciled in as Stanley Cup contenders every year, but they are going through a rare period of rebuilding. It has not helped that one of the most stocked Eastern Conference teams, Pittsburgh, seems to have imploded in some toxic mix of talent and immaturity led picturesquely by Sidney Crosby in a semiconstant whine.

Zinser continues, discussing the Rangers' Game 4 win as a "saving-face" effort.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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