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NHL Civil War: 12 Signs the Western Conference Is Better Than the East

Stefan KubusAnalyst IOctober 10, 2011

NHL Civil War: 12 Signs the Western Conference Is Better Than the East

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    It's the age-old debate in the National Hockey League. Whether it's the West and East, or Campbell and Wales, hockey enthusiasts everywhere would argue over which conference reigns superior over the other.

    It's probably the hardest issue to debate, but not a season goes by where I don't engage in this battle with a fellow hockey fan at least once.

    Let's take a look into why the Western Conference is the better conference. 

The Sedin Twins

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    It's hard to pick a better one-two punch in the NHL than the Swedish twins out of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden: Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

    The Vancouver Canucks' dangerous duo has emerged into the top offensive tandem in the league over the past few years.

    Since 2008-09, the Sedins are the highest scoring pair of teammates with 559 points between them over these last three seasons.

    Who would've thought two brothers with similar genetic makeups would click so well together? That's a no-brainer, and it's always evident the second they both hit the ice. The fact that one can always set up the other with a gorgeous pass, let alone the fact that one always knows where the other is on the ice, is quite remarkable to witness.

The Detroit Red Wings

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    When you think dynasties, you think the Islanders of the early 80s, the Oilers of the mid-to-late 80s, the Canadiens of several decades and the Detroit Red Wings of the late 90s into the 2000s. 

    The Red Wings are nearly synonymous with postseason contenders, as they have made the playoffs the last 20 years in a row...and counting. This is, by far, the longest active streak in the NHL, good for the sixth-longest streak of all time in the league, not to mention it's the longest active streak in any major professional sport.

    To top it off, their captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, has impressively been with the team for the last 19 of those 20 seasons.

    Maybe they don't stack up against some of these past, great dynasties, but these Red Wings teams have made up the greatest dynasty we've seen in quite some time. And there's no sign of slowing down.

Emerging West Coast Markets

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    One of the best stories of the past 10 years or so would easily have to be the emergence of the West Coast hockey fanbase. 

    A lot of credit is owed to the famous Wayne Gretzky trade to Los Angeles in 1988. Bringing the best player in the game to a beautiful, athletically-popular city like L.A. where hockey takes the back seat, was the best thing that ever could have happened to that franchise at the time.

    Since then, San Jose and Anaheim have grown into playoff contenders roughly every season in the 2000s, and the Kings aren't too far behind them. Having continuous success is what ultimately will fill the seats in the arena, which is a big reason why I feel the struggling Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg.

    Hockey is alive and well in the West. In fact, those teams are some of the best in the entire league.

The Return of the Jets in 2012-13

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    Finally back in the league, fans everywhere are ecstatic about the Winnipeg Jets once again. 

    The only problem now is that they're playing out of the Southeast Division. Geographically, this doesn't make much sense, but there was no time to alter the divisions prior to the start of this season, so they simply replaced the Atlanta Thrashers.

    However, realignment discussions will take place this season in order to get a plan set in stone for the 2012-13 season. The simplest fix would be to just swap the Jets and the Nashville Predators. It would make sense for the Predators to play out of the Southeast, while the Jets would fit nicely in the Central division. 

    Regardless of what is decided, it is safe to say the Jets, one of the league's most exciting, uprising franchises, will be returning to the Western Conference next season.

Clutch Westerners

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    Whether or not you believe the shootout is a legitimate way to end a hockey game during the regular season, it doesn't matter; it's a reality we must accept.

    It's also a reality that is worth two points on a scoresheet, so it can't be overlooked as a stat when comparing conferences.

    The Western Conference held some invaluable pieces to the National Hockey League puzzle last season. Out of the top 15 shootout scorers in the league, 11 of them came from the West. This impressive list includes Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings who scored nine times on 10 attempts last season, a remarkable percentage good for second in the league in total shootout goals.

The West Dominates Interconference Play

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    Last season, the Western Conference dominated the Eastern Conference in interconference play. 

    The Western Conference's collective record against teams from the East is 142-88-40, whereas the Eastern Conference's record against team from the West is 128-107-35. That's a bigger difference than most probably would have predicted with the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin and Stamkos in the East.

Grittier Style of Hockey

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    Battling along the boards, hustling to loose pucks, crashing the net and countless bone-crushing hits. It's no secret that the Western Conference typically plays a physically tougher, muck-and-grind game, whereas the Eastern Conference generally showcases a flashier, more skill-based game. 

    I'm not saying the West lacks a great talent pool, and I'm not calling the East soft. Obviously, there are exceptions on each side, but that's generally been the trend for some time now 

    The 2007 Anaheim Ducks, 2006 Edmonton Oilers and 2004 Calgary Flames who made a run to the Cup Finals by beating three division winners, are just three teams that instantly come to mind when thinking about this style.  

Playoff Teams That Never Were

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    On the last day of the season, the Dallas Stars just fell short of making the playoffs with 95 points. Had they been in the Eastern Conference, however, that would have never happened.

    They aren't the only team, either. The Calgary Flames finished with 94 points.

    Ninety-five points would have been good for the seventh seed in the East, while the Flames would have taken the eighth seed over the New York Rangers, who finished with 91 points. Being in the Western Conference, they also played teams like the Red Wings, Sharks, Ducks and Canucks much more often than teams in the East did. 

    That just goes to show the kind of depth the West is fortunate enough to boast.

The Edmonton Oilers Bringing the 80s Back

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    The Edmonton Oilers are a huge reason for all hockey fans to be excited. With young, budding talent like Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark, and now, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers are looking to bring back the glory days of the 1980's. 

    More and more, I get that feeling that those days aren't too far off for the young Oilers, the seventh-youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.5. Edmonton will be a competitive team in a few years down the road, not only for a playoff spot, but for the Stanley Cup.

Many Top-Tier Puck-Moving Defensemen

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    For those who are particularly fans of defensemen, the Western Conference is a gold mine for rearguards skilled with the puck on the backend.

    Drew Doughty, Nicklas Lidstrom, Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle and Shea Weber are all top-notch catalysts that make plays happen constantly for their team on both ends of the ice. Whether it be a breakout pass or a fake pass on the power play, these guys get it done on a nightly basis. The Western Conference is truly blessed with such a defensive talent pool.

Pavel Datsyuk

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    Pavel Datsyuk. He's one of the most underrated talents in the game. Personally, he's the second-best player in the league, only behind Sidney Crosby.

    The things he can do with the puck go unparalleled throughout the entire league.

    He's not the fastest, but he can stickhandle in a phone booth and make something out of nothing, which truly defines a smart player. Every time he touches the puck, he'll make you jump out of your seat with some bedazzling move.

    The Red Wings haven't seen a playmaker this brilliant since "The Professor" Igor Larionov, and he's one of the best things about the Western Conference. 

More Top Scorers Actually Come from the West

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    It's a hard statement to believe when Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are all based out of the Eastern Conference.

    However, the West just wanted to say, "Hey, we can put up stellar numbers, too, fellas."

    In fact, these numbers might raise some eyebrows, so there's your fair warning.

    Since 2007-08, the number of top 20 point scorers from the Western Conference has been increasing steadily.

    In that season, only seven of the 20 were from the West.

    In 2008-09, eight of the 20 were.

    In 2009-10, half of the them were from the West.

    Finally, just last season, 14 of the top 20 scorers were Western Conference players.

    With all the aforementioned talent from the East, it's a pretty remarkable feat. With that being said, injuries to those mentioned players certainly played a vital role, but hey, that's part of the game. At the end of the day, or season in our case, the finished product is all that matters.

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