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The NHL's West is the Best... again

I was taking a look through the standings this morning, and was struck by just how strong the Western Conference teams appear as a whole right now. Naturally, a part of this standings inflation is due to the Overtime Loser Point, which remains a pox on the face of the NHL, but when you look at head-to-head records between Western and Eastern teams, the dominance does indeed stand out.

To put it in perspective, in their record against the East, the West is playing like last year's Phoenix Coyotes, while on the opposite end of the matchup, the Eastern Conference looks like the New York Islanders. Follow after the jump for all the details...

The following table shows the combined record of each conference against the other, for this season the two previous:

West vs. East 82-game pace East vs. West 82-game pace
2010-11 37-18-8 106 26-28-9 79
2009-10 155-87-28 103 115-118-37 81
2008-9 141-103-26 94 129-113-28 87

I've added a Google Spreadsheet in which you can view these inter-conference records by team and season, to parse out whatever meaning you like.

Alongside each record, I put the equivalent result if a single team were to play at that pace over the course of an 82-game season. As you can see, what was a relatively mild gap two years ago has spread into a yawning chasm. The West, on average, plays at a playoff-caliber pace, while the East would be in the running for a lottery pick.

Now of course, we're only about 20% of the way through the current campaign, so we'll have to wait to see if the trend reverses itself over the next few months, but considering that the Red Wings haven't even played an Eastern foe yet, there's potential for things to get even more extreme.

So why is it that the West seems so superior to the East? Are they hardier for having to endure the hardships of greater travel? Is there a greater focus on high-paid "stars" in the East, leaving the Western teams more balanced?

Feel free to sound off in the comments with your own theories...

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