We just considered the difference in the Eastern Conference between goal differential and the projected standings, and now we move our focus West. I was actually inspired to do this by Edmonton radio host Bob Staffuer, who prior to last night’s game against Colorado suggested that the Oilers might be better than their record. Goal differential is probably the best comparison we have, so I thought I’d run up a chart looking at the two.

As before, this is an imperfect measure and doesn’t allow for variance in shooting and save percentage (Colorado, for instance, would fall a ton by that metric) or early season runs that probably won’t happen again (Colorado again, I’m afraid) but it does make for an interesting contrast.

Rank Team Projection Goal Diff.
1 Chicago 120 55
2 San Jose 118 42
3 Colorado 104 12
4 Nashville 102 4
5 Phoenix 100 4
6 Vancouver 99 36
7 Los Angeles 97 10
8 Detroit 96 -1
9 Calgary 95 2
10 Dallas 89 -16
11 Anaheim 85 -16
12 St. Louis 84 -10
13 Minnesota 84 -12
14 Columbus 76 -35
15 Edmonton 63 -37

Well, so much for that idea. The Oilers still sit at the very bottom of the conference.

The team that stands out here, again, is Vancouver. By goal differential they’re one of the three powerhouse teams in the Western Conference, and just like at the start of the season I’d bet on them to finish at the top of their division (and the return of Pavol Demitra certainly won’t hurt).

Minnesota doesn’t stand out a ton by this scale either, but it’s worth remembering the horrible run they had to start the year, and they could make up some ground. That said, they may not have enough to challenge one of the nine teams in the thick of the playoff fight. The bottom four teams (of those nine) by goal differential (Detroit, Calgary, Nashville and Phoenix) would all probably be second-tier contenders in the East; here one of them will likely miss the playoffs. The next tier (everyone except Edmonton and Columbus) would all have a serious shot at the playoffs in the East but they’ll probably fall short in this conference.