The Southeast Division is the worst division in hockey. That’s the only way to put it; the teams there are consistently weaker then the rest of the league.

What effect does this have on scoring? There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests individual players decline when leaving the division (Erik Cole and Jay Bouwmeester, to name two) while players entering the division can add years to their careers (Marty Reasoner and Rich Peverley as two examples). It’s no wonder that the Southeast is the home of some of the league’s most highly regarded offensive stars.

How would those stars fare outside their division? To find out, I compared the division scoring numbers to the out of division scoring numbers since the lockout for five of the Southeast’s best offensive talents: Ilya Kovalchuk, Vincent Lecavalier, Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal and Martin St. Louis.

Player Kovalchuk Lecavalier Ovechkin Staal St. Louis
Div. G 54 38 53 40 39
ODiv G. 47 37 58 36 27
Difference -7 -1 5 -4 -12
Div. A 43 54 61 52 53
ODiv A 43 47 49 40 52
Difference 0 -7 -12 -12 -1
Div. Points 97 92 114 92 92
ODiv Points 90 84 107 76 79
Difference -7 -8 -7 -16 -13
Div +/- -3 1 4 4 4
ODiv +/- -9 -9 14 -3 -9
Difference -6 -10 10 -7 -13
Avg. Points Loss -7.2% -8.7% -6.1% -17.3% -14.1%

 

A not unexpected drop-off there. All of these players still score well against the rest of the league, but suddenly we stop seeing Staal and St. Louis as 90+ point guys and start seeing them in the point-per-game range.

The really interesting player on this list is Ovechkin. His scoring dips the least, and alone among this group of five his plus/minus actually increases when playing outside the division (he’s also the lone plus player of this group). He seems to be the rare exception to the Southeast effect.

Comments (10)

  1. A name to add to the list: Olli Jokinen.

  2. Just a thought – is there a Southeast division effect for goalies then too?

  3. I agree with Greg, There is another side to this effect, and it probably lies on the goalies making them seem worse then they are. Because teams are weaker in this division doesn’t mean EVERY player in the division is overrated. The evenness of weakness should cancel this effect

  4. Kyle – it’s certainly possible, although Atlanta and Florida have both had some pretty impressive goaltenders during this time period.

  5. Jonathan,

    Are all of these numbers pro-rated over an 82 game season? That’s how I read it but I just wanted to be sure.

  6. Scott Reynolds: That’s correct; I guess I didn’t state that explicitly, did I?

  7. Interesting line of thought.

    It is very basic though. You can’t compare the talent of these players based on which division they play in. Maybe its not the production of these players that drops off, maybe the players they play with don’t play up to par? Every player that plays is affected by the talent surrounding them.

    I guess Kopitar, Iginla, Nash should pray to be moved to a Southeast division team and thus double their production. ;)

  8. This theory may well be true, but I can’t help but think it needs a little more verification; a five-player sample is a pretty small sample size. Picking 5 more players from the SE may not prove anything either as they are likely to be less dominent and thus less reliable and more prone to abheration in their numbers.

    A good litmus test might be verifying the antithesis; if the weakest division in hockey makes players look better than they are, the opposite should also be true and the strongest division in hockey should actually be holding great players back. I’d like to see 5 players in a strong division analyzed to find out if their numbers improve playing outside the division. If they do, the theory is strengthened on both sides.

  9. @ Ender: I’m more likely to take entire teams and see the difference inside/outside the division.

  10. I don’t know, go look at the division points versus outside division points for the SE teams. They look remarkably similar to those of other teams outside the division as well. I bet if you analyzed a larger group of players this would average out pretty fast.

    Also, let me point something else out… two different SE division teams have won the cup in the last ten years. No division has more different cup winners (Atlantic also has two, Pitt and NJ, and three total given two NJ wins).

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