A few days ago I looked at how some of the top offensive stars in the Southeast Division had scored inside their division versus outside their division. What I found was that, to a man, they were more effective scorers inside their division than they were against other teams. This wasn’t an especially surprising discovery; there has been significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that players from the Southeast have it easier than players elsewhere in the league, at least when it comes to putting up offensive numbers.
However, looking at five top scorers certainly wasn’t enough to prove anything. I’ve seen it argued that divisional games are “clutch” games and that the stars naturally perform better in them. A more rational argument would be that a sample of five players isn’t big enough to prove anything.
With that in mind, I decided to expand my sample to include every player who played more than 10 games inside the Southeast division last season; a total of 95 players. Then I took the totals and divided them down to an 82-game season for the sake of simplicity. Here’s what I found:
|Position||Div. G||Div A||Div PTS||ODiv G||ODiv A||ODiv PTS||% Chg.|
That’s pretty definitive; I looked at just under 100 players of all different types and found that on average their performance dropped by 14.0% when they played outside the division. There were some exceptions last season, notably Ilya Kovalchuk, Vincent Lecavalier, and Mark Recchi, but they were the outliers and in the case of both Kovalchuk and Lecavalier they’ve had their numbers improve inside the division for most of their career.
What does it all mean? For general managers, I think the implication is obvious: don’t acquire a player from the Southeast and expect him to match the offence he posted in that division. The reverse holds true for Southeast G.M.’s; players acquired from outside the division can be (as a rule) expected to exceed their results from outside the division.