VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 10:  Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their game against the Calgary Flames at General Motors Place on April 10, 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Flames 7-3. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

I’m going to get into the Henrik Sedin for Hart debate at some point here over the next week or so, but one of the things that has me leaning towards him as a candidate is how much harder it is to rack up the points in the Western Conference than the Eastern over the last few years.

 

Since the NHL lockout, there have been 19 100-point seasons in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.  There have been just four in the West.  In that same time period, only one of the East’s top-10 scorers failed to reach the 80-point plateau; in the West, it has happened nine different times.  The average top-10 scorer in the Eastern Conference, since the lockout, has recorded 96 points.  In the West, the average is 87.

 

Now, there are a couple of different possibilities here.  The first is that perhaps the Eastern Conference has been stronger, but that turns out not to be the case; the West dominated the East this year as never before, and they’ve been the dominant team every season since the NHL lockout.

 

Another possibility might be that the East simply has better high-end scorers; after all, we’re not dealing with the entire league here, we’re dealing with the top-end players in each Conference.  That too turns out not to be the case, as Tyler Dellow showed when he looked at the top scorers over a two-year period:

 

I assembled a list of the Top 50 pts/game forwards for the seasons between 2007-09 (min. 42 GP). It’s actually pretty evenly divided – 25 guys who were primarily EC guys, 24 who were primarily WC and Marian Hossa. The EC guys have a distinct advantage in terms of pts/game over that time period – 1.02 pts/gm to 0.97 pts/gm for the Western Conference guys.

When you dig down and do a bit of an apples to apples comparison though, you see that the WC players hold their own. If you look only at games against the EC, the EC guys score 0.42/0.62/1.04 (G/A/P per game) and the WC guys score 0.38/0.66/1.04. In games against the WC, the EC guys score 0.37/0.55/0.92; the WC guys score 0.36/0.59/0.95. If you were to do an average, so as to even the playing field, you come up with 0.98 pts/gm for the EC guys and 0.99 pts/gm for the Western Conference guys in that period. The offensive stars of the WC produced slightly more offensively than the offensive stars of the EC in that time; it’s just hidden by schedule effects.

 

If it is easier to score goals in the East, that would inflate the point totals of players in the NHL’s weaker conference and lower the totals of players in the West, thanks to the NHL’s unbalanced schedule.  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to correct that.  Below are two lists.  In the first list, I’ve taken the point totals of the top five players in each conference, and projected them over an 82-game season (i.e. assumed each player would score at the same pace over games they missed due to injury).  That’s the only change I’ve made to the first list.

 

For the second list, I’ve taken each players points per game rate against the Eastern Conference and multiplied it by 41 games, and taken their points per game rate against the Western Conference and multiplied it by 41 games; in effect, recalculating the point totals for if each player had played 41 games against each conference.  Note the changes.

 

Actual Season (Projected Over 82GP)

  • Ovechkin: 124 points
  • H. Sedin: 112 points
  • D. Sedin: 111 points
  • Crosby: 110 points
  • Backstrom: 101 points
  • Stamkos: 95 points
  • St. Louis: 94 points
  • B. Richards: 93 points
  • Thornton: 92 points
  • Kane: 88 points

 

Balanced Schedule (Projected Over 82GP)

 

  • Ovechkin: 115 points
  • H. Sedin: 111 points
  • D. Sedin: 110 points
  • Crosby: 100 points
  • B. Richards: 98 points
  • Thornton: 94 points
  • Kane: 91 points
  • St. Louis: 90 points
  • Backstrom: 89 points
  • Stamkos: 86 points

 

Those are some pretty dramatic changes, and I don’t think a reasonable argument can be made against the fact that players in the East see their point totals inflated because of the teams they play against over the NHL’s unbalanced schedule.  Good players are still good players, but I suspect if the NHL insisted on more even matchups we’d see a lot more respect for players stuck out West.

Comments (7)

  1. At the end of the day, Crosby deserves the Hart this year. He of the top three scorers had the most goals (see Ovechkin beating out Malkin last year) AND had the least offensive support among his team mates. (Guerin and Kunitz as linemates do not compare to D. Sedin and Burrows or to Backstrom and Semin/Knuble) Give Crosby Ovechkin’s or Sedin’s linemates this season and he has 130 pts and 60 goals. Not saying he is a better player then Ovechkin, just saying this season, he was.

  2. AND and beleive we are all seeing why Mike GREEN was left off team Canada for the Olympics. Ouch

  3. John is there any way you could take a closer look at the Rangers signing of Mats Zuccarello-Aasen? I vaguely remember him from playing for Norway in the olympics, and you always do great profiles on those kinds of signings. Just wondering what can be expected of this kid

  4. To be fair with Ovechkin, he played 9 less games than Crosby (pro-rated to 124 points). Also, you have to acknowledge that with stronger linemates, it’s highly unlikely that Crosby gets 60 goals as he would share the puck more with them. Both are exceptional players regardless. The hart I believe should go to H Sedin, if not Miller.

    In regards to the Vezina, I truly believe Vokoun has to be at least considered as her played on an atrocious team (and Ballard) facing 33 shots per game (Miller faced about 30.5). He put up .925 sv% despite that. Granted the South East is not a strong division, but his numbers are strong. He deserves a nice hat tip for his efforts.

  5. Ovechkin played 9 fewer games because of his own actions. Getting suspended and the one injury were all his fault. Part of being the MVP is being healthy. You don’t pro-rate for the scoring title so you don’t for the Hart.

  6. Ok but his numbers stack up just as well without pre-rating them, so the fact that he missed 9 games just makes it all the more impressive

  7. “Ok but his numbers stack up just as well without pre-rating them, so the fact that he missed 9 games just makes it all the more impressive”

    True, but he also managed to take more shots than Crosby even while missing all those games and nevertheless scored one less goal. Crosby was the better goal-scorer this year; Ovie’s the better scorer most of the time, but this year he turned into the Allen Iverson of hockey.

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