Revisiting The Debate: Is The NHL's Pacific Division Still The Best?

What's the best division in the NHL? It may be a fun topic to discuss at the bar, but here are numbers to back up the Pacific Division's reign as the best in the league.

A few months ago on From The Rink -- December 28, to be exact -- I posted a statistical breakdown that proclaimed that the Pacific Division was the best division in the NHL.

In the weeks since then, we've seen teams streak up and down, some big trades come across the wire, and Peter Forsberg's return and prompt retirement. Yes, it's been a hectic time since that look, so it seems like it might be worth checking in again as we prep for the stretch run.

I'd normally link out to the FTR archives but the process of importing those has been a little slower than expected. Instead, here's how I broke it down.

There are many ways to try and quantify which are the best and worst divisions in the NHL. I've tried to create an all-encompassing strategy basing it on collective numbers for the following stats:

Wins per game
Points per game (to differentiate the charity point)
Goals-for per game
Goals-against per game
Goal-differential per game

Division Wins/Game Points/Game GF/G GA/G Diff/G
Atlantic 0.477272727 1.051136364 2.732954545 2.767045455 -0.03409
Northeast 0.462857143 1.028571429 2.531428571 2.651428571 -0.12
Southeast 0.51396648 1.139664804 2.966480447 2.921787709 0.044693
Central 0.531073446 1.18079096 2.836158192 2.751412429 0.084746
Northwest 0.479768786 1.086705202 2.913294798 2.994219653 -0.08092
Pacific 0.533707865 1.185393258 2.808988764 2.707865169 0.101124

 

Division Wins/Game Points/Game GF/G GA/G Diff/G Average
Pacific 1 1 4 2 1 1.8
Central 2 2 3 3 2 2.4
Southeast 3 3 1 5 3 3
Northwest 4 4 2 6 5 4.2
Atlantic 5 5 5 4 4 4.6
Northeast 6 6 6 1 6 5

Now, let's use that same criteria and see how things have changed.

Wins Per Game:

Division WG
 Pacific  0.5406
 Central  0.518
 Atlantic  0.5053
 Southeast  0.4929
 Northwest  0.4804
 Northeast  0.4624

 

Points Per Game:

Division PPG
 Pacific  1.1802
 Central  1.1547
 Southeast  1.1277
 Atlantic  1.0954
 Northwest  1.089
 Northeast  1.043

 

Goals-For Per Game

Division GFG
 Central  2.9173
 Northwest  2.8861
 Southeast  2.8511
 Pacific  2.8057
 Atlantic  2.7845
 Northeast  2.7025

 

Goals-Against Per Game

Division GAG
 Pacific  2.6784
 Atlantic  2.7138
 Central  2.8201
 Northeast  2.8674
 Southeast  2.9184
 Northwest  2.9502

 

Goal Differential Per Game:

Division DiffG
 Pacific  0.1272
 Central  0.0971
 Atlantic  0.0707
 Northwest  -0.064
 Southeast  -0.067
 Northeast  -0.165

 

Now, if we assign a rank to each of these values and look at the averages, we'll have an updated calculation as to the Best Division In The NHL (TM).

Division WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG Ave
 Pacific  1 1 4 1 1 1.6
 Central  2 2 1 3 2 2
 Atlantic  3 4 5 2 3 3.4
 Southeast  4 3 3 5 5 4
 Northwest  5 5 2 6 4 4.4
 Northeast  6 6 6 4 6 5.6

 

Sound the trumpets, the Pacific Division has maintained its crown as Best Division in the NHL. The reason for this is that streaks tend to average out in that division. Each Pacific team has had its share of hot streaks and cold streaks, and because of that, they're all still somewhere in the playoff hunt.

There hasn't been one Pacific team scrapping the (relative) bottom of the barrel, whereas the other divisions have at least one of those. The Central Division has remained relatively strong, mostly due to a tempered version of the same rationale.

Out east, everything's moved around. The Southeast's goal-differential has gone from positive to negative; they had the worst goals-against before but now you have to factor in a middle-of-the-road goals-for and that lowers their ranking. The Atlantic Division, with a somewhat steadied New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, coupled with a surges from the other teams, have powered into the third spot through a much-improved goal-differential and goals-against.

What does this all mean? Those who like to calculate strength-of-competition can look at the six divisional games as a means to judge how good a team really is. On the other hand, it's also evidence that it's a marathon season, not a sprint, and things can change in a matter of weeks.

Here's a master look at all the data:

 Atlantic  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Philadelphia Flyers 55 36 14 5 77 182 139 0.6545 1.4 3.3091 2.5273 0.782
 Pittsburgh Penguins 58 35 19 4 74 173 141 0.6034 1.2759 2.9828 2.431 0.552
 New York Rangers  58 30 24 4 64 162 144 0.5172 1.1034 2.7931 2.4828 0.31
 New Jersey Devils
56 22 30 4 48 120 158 0.3929 0.8571 2.1429 2.8214 -0.68
 New York Islanders  56 20 29 7 47 151 186 0.3571 0.8393 2.6964 3.3214 -0.63
 Atlantic  283 143 116 24 310 788 768 0.5053 1.095 2.784 2.714 0.071
 Northeast  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Boston Bruins 56 31 18 7 69 172 135 0.5536 1.2321 3.0714 2.4107 0.661
 Montreal Canadiens 57 31 20 6 68 151 143 0.5439 1.193 2.6491 2.5088 0.14
 Buffalo Sabres 54 26 22 6 58 161 162 0.4815 1.0741 2.9815 3 -0.02
 Toronto Maple Leafs
56 23 27 6 52 144 174 0.4107 0.9286 2.5714 3.1071 -0.54
 Ottawa Senators 56 18 30 8 44 126 186 0.3214 0.7857 2.25 3.3214 -1.07
 Northeast  279 129 117 33 291 754 800 0.4624 1.043 2.703 2.867 -0.16
 Southeast  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Tampa Bay Lightning
56 34 17 5 73 172 172 0.6071 1.3036 3.0714 3.0714 0
 Washington Capitals 56 29 17 10 68 151 140 0.5179 1.2143 2.6964 2.5 0.196
 Carolina Hurricanes 57 27 22 8 62 168 175 0.4737 1.0877 2.9474 3.0702 -0.12
 Atlanta Thrashers 58 25 23 10 60 167 188 0.431 1.0345 2.8793 3.2414 -0.36
 Florida Panthers 55 24 24 7 55 146 148 0.4364 1 2.6545 2.6909 -0.04
 Southeast  282 139 103 40 318 804 823 0.4929 1.128 2.851 2.918 -0.07
 Central  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Detroit Red Wings
56 34 16 6 74 187 163 0.6071 1.3214 3.3393 2.9107 0.429
 Nashville Predators 56 30 19 7 67 150 133 0.5357 1.1964 2.6786 2.375 0.304
 Chicago Blackhawks 56 28 22 6 62 177 158 0.5 1.1071 3.1607 2.8214 0.339
 Columbus Blue Jackets
56 28 23 5 61 152 168 0.5 1.0893 2.7143 3 -0.29
 St. Louis Blues 54 24 21 9 57 145 162 0.4444 1.0556 2.6852 3 -0.31
 Central  278 144 101 33 321 811 784 0.518 1.1547 2.9173 2.8201 0.097
 Northwest  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Vancouver Canucks 56 36 11 9 81 190 133 0.6429 1.4464 3.3929 2.375 1.018
 Minnesota Wild 55 30 20 5 65 146 145 0.5455 1.1818 2.6545 2.6364 0.018
 Calgary Flames 58 28 22 8 64 168 172 0.4828 1.1034 2.8966 2.9655 -0.07
 Colorado Avalanche 56 25 25 6 56 170 186 0.4464 1 3.0357 3.3214 -0.29
 Edmonton Oilers 56 16 32 8 40 137 193 0.2857 0.7143 2.4464 3.4464 -1
 Northwest  281 135 110 36 306 811 829 0.4804 1.089 2.886 2.95 -0.06
 Pacific  GP  W  L  OTL  Pts  GF  GA  WG PPG GFG GAG DiffG
 Dallas Stars 56 31 19 6 68 159 158 0.5536 1.2143 2.8393 2.8214 0.018
 Anaheim Ducks 57 32 21 4 68 159 157 0.5614 1.193 2.7895 2.7544 0.035
 Phoenix Coyotes 57 29 19 9 67 162 160 0.5088 1.1754 2.8421 2.807 0.035
 San Jose Sharks 57 30 21 6 66 158 151 0.5263 1.1579 2.7719 2.6491 0.123
 Los Angeles Kings 56 31 22 3 65 156 132 0.5536 1.1607 2.7857 2.3571 0.429
 Pacific  283 153 102 28 334 794 758 0.5406 1.18 2.806 2.678 0.127
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