By Rob Ficiur
At this moment the last place team (fifth) in the Canadian Football League’s Western Division would be first in the CFL’s East. A month into the NHL’s 2013-2014 season the top eight teams in the NHL were all Western Conference teams. Is the West the Best? Over the last ten years has there been some kind of a shift so that western teams in North American sports dominate? If this is true, why would the East (where majority of people live) be the least of the two? (I will only be looking at the NHL, CFL and NBA because in these sports, the championship final is always between the East champion and the Western champion.)
1. CFL Numbers
Who were the top four teams in the eight team CFL? In the last ten years, the West holds a slight advantage. Five of the last ten years the top four teams had two West and two Eastern teams. Of the remaining five years, the Western team had three of the top four teams on three occasions and in 2004 three of the top four CFL teams were in the East. (That year did the West lose its Zest?)
The West has won six of the last ten Grey Cup games.
Conclusions? – The West won two more Grey Cups than the East. The West standings were ahead of the East three more times in the last ten years. The numbers seem to show that the West is wining a bit more than the East. Up until this year the East was a bit behind, but not so far out that their teams seemed like a junior league compared to the west.
2. NHL Numbers – In early November 2013, the top eight teams in the NHL were all in the Western Conference. At the end of the season six of the top ten teams were in the West. What about other years? I have only looked at the last nine years when the NHL has had a salary cap.
In the last nine years, how many of the top ten teams were in each conference? Four years there were five teams from both conferences in the top ten. Only once (in 2006) did the East have more teams in the top ten than the west. The West outdid the East four of the nine Salary Cap years
The West has won seven Stanley Cups and the East has won two.
Conclusions? – Most regular seasons the East and the West had about the same number of teams in the top ten. However, if there was an advantage the western conference teams bettered the east 4-1. When it came to winning championships, the West has dominated the East in the last nine years. The West has been the best in the Salary Cup era.
1. Western teams travel more. In the NHL sixteen of the thirty teams are in the Eastern Time Zone. The other fourteen teams travel many more miles throughout the year. Three of the last nine Stanley Cups have been won by Pacific time zone teams. During a long final series the western teams were used to the grind of cross country travel. (Remember a slight advantage is all it takes to win a overtime game).
2. Have to be great to make the playoffs –Teams in the west know they must reach a certain level (.600 in the NBA) to make the post season.
3. Playing Weaker Teams = Being a weaker team – Many teams play to the level of their opponents. Playing in a weaker conferences might not fine tune the skills the same way as playing against elite teams every game.
On the Other Hand –
Teams don’t necessarily think exclusively in East or West. To claim a championship they have to be better than all the teams around them. Being in a weaker conference might (just might) mean the West has to play through more difficult teams to get to the final. The Eastern team that might have had an easier road to the final could defeat an battle worn Western team in the final.
The numbers don’t show this as a pattern, but we will keep watching sports for another ten (or twenty) (or forty) years and see how the pattern continues to develop.