Blog Entry

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

Posted on: August 31, 2011 9:31 pm

By: Adam Gretz

Over the past decade -- and especially over the past five seasons -- the Western Conference has been dominated by a small handful of teams, particularly at the top of the regular season standings. In any given year it's been a safe bet that Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver will be there in some order.

In the early 2000's Detroit, Colorado and Dallas were the dominant teams in the West, winning divisions, playing for the conference title and usually winning the Stanley Cup. In recent years the power has shifted a bit, with Detroit remaining in the drivers seat and the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks joining them at the top of the confernce.

The Red Wings are the only team that's made the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons, finishing in one of the top-two spots seven times, and out of the top-three only once (2009-10). In the pre-cap era when they could spend as much as they wanted on free agents (and keeping their own players) they were an elite franchise, and adjusted to the capped NHL remarkably well, continuing to remain as one of the gold standard franchises in the league.

There's been quite a bit of juggling in the No's 4 through 15 spots, but the top-three (the divisional winners) have been pretty consistent.

In total, nine different teams in the West have claimed a division title over the past nine seasons, with only five of them taking more than one. Here's the quick breakdown:

Central Division: Detroit (8), Chicago (1), St. Louis (0), Nashville (0), Columbus (0)
Northwest Division: Vancouver (5), Colorado (2), Calgary (1), Minnesota (1), Edmonton (0)
Pacific Division: San Jose (6), Dallas (2), Anaheim (1), Los Angeles (0), Phoenix (0)

There's not really a lot of variety there. While nine of the 15 teams have managed to win a division over this stretch, the past five years have been dominated by Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver, with each of those clubs winning their division in four of the past five seasons. Heading into 2011 each team is looking to be an early favorite to take its division once again.

Colorado and Dallas, the other two teams to win more than one title, haven't finished at the top of their respective division since before the lockout.

But what happens once the postseason starts? Are the Western Conference playoffs still dominated by the same three teams at the top?

Over the same nine-year stretch 10 different teams have managed to go as far as the conference finals, with (no surprise here) Detroit leading the way with four trips. The rest of the teams have had the following appearances: San Jose (3), Anaheim (3), Chicago (2), Vancouver (1), Calgary (1), Edmonton (1), Minnesota (1), Dallas (1) and Colorado (1).

The list of teams that have actually made the Stanley Cup Final is even shorter: Detroit (3), Anaheim (2), Vancouver (1), Chicago (1), Edmonton (1), Calgary (1). Since the Salary Cap was put into place prior to the 2005-06 season the list shrinks down to just Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver and Chicago  being the only teams to represent the West over the past six seasons.

Are any other teams ready to take a step and leapfrog the established power in their division, or the conference in general? The Kings may have positioned itself to make a run at San Jose in the Pacific thanks to the blockbuster trade that landed them Mike Richards, forming a fantastic 1-2 punch down the middle with he and Anze Kopitar.

Chicago, coming off a disappointing defense of the Stanley Cup this past season thanks in large part to a sluggish first half, should give Detroit a solid run for its money, but the Canucks look to still be the runaway favorite in the Northwest, as well as the Conference. If not the entire NHL.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:28 pm
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Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 19, 2011 3:23 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

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Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:35 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

yea he preseason rankings really dont mean ish because they said the kings would contend last year and they lost the division by a decent amount of games and got beatdown in the first round by a much better San Jose team playing with a sub par defense. this year i dont see how the Kings can overtake my Sharks. the defense has been upgraded significantly and the offense reallly only lost one prominent scorer. Sharks gained a ton of postseason experience through trades this summer and dumped the NHL's version of Randy Moss in Dany Heatley off on the Wild. I will go as far to say he has been a burden on us and I regret losing Setoguchi more than Heatley. My fiancee just bought me a Dany Heatley jersey before the end of playoffs and i was more downtrodden about having the jeresey say heatley on the back than not having him on the roster for next year when the trade happened lol. glad he is gone. what a postseason choke job for the amount of money we paid his tail. Here's to the new look San Jose Sharks!!!! CANT WAIT FOR HOCKEY SEASON TO BEGIN!!!

Since: May 12, 2008
Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:07 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

Having been a Sharks fan since the puck first dropped in SJ, I know that these preseason rankings mean nothing.  I also know that what really matters is who is hoisting the Cup.  The West is (again) the conference to beat and if it is VAN again this season in the Finals, I would not be suprised.  Here's  to another great season of hockey and, as always for me,  GO SHARKS!!

Since: Dec 20, 2007
Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:54 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

they also lost to the blackhawks 309 times. they have a .555 record against the hawks. not like they are killing them.

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:28 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

The bar in the NHL..How many cities have this for there sports team?

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: September 2, 2011 8:15 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference apologies, that's the problem with typing (can't read the sarcasm) and with coming into a thread late

Since: Jul 11, 2011
Posted on: September 1, 2011 10:58 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

wow check out that essay, immmmmmmmmmmmmmmpresive

Since: Aug 27, 2006
Posted on: September 1, 2011 10:35 pm

With this AWESOME Cbssportsline msg board....

Once again, nobody knows who the hell anyone is replying to or what comment they are replying to.  It is absolutely amazing that since I joined.........Not one person has decided to fix this "problem".  Every comment is just posted in the order it was received.  Making the msg board worthless.................ughhhFrown

Since: Sep 1, 2011
Posted on: September 1, 2011 4:58 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

Hahahahahaha, Mike Richards forming a potent 1-2 combo with Kopitar. Hahahahahahaha, where, in the bars ? Hahahahahahaha
Richards will be with Cheechoo in two more years with his " body of a ten year old " as Laperriere put it so perfectly. And Dany Heatley and his jello body will be there in three, cause at least he still brings a bigtime shot to the ice. Richards, hahahahahahaha

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