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: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: September 1, 2011 4:14 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

but the Canucks look to still be the runaway favorite in the Northwest, as well as the Conference------Im tired of that talk. First of, i dont think they are any better then last year, second, when are people gonna realize LUONGO CANNOT WIN THE BIG GAME!..not to mention the twins get dominated by defensive clubs. Last season i thought the only way the Canucks dont win the cup or at least make it to the finals is LUONGO. That's how good i thought that team was. They didn't get any better, and they still have Luongo in net, end of story for me. Im liking the Wings(of course), Hawks, and Kings this year. 

Since: Jul 15, 2008
Posted on: September 1, 2011 1:55 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

and the point of this article was?????  To say that the team won the western conference last year should be the favorite this year??   Thanks for the insight!

Since: Apr 29, 2011
Posted on: September 1, 2011 1:10 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

when you say 20 years you mean active right?  because the blues had the longest streak of 26 (i think) seasons making the playoffs.  winning those playoffs is a different story :)

Since: Nov 9, 2009
Posted on: September 1, 2011 12:28 am

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

Thank you for stating the obvious

Since: Sep 25, 2008
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:42 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

I think that by now, everyone here should know the Western Conference is DOMINATE.

Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:14 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

The Canucks would have to sleep walk the first three months not to win their division, but the other two should be decent races. Hawks and Wings should battle it out and out west the Kings should challenge the Sharks. Some dark horse teams I like early on are the Blues and Ducks, I can see both of those teams competing. Not sure about winning divisions but should be on the upswing. I also like what the Wild did this offseason as well

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:09 pm

Dominant teams in the Western Conference

piss poor phrashing there talking about the wings only making the playoffs 9 times.

the red wings have made the playoffs 20 straight years in a row. a record that is the longest in any of the big 4 professional league.

injuries, team turnover, coming off a run to the cup nothing matters nothing phases our guys hold for a plane crash. even then i bet there would be 5 healthy wings who would still lace up and win their way into the postseason.

also on behalf of the red wings organization i have a few terms i would like to clarify with the media.

they are not old they are veteran. also the wings never.. repeat NEVER, rebuild. they only ever reload and readjust never rebuild.

rebuild implies things have fallen out of dissaray, and need to be built again from nothing. when the wings miss the playoffs then someone can claim rebuild. until then the wings only fine tune and phase in new talent occassionally reloading when a bunch of rooks make the trip up the ladder.

anyways good stat sheet reporting just some understatement on the dominance of the ever present red wings.

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