COHEN’S CONDEMNATIONS: The Eastern Conference
Greetings hockey fans!
Jesse Cohen here again to tell you why the things you love are horrible and why you’re horrible for loving them!
The Los Angeles Kings are in the midst of their last 3 games against Eastern Conference Teams. They’re 1-0-0 so far with games remaining against Washington and Pittsburgh. Each game represents not only two points in the standings but also an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of the more populated Eastern markets.
It’s also an excellent opportunity for us to showcase what makes the Eastern Conference so terrible.
THE 5 WORST THINGS ABOUT
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
5. The Toronto Maple Leafs
The Queen City. The City That Works. Hogtown. City of my birth.
The New York of Canada.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada, which is like being the biggest Coyotes fan in Phoenix, and chock full of media with TSN, SporstNet and CBC Sports headquartered in the city, so coverage of the Leafs, their coaches and even their wives and girlfriends is entirely out of proportion based on their accomplishments.
The Maple Leafs sit alone atop the “Stanley Cup Final Drought” list.
Forty five years without appearing in a Stanley Cup Final, one playoff appearance in the last 8 seasons, the most expensive ticket price in the NHL….. and yet they still routinely sell out their games and are among the league leaders in attendance.
All of which means I have to endlessly hear about what a disappointment David Clarkson has been, how Tyler Bozak is developing into a bonafide #1 Centre and endless debates about whether or not Phil Kessel is overrated or underrated.
Did I mention the Leafs are on the verge of slipping out of the playoffs, are 4-6-0 in their last ten and all the fancy stats insist that they’re bound to continue slipping.
And now the season long goalie controversy is rearing it’s ugly head again???
4. The Teams Are Terrible
As of right now, almost every team in the Western Conference has a winning record against teams in the Eastern Conference.
Boston and Pittsburgh are recent Stanley Cup winners so it’s easy to imagine them having earned their place among the top of the overall League standings but when you consider their regular opponents it’s hard not to view their success through the filter of crummy Eastern Conference hockey. The Sharks, Kings and Ducks are all top 10 teams and have to play each other 5 times each. The Bruins get to play Buffalo and Florida 5 times each.
3. The Divisional Alignment
After 14 seasons of the absurd six division alignment, it seemed impossible for the NHL to ruin the return to a Divisional Playoff structure based on two geographically based divisions per conference.
OK so they jumbled up the divisional alignment but at least the playoff standings are less complicated than they used to be in the 6 Division system right?
Well played NHL, well played.
2. Tri-State Tri-Team Try And Ignore Them (aka The Metropolitan Division)
I hate New York.
There. I said it.
I hate the stupid accents. I hate the pizza. I hate the Yankees. I hate the 5 boroughs. I hate Giuliani, Bloomberg and de Blasio. I hate the endless attempt of the entire country to piggyback on the in-jokes about Jersey.
The Greater New York Metropolitan Area boasts a population of over 23 Million people. Well guess what, New York? That still leaves about 300 Million of us that DON’T live in your stupid crowded city (and utterly unremarkable suburbs). New York gets three teams and before you give me any garbage about New Jersey and Long Island not being part of New York let me stop you right there and remind you that I don’t give a shit.
It’s 5.3 Miles between Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, the new home of the Islanders, and 13.4 miles between Madison Square Garden and The Prudential Center where the Devils play. It’s 5.3 Miles from Long Beach Polytechnic High School to Robert A. Millikan High School and I’m telling you the Rams and the Jack Rabbits have just as fierce a rivalry as the stupid Rangers and Islanders but we don’t expect the rest of the country to care about it.
Of course the New York teams aren’t the only one reason this terrible division dominates media coverage. If you treat the three New York teams as one market, and you should, 7 of the 8 markets in the horribly named Metropolitan Division, are among the top 25 most populated cities in the US: New York(1), Philadelphia(5), Columbus(15), Charlotte(17) and Washington DC(24). Based on the media coverage these teams get you’d think the NHL only had 5 or 6 teams and occasionally deigned to play some competitors from minor leagues in Canada, Florida and out West (the rest of the country not serviced by Interstate 95).
In fact the only team that plays in a market with fewer than 500,000 people is the Pittsburgh Penguins and for some strange reason they seem to get just as much media coverage as the rest of the division combined……..
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Washington Capitals
When people who don’t actually follow hockey begin talking about hockey and the biggest rivalries in the game they inevitably turn to Pens vs. Caps… or more accurately, Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin.
People will point to Ovechkin’s three Hart Trophies, three Maurice Richard Trophies, his Art Ross Trophy, his three Ted Lindsay Trophies and his Calder Trophy while others will tout Crosby and his Stanley Cup win, two Olympic Gold Medals, two Ted Lindsay Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, one Maurice Richard Trophy and one Hart Trophy.
All of that is garbage.
The league has invested money in promoting this “rivalry” since the two players entered the league and I don’t imagine they’ll stop anytime soon. I’m certainly not the first person to point out how annoying it is that the league highlights these two players almost to the neglect of other players but surely marketing isn’t enough to sway the attention of the fans and media right?
Five of the last seven Hart Trophy Winners have been named from one of these two teams.
Meanwhile, 5 of the last 7 Cup winners have been from the Western Conference.
This isn’t a real rivalry.
The Capitals lost to the Penguins the only time the two players have faced each other in the playoffs. At home.
Crosby has a Stanley Cup and two Olympic Gold Medals. Ovechkin has half of a #FOMOH commercial for Verizon.
And his shooting percentage doesn’t get talked about enough.