Chicago, IL — If you followed the 2013-14 NHL season at all you are well aware of the vast difference between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. Everyone knows all the powerhouses are in the West with possibly the exception of the Boston Bruins but, with the loss of Jerome Iginla they may be weaker than they once were.
The NHL has a cap ceiling and floor to impart equality among all the NHL teams and give the league competitive parity in theory, but the theory seems tilted to the left or west if you will. There is parity in the league however it is all amongst the Western Conference teams.
It’s no secret that the LA Kings knew they had to be better to win the Stanley Cup their benchmarker – the Chicago Blackhawks. Hell Coach Darryl Sutter still says the road to the Stanley Cup goes through Chicago. Which maybe true in the Central but the road also goes through Los Angeles in the Pacific make no mistake. Unfortunately for everybody else, both of these teams are young and this is their time and they are built to last and going no where.
The Western Conference also just got that much tougher with the recent free agency and trading that took place this past week. Sports Center call it an “arms race” in the West and that is what is becoming.
The Anaheim Ducks, St.Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild & Dallas Stars all got better and improved their teams to challenge the Kings and the Blackhawks. Let’s not forget that other California team the San Jose Sharks who nearly tko’ed the champs in round one.
There were some big names that came to the west from the east like Spezza, Iginla, Vanek, Hemsky,Neal, Briere & Richards and some big name free agents that stayed like Stastny and Kesler. Great just what they needed more talent.
The competition in the west next year will be at a fever pitch just to make it into the playoffs it will require a hustle if you will, all year long. Again in the end this will only make the west stronger due to playing better competition throughout the regular season. You can better believe the Kings and Hawks will be keeping eyes on each other.
The Western Conference teams also play a different style of hockey. The west is bigger, faster and stronger. They have better goalies, better defenseman and more speed and power up front. The Western Conference teams can play many different styles from wide open run and gun to close goalie matches and lock-down style.
During the regular season the western teams do more traveling which in the end you would think would wear them down come playoff time, but maybe it has the opposite effect. Due to all the miles logged and traveled the western teams are in better condition and have more stamina because they understand the long grind and the need for pacing. Look what happened to Boston they fizzled out in the end.
There is no question that the East is the mecca of finance, fashion, culture and the media but it is the West and the Midwest that have shifted the hockey landscapes. The east coast bias in the media is amusing to all fans of western hockey teams and highlights the medias hockey intellect or lack thereof.
The best hockey is being played out West and in the Midwest without question. It’s a shame that the national media isn’t picking up on this and highlighting for the league.
That WCF series between Chicago and LA was one you just didn’t want to end ever and one audiences loved whether you were a die-hard fan of your team or an in general hockey fan. Everyone knew that the real Stanley Cup Final was played in the Western Conference Final and if the landscape doesn’t change that will be the scenario going forward as well.
So where does this leave the Eastern Conference or the NHL for that matter? Well there have been rumblings out of Pittsburgh from that hockey player there that is somewhat ok, joking, remember Sidney Crosby? Isn’t there a talented team in Florida that has a young exciting superstar on it called the Tampa Bay Lightning?
If Crosby, Malkin and company can start setting the pace in the East like the Blackhawks and the LA Kings are doing in the West we may get a balance here and wouldn’t that be interesting. For once one would like to go into a Stanley Cup Final without knowing the outcome. Although the same thing happens in the NFL the SuperBowl rarely lives up to the hype or play of the conference finals.
Even in the Boston/Chicago SCF did anyone outside of Boston really think after the dominating performance that the Blackhawks had in the regular season that Boston would win? Before the Kings even played game 1 of SCF against the Rangers didn’t we all know the Kings would hoist the Cup?
The East needs to keep up if they ever want to see hardware on the eastern seaboard again.Do we need to move the Chicago Blackhawks to the East to get some competition going and elevate the level of play? Where is that eastern cockiness?
Hustle is defined in several ways. It can be a scheme like Ponzi where something appears to be something it’s not. It can be chaotic speed like the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It can be ambition or drive like when you’re hustling to complete a task. Whatever way you slice hustle the west does all of these at a much higher level than the east.
Don’t the western teams play rope- a-dope the best, ah hem Phoenix, Anaheim? Who possess speed better than Colorado and Dallas? And for sheer ambition and drive can anyone master Chicago or Los Angeles?
It’s time for the East to learn the battle cry from the 70’s “DO THE HUSTLE” or as one great fictitious hustler said “Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but, you had to survive?” 1
1 Irving Rosenfeld played by Christian Bale from 2013 film American Hustle distributed By Columbia Pictures.