North by northwest

Sports-North-Western-NHL

Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 19 2013

The worst division in the NHL

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

Since the inauguration in 1998, the Northwest Division has only produced one Stanley Cup champion and three Presidents’ Trophy winners. From the glory days of the Colorado Avalanche to the current dominance of the Vancouver Canucks, the great Northwest has always been a one-horse race. Minnesota, Calgary, and Edmonton sneak into the playoffs on several occasions and have been memorable contenders, but the success was temporary. The failures of the division however seem permanent.

It is hard to stay optimistic watching each team struggling despite improvements. Edmonton has collected first-round draft picks and has developed a team with a youthful core, but still no notable growth can be seen.

Meanwhile, Minnesota went through some dramatic changes adding more of an offensive touch with players like Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi, but positive results haven’t been immediate.

For Calgary and Colorado, both are struggling through a period of transition as prominent players like Jarome Iginla and Milan Hejduk are taking on lesser roles in their waning days. There’s really no surprise that Vancouver is waltzing through the shortened year with their eyes set on another division title, their sixth in seven seasons.

For the fans of Northwest Division teams, patience is a virtue. It is a shame that some of the most passionate supporters of the sport have to suffer with subpar teams. Perhaps there is a greater expectation from proud hockey fans, but the truth of the matter is that the teams just aren’t that good. The way it looks at the moment, Vancouver might be the only team in the division entering the playoffs. There is a slim chance that Edmonton or Minnesota may upset another and sneak in, but with the stiff competition in the Western Conference’s bottom eight seeds, the odds are not in their favour.

As of the moment, this is good news for Vancouver fans. With the majority of the games against weaker opposition, the Canucks may have the easiest route to the playoffs. Then again, the spoils of having incompetent opponents may hinder their chances come do-or-die games. Teams that often do well in the playoffs are those that feel the pressure of making the post-season. Last year the Los Angeles Kings won the championship as an eighth-seed underdog, so it goes to show that no team cruises to glory. As weak and pathetic as the division looks at the moment, the Northwest have made the Stanley Cup Finals three times in the last 10 years, no better or worse than any of the other divisions in the Western Conference.

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