Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Hardly Knew Ye, South(L)east Division

Regarded as one of the worst divisions in the history of hockey, if not sports, is now finished. The elimination of the Washington Capitals closed the chapter of the Southeast Division, something that many celebrated for being dead because most of the time these teams were only in the playoffs because they got at least one spot for actually winning the division, putting them in the 3rd spot (at least), many times points behind the 4th finisher.

But was that division as horrific as many people thought it was?? Since the division came about in the 1998-99 season, the Southeast Division sent two teams to the playoffs in eight of the 14 seasons it was around, it yielded only one President's Trophy winner (2009-10 Capitals) and two Stanley Cup Champions (2004 Lightning, 2006 Hurricanes). The Capitals, who were the only team not to move from their original location or be an expansion team, was the division winner seven times, Hurricanes three times, Lightning twice, with Panthers and Thrashers/Jets winning it once.

Now, to look how it looked in every year against the rest of the Conference for the Playoffs:

1998-99: Carolina Hurricanes: Seeded 3rd (Ranked 8th), Lost in First Round
1999-00: Washington Capitals: 2nd, Lost in First Round
                Florida Panthers: 5th, Lost in First Round
2000-01: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked 6th), Lost in First Round
               Carolina Hurricanes: 8th, Lost in First Round
2001-02: Carolina Hurricanes: 3rd (Ranked 7th), Lost in Stanley Cup Finals
2002-03: Tampa Bay Lightning: 3rd (Ranked 5th), Lost in Second Round
               Washington Capitals: 6th, Lost in First Round
2003-04: Tampa Bay Lightning: 1st, Won Stanley Cup
2005-06: Carolina Hurricanes: 2nd, Won Stanley Cup
               Tampa Bay Lightning: 8th, Lost in First Round
2006-07: Atlanta Thrashers: 3rd (Ranked 5th), Lost in First Round
               Tampa Bay Lightning: 7th, Lost in First Round
2007-08: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked T-7th), Lost in First Round
2008-09: Washington Capitals: 2nd, Lost in Second Round
               Carolina Hurricanes: 6th, Lost in Conference Finals
2009-10: Washington Capitals: 1st, Lost in First Round
2010-11: Washington Capitals: 1st, Lost in Second Round
                Tampa Bay Lightning: 5th, Lost in Conference Finals
2011-12: Florida Panthers: 3rd (Ranked 6th), Lost in First Round
               Washington Capitals: 7th, Lost in Second Round
2012-13: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked T-4th), Lost in First Round

In summation: 13 times were lost in the first round, four times in the second round, five times in the Conference Finals, three times to the Stanley Cup, twice winning it. It's very ugly considering the differential that many of the seeded and rankings shows us. Most cases, all the teams would seemingly shoot for is to win the division in order to get to the playoffs rather than shoot for the 8th spot. While you had both in the sights, the easier thing was to hope for a collapse of your division rivals, which at times happened.

It wasn't the prettiest of divisions, it wasn't the most notable, it didn't provide too much excitement outside of who could come up with a better punchline for it. We're all probably better off with the realignment, but it did provide some kind of head scratching goodness come playoff stretch time. While it's not like they actually had a non-playoff team make the playoffs in that 3rd spot, it wasn't as if they deserved that high ranking-- even though they did lose more often than not when given that.

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