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Is playing in the new West Division a good thing for the Blues?

The top four teams make the playoffs.

St Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Yesterday, the NHL and NHLPA officially announced a 56 game season to begin on January 13th. As a part of the modified season, the league’s had to modify the traditional conference and divisional setup.

The Canadian teams won’t be able to cross the border (or vice versa), so they’ll be grouped together in the North Division. The East, which is comprised of the Bruins, Sabres, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, and Capitals, will be getting off light in the travel department but not in the competitiveness department. Only the top four teams can make it, so that means that the Bruins, Flyers, Pens, and Caps will be slugging it out with the Islanders and Rangers close on their heels. The Central Division is no longer home to the Blues, but the Red Wings and Blue Jackets are back, along with the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators are the three traditional Central Division teams that remain. It makes for a unique travel map, to say the least, especially for the Eastern Conference teams not used to changing time zones quite so often.

When it comes to changing time zones, there’s going back an hour and going back two hours, which is what the Blues and Minnesota Wild will be doing. The Colorado Avalanche are the other holdover from the Central Division, and all three teams be joining the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Arizona Coyotes. The NHL should be able to adopt start times to accommodate Blues and Wild fans who might not want to watch hockey until midnight on a Tuesday, but the layout of the division is still unique.

It’s also to the Blues’ advantage. First off, the team obviously doesn’t have to play in a division with the Stanley Cup champions, the Lightning. Sure, playing in the Central with the Blackhawks and Red Wings is appealing - but aside from those two teams, there aren’t exactly any easy pickings. When you factor in the fact that it was the Dallas Stars, not the Minnesota Wild as was expected, who remained in the Central, that’s another tough opponent to fight it out with for a spot in the top four. The division may look like an easy ride, but the Panthers and Hurricanes aren’t exactly easy teams to play against.

Here’re what the standings in this division would’ve looked like last season (for reference, the Blues finished the regular season with 94 points):

  1. Lightning - 92
  2. Stars - 82 pts
  3. Hurricanes - 81
  4. Blue Jackets - 81
  5. Predators - 78
  6. Panthers - 78
  7. Blackhawks - 72
  8. Red Wings - 39

The new Western Division standings would’ve fallen as this:

  1. Blues - 94
  2. Avalanche - 92
  3. Golden Knights - 86
  4. Wild 77
  5. Coyotes - 74
  6. Ducks - 67
  7. Kings - 64
  8. Sharks - 63

So no, overall, there aren’t any easy pickin’s teams like the Red Wings in the West, and the quality of the top three teams in the West are arguably better than the quality of the top three teams in the Central based on points earned at the end of last season (obviously, when you have the two Stanley Cup Finalists in the same division, that ups the quality quite a bit). The Central has only one team, the Red Wings, who did not make the playoff bubble; the West has three.

The Central might have a log-jam for their playoff spots. The Pacific, well that might be a little less of a possibility.

The Blues have done well against both new divisions when you look at the stats over the last three years. Last year’s splits against individual teams in each division paint a clearer picture:

Central (13-4-1):

  1. Lightning - 2-0-0
  2. Stars - 4-0-1
  3. Hurricanes - 1-0-0
  4. Blue Jackets - 1-0-0
  5. Predators - 0-3-1
  6. Panthers - 0-1-0
  7. Blackhawks - 4-0-0
  8. Red Wings - 1-0-0

West (13-4-3):

  1. Avalanche - 2-2-0
  2. Golden Knights - 1-0-2
  3. Wild 3-0-0
  4. Coyotes - 1-1-1
  5. Ducks - 2-1-0
  6. Kings - 2-0-0
  7. Sharks - 2-0-0

It’s a pretty even comparison between the two divisions as far as the Blues are concerned, though the truncated season does make it a little tougher to tell where an advantage truly lies, if any. The Blues had success against all of their opponents, save for the Nashville Predators. Maybe that’s where the true advantage lies - if the Blues don’t have to deal with the Preds, that might take one burden off of their plate and make the late start times easier to handle.