As any person who frequents this particular blog should know, the New Jersey Devils have had a pretty difficult start to the season. A shocking come-from-behind victory over the weekend against Boston yielded only their second win of this season in 11 tries. Yet, despite their bumbling start to the season, the Devils remain only three points away from a playoff spot. This is thanks to the general ineptitude of the entire Metropolitan Division.
Yes, it appears the secret is out that the Metro could be in for a rough inaugural season. The NHL always has one or two divisions that are no good, but with realignment throwing more teams in each division, it should be a little tougher for a division to stink from top to bottom. There has been no such issue for the Metro thus far, though, as only one team has won more games than they've lost. Even factoring in the loser point, the Penguins are the only team that has been able to collect more than half of the points available. Teams continued the trends last night, going 1-3-0 as the Rangers and Capitals both ventured outside of the division and lost and the Penguins dispatched the Hurricanes. So, a division which many had pegged as a tough one at the start of the year continues to struggle mightily.
With all this in mind, it got me thinking about how this division stacks up against other lackluster divisions of the past. Given that the current standings system only dates back to the post-lockout 2005-2006 season, only looking at the divisions going back to that point makes the most sense. There are likely some terrible groups prior to that, but comparing them could get murky when bringing ties back into the equation and removing teams. So let's take a look at the worst divisions of the past eight seasons.
|Year||Worst Division||Points||Points %||Second Worst (Pts)|
Worst Goal Differential
|Year||Worst Division||Goal Differential*||Deficit Per Game|
*Includes SOW/SOL as a GF/GA
So, parsing through the annals of recent history paints a pretty unforgiving picture for the Southeast Division (the Northwest doesn't come out particularly rosy, either). There was a bit of a power struggle for who could be the worst for a few years but the old Southeast emerged victorious with era-worsts in points percentage as well as goal differential for an 82-game season. Then, they really put an exclamation point on things with the collectively dismal lockout-shortened season that was outpacing their worst seasons in either category.
Now, it's still fairly early, but the Metropolitan Division is currently on pace to surpass even the lousiest campaigns of that now-defunct bastion of bad hockey. The Metro boasts a points percentage of 0.438 right now. This is a grueling pace, even compared to the worst divisions of the era. Teams are also being outscored by over half of a goal per game (-0.506), way beyond the beatings other divisions have taken. As a whole, this division is getting massacred when they play anyone who is not also in the division. The Metro is sporting a 10-21-6 record (!) versus the West thus far this season and a more reasonable (but still fairly bad) 8-10-2 record versus the new Atlantic Division.
It's probable that at least a few other divisions have started out seasons this poorly, and of course there is plenty of time to turn things around in the Metro. But, I have to imagine that most of the other divisions who were this bad this late into the season probably also ended up as bottom-feeders. If a couple of teams not from Pittsburgh can find their stride (like maybe a certain team from New Jersey), perhaps the division can at least improve from "historically bad" to "regular bad" in the coming months. Even with some improvement, it seems likely that the Metro will be bringing up the rear at the end of the year, though. Thankfully, we get three playoff spots, no matter what.