RandBall: The NHL, NBA and their brutal Western Conferences
- Blog Post by: Michael Rand
- December 12, 2013 - 10:05 AM
The Wolves are 22 games into their season, and the Wild is 33 games into its season. That's not a perfect sample size in either case, but now feels like a good time to evaluate what we know about these teams:
The Wolves have been inconsistent, particularly with their effort/intensity (which shows up on defense). They have battled through injuries, though their true core players have been healthy. Kevin Love missed one game for his grandmother's funeral. Kevin Martin missed a game with illness. Otherwise, none of their starting five have missed time. Their bench production has been spotty. And their schedule has been less than kind.
The Wild has nights when it looks unbeatable if Josh Harding plays good-to-great and they manage to get enough goal production. But Minnesota is just 3-6 in its past nine games in large part because of that old nemesis: scoring. With just 14 goals in those nine games, it's hard to win. And Minnesota's schedule has been less than kind.
Let's focus on that last sentence for both teams because we're starting to think that's where their real stories are going to be defined. The Wolves are at .500 after winning last night. The Wild is pretty close to being a .500 team (don't tell us 18-10-5 is anything but 18-15 ... if a shootout win is a win, a shootout loss is a loss) and has outscored opponents by just one goal over the course of this season.
Both have the ability to play above that level or below it, depending on the competition. And both have the misfortune of playing in by far the tougher of the two respective conferences.
Eight NHL teams, including the Wild, have at least 40 points in the West. Only three teams do in the East.
Eleven NBA teams, including the Wolves, are at least .500 in the West. Only three teams are .500 or better in the East.
This is almost certainly the best the Wolves and Wild have been as a joint entity since 2002-03 when they both made the playoffs (the only season that happened).
To make the same happen this year will be a function of how well they can shore up their shortcomings, but also just how much of a bite their brutal conferences take out of them.
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