Despite the ridiculous amount of press the Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning have received thus far, it's the return of the Dallas Stars that qualifies as the biggest team story in the league this season. If the Stars were an Eastern Conference team, the mainstream media would have turned this team into 2011's first vomit-inducing story of the season with constant coverage about "the turnaround" and "the brilliance of Joe Nieuwendyk" and "the resurrection of Marc Crawford". Instead, the media has subjected us to the same cliches using Thrashers or Lightning personnel.
Unable to gain any attention from the Eastern media, the Stars have done the next best thing: they've destroyed the best Eastern conference has to offer.
Below are the record splits the Stars have posted to this point.
The Stars have posted an 11-2-1 record against the East, the best split in the Western Conference. They've been strong against the west, but without that dominance against the East, the Stars would be in the midst of a three horse race in the Pacific, rather than leading it.
What about clear victories? We know that one-goal victories are often a function of luck, and clear victories are more meaningful in judging a team's true talent. Scott has been tracking clear victories, and the Stars splits are in the table below.
The Stars have a losing record against the West when it comes to clear victories, but they're pasting the East. Their lone clear loss against an Eastern team was to the Maple Leafs.
Because the sample size is so small, it's possible these clear victories are a function of luck. Below are the Stars goal differential splits.
The goal differentials mirror the clear victory standings - the Stars have a negative goal differential against the West, but they're pasting the East.
...there are some warning signs that the Stars aren't as good as their record suggests. Through Christmas, they were getting bombed with the score close, earning only 46.1% of Fenwick events, which placed them 26th in the league. If there's something other than blind hatred making me think twice about Dallas, that's what it is.
To reinforce that, check out the Stars at the venerable, terrifying Gabe Desjardins' behindthenet.ca. Eliminate Jamie Langenbrunner from that list as he's been in New Jersey. Only Matt Niskanen has a positive Corsi.
Below is a table showing the shots splits thus far on the season
In this case, the shots percentages match the Fenwick events very closely. The Stars are being outshot by about the same amount against both conferences. In Brad Richards post-game interview after the Kings game, he said "I was gonna waive my no-trade clause to go to a winning team. But I'm already on one." The Stars might be winning, but Richards had better hope the luck holds out.
A whole slew of numbers show how badly the Stars are beating up on the Eastern Conference and how those beatings are buffering the Stars standing in the West. Should these trends continue, the number six seed in the West might be an excellent play in the first round.