The Coleumn: Finding the most competitive division in each major sports league 

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It’s an interesting time in sports right now. Thanks to the stock exchange that is the National Football League offseason and Major League Baseball’s reignition, some teams have found ways to grow stronger while others are rebuilding and retooling.  

But it goes beyond the NFL and MLB. The National Basketball Association has seen a massive increase in competition with a lot of surprise playoff contenders while the National Hockey League has enough young players to fill an outdoor rink. 

As a result, the state of every individual team and each division has changed. That got me wondering if I could find the most competitive divisions in each league. 

MLB: AL East 

Since the Wild Card Era began in 1995, no division has been represented more in the postseason. Including the 16-team postseason amid the shortened 2020 season, the AL East has had at least two representatives in all but five postseasons (2000-2002, 2006, 2014). They also have a history of success, winning more World Series (nine) than any other division in that same span. Thanks to the newly expanded postseason format, the AL East can become the first division to ever send four teams to the postseason. They have the pieces to do it. 

The division has four ALCS contenders. Each team has a lot of power, whether it’s Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena for the Rays, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for the Yankees, Rafael Devers and JD Martinez for the Red Sox or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Matt Chapman for the Toronto Blue Jays. The pitching corps is just as important to each team’s success, from Gerrit Cole to Chris Sale to Jose Berrios. Their aces can confuse hitters every time they step up to the plate. Baltimore holds down the last place spot for now, but who knows where every other team finishes in the standings this year. 

NFL: AFC West 

If you thought the AFC West couldn’t get any more loaded, then think again. 

We’ll start with the Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes’ No. 1 wide-receiving option in Tyreek Hill may be off to Miami, but he still has the best tight end in football in Travis Kelce. Their defense remains stellar, but wait until you run into the Los Angeles Chargers. Joey Bosa wasn’t enough, so they acquired Khalil Mack from the Bears to tackle anything that moves. Include JC Jackson from free agency in the secondary, and the Chargers could shut out at least five opponents next season. 

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are going through their biggest offseason since 2012. Russell Wilson joins, becomes the franchise’s new quarterback and has some incredible receiving options such as Jerry Jeudy and Cortland Sutton. Include a secondary featuring Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain II and this is a dangerous team on both sides of the ball. The Las Vegas Raiders are also feeling good because they traded for Davante Adams to become the new WR1, enough said. 

I’m keeping one eye open on all four of these teams because each one could either win the division or finish in last place. 

NBA: Pacific 

I had a hard time determining which division in the NBA is the toughest, but when it comes to the talent pool, the Pacific Division takes the cake. 

It starts with household names such as Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Devin Booker, all of whom are unstoppable forces that will be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame one day. It goes beyond these three. Until Curry got hurt, the Warriors and the Suns were brawling to determine both the king of the division and the king of the NBA.  

Los Angeles sits in the middle. The Lakers have disappointed everyone while the Clippers have had their laboring pains. You wouldn’t think it’s a rivalry since the Clippers have won their last seven games dating back to July 2020, but the media continues the debate over who is the better Los Angeles team. Especially with Paul George coming back, the landscape of the division will change even more.  

Finally, there’s the Sacramento Kings, who traded away Tyrese Haliburton. They don’t have as many draft picks as the Thunder, but if they get the right pieces, then they have a fighting chance to bring even more firepower to the division. 

NHL: Central  

The Eastern Conference has its playoffs teams virtually locked in. Most spots in the Western Conference, except for the Colorado Avalanche’s, remain up for grabs. The Avalanche’s talented roster is on cue to win their second consecutive President’s Trophy. 

The Minnesota Wild recently traded for Marc-Andre Fleury and has a point machine in Kirill Kaprizov. Then there’s the Nashville Predators, who found their goalie in Juuse Saros while Filip Forsberg is having a career year. Not far behind are the St. Louis Blues, a quiet offensive team with great goaltending from Ville Husso. 

The Dallas Stars are on the bubble, but with three less games played than the Vegas Golden Knights, the Stars are in a solid position to steal a playoff spot in late April. Follow that up with the Winnipeg Jets, led by 40-goal scorer Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele, and the middle of the pack is just as electric. 

At the bottom are the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes. The Blackhawks make this division competitive because of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews. The Coyotes are the Coyotes. Put them all together and you have a division where the results are unknown every single day. 

This is like a reading of instantaneous speed, it’s a snapshot of a moment in time. There are other divisions that are just as competitive, and depending on what happens next, they may overtake my picks as the most competitive division. We don’t know what the future holds, but right now, these are the divisions that are the most competitive. 

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