The Presidents’ Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL team that finishes the regular season with the most points. First awarded after the 1985-86 season, it has been awarded 33 times. However, winning the trophy has shown to be troublesome for most teams.
The Race to Lose the Presidents’ Trophy
Every team strives to be the best in the league yet only one can be. The Presidents’ Trophy acknowledges the team with the most success during the regular season, but it has not been kind to the winners.
Currently, the Boston Bruins lead the NHL in points with 88. Three points ahead of last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pittsburgh Penguins (80 points) and Washington Capitals (79 points) are both within striking distance of first place.
While finishing the regular season with the most points secures home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, it has not consistently translated to playoff success.
The Presidents’ Trophy has been awarded 33 times to 17 different teams but only eight times has that team won the Stanley Cup. The most recent Presidents’ Trophy winner to win the Stanley Cup was the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
Why Has There Been Little Success?
It’s nearly impossible to determine exact reasoning as to why teams that win the Presidents’ Trophy have historically struggled in the postseason. Each team and each year faces new challenges that cannot be easily compared.
However, some of the notable struggles can be attributed to Presidents’ Trophy winner running into a hot goalie, such as when the Vancouver Canucks lost to Tim Thomas and the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup. It could be due to injuries, an unfavourable matchup in a playoff series, or simply not playing up to their potential. There’s a multitude of reasons as to why the better regular-season team could lose in the postseason.
First-round upsets tend to be more common in the NHL compared to other sports, according to NHL broadcaster Darren Eliot. In the previous playoff format, which lasted from 1999 to 2013, first-round upsets were quite common. In that time, there were 72 series matching the No. 1 team in a conference against the No. 8 team, and No. 2 versus No. 7. The lower seed won 27 of the 72 matchups, good for 37.5 percent.
Since the current playoff format began in the 2014 playoffs, no Presidents’ Trophy winner has gone on to win the Stanley Cup. The most notable instance came last year when the Tampa Bay Lightning became the first trophy winner to be swept in the first round of the playoffs.
A close race for the Presidents’ Trophy is a good thing as it creates competition. There have been six teams to win the Presidents’ Trophy by a margin of 10 or more points. Only one of those teams has won the Stanley Cup (Detroit Red Wings in 2002).
What It Means For This Season
If the playoffs started today, the Bruins would face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs. Boston swept Carolina in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
However, recent history indicates that the Presidents’ Trophy would not be kind to the Bruins if they were to win it. After losing last year’s Stanley Cup, Boston would face another long and gruelling playoff run to break the trend of Presidents’ Trophy winners losing in the postseason.
To break the trend, Boston would have to win the Stanley Cup. The last team to win the Stanley Cup the year after losing it was the Edmonton Oilers in 1984. They are also the most recent team that has reached the Stanley Cup after losing it the previous year. Recent history has shown that winning a Stanley Cup the year after losing it is incredibly challenging.
With a quarter of the season remaining, the standings will likely change. The Lightning is the NHL’s hottest team right now and has another chance at the trophy after squandering their opportunity with it last year. Nonetheless, whoever finishes with the most points will be tasked with becoming the first Presidents’ Trophy winner to win the Stanley Cup in seven years.
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