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Is the Presidents' Trophy Cursed?

Having the best record in the NHL should be a good thing, though history has shown that it is an immense detriment.

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
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The Presidents' Trophy goes to the team with the NHL's best record

In any of North America's four major pro sports leagues, having the best record has its benefits. In the NFL, it means home-field advantage up to that team's Conference Championship (as the Super Bowl is usually played on neutral sites), while in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL, it often means home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, having the best record usually equates a championship. In the NHL? Not so much. The National Hockey League is the only one of these leagues that awards an actual trophy for finishing with the league's best record: the Presidents' Trophy. The Presidents' Trophy was first awarded in the 1985-86 season, with the Edmonton Oilers being the very first winners, as they racked up 119 points. However, the Presidents' Trophy has hardly ever led to a Stanley Cup for the teams that won it, and the overall history of Trophy winners failing to win the Cup (including in the last decade) have led fans and analysts to wonder if the Trophy is actually cursed.

The Presidents' Trophy has been awarded 34 times in its history; only the 2004-05 season had no winner due to the entire season being canceled because of the lockout. In the Trophy's first 19 seasons (prior to the lockout), 13 of the 19 winners got past the second round of the playoffs. Of the 13, eight of them reached the Stanley Cup Final, and six of the eight actually won the Cup. Of the six who didn't get past the second round, only two were defeated in Round 1: the 1990-91 Chicago Blackhawks (who lost the Norris Division Semifinals to the Minnesota North Stars) and the 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues (who lost the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the San Jose Sharks).

The positive numbers decreased drastically when the NHL returned from their crippling lockout. Since then, the Trophy was awarded 15 times. Out of the 15 winners, only five got past the second round of the playoffs, an even 1/3 of the group. Of those five teams, three of them reached the Stanley Cup Final, and two of them won the Cup. To date, the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks are the last Presidents' Trophy winners to capture the Stanley Cup. Out of the 10 teams who failed to reach the Conference Finals, half of them lost in Round 1. Overall, the Presidents' Trophy has resulted in eight Stanley Cups out of 34 awarded winners, but also has delivered seven first round exits as well.

It's not only the immense amount of early exits that put a damper on the Presidents' Trophy, but the quality (or lack thereof) of the defeats. One glaring example came in the 2011-12 season, which saw the Vancouver Canucks win the Trophy for the second straight year and come off falling one win short of winning the Stanley Cup a year prior. The Canucks won 51 games and racked up 111 points, but when it came to the playoffs, they faltered, only winning one game total. Their win came in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings, meaning that they were in danger of being the first Presidents' Trophy winner to get swept out of the playoffs. They won that game, but lost Game Five to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

And then there's the Tampa Bay Lightning. We all know that story; the 2018-19 season was a dream season for the Lightning. They ran away with the Presidents' Trophy, clinching the award on March 18, 2019, with several games left in the regular season. The Bolts went on to win 62 games, which tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the NHL record, and racked up 128 points, a franchise record--but three points short of the NHL record. To say they were heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup would be an understatement, and when their first round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets was set in stone, everyone figured it would be a cakewalk, with fans even saying "Lightning in three."

The Lightning led 3-0 in Game One against Columbus, but that's where the positives end. The Blue Jackets came back and won that game, and then won Games Two, Three, and yes, Four. When all was said and done, the Lightning's historic season and heavy Cup ambitions only resulted in a postseason run that didn't even last a full week. 62 regular season wins, but zero in the playoffs, becoming the first Presidents' Trophy winner to fail to win a single playoff game. Even worse for the Lightning, they were swept out of the playoffs by the only remaining team who had never won a playoff series. In fact, before that season, the Blue Jackets had never won more than two games in a single postseason.

If there was already a belief that the Presidents' Trophy was cursed prior to that season, it definitely increased with what happened to the Lightning. The Trophy has a success rate of less than 25%, and has delivered almost as many first round exits as it has Stanley Cups. Right now, the Carolina Hurricanes lead the race for the Presidents' Trophy, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers very close behind. All I have to say to whoever wins the Presidents' Trophy is, "Good luck." You may need a lot of it.

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About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

Feel free to follow my social media:

Twitter - Facebook - Tiktok - Instagram

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