As you already know from reading our site the Vancouver Canucks have clinched the Presidents’ Trophy. Which is a great accomplishment. But is it a good thing? That might seem like an odd question to ask. Ask any player, coach, GM or fan before the season started if they want their team to have the best regular season record and each one of them would say yes.
Why wouldn’t they? In the words of Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I probably didn’t add enough exclamation points to justify Edwards’ emotion but I didn’t want my fingers to get sore from holding the shift key down for the next 14 hours. Anyway, you get the point… You go into the season hoping your team plays well enough to get into the playoffs and take it from there. Anything else is a bonus.
All that matters in the NHL is hoisting the Stanley Cup once the season’s over. How you get there is irrelevant. An 8th seed barely getting in and the number one seed overall both make the playoffs. They each have the same chances of winning the Stanley Cup. Home ice advantage is something the 1st seed gets over the 8th seed but does that truly make a difference?
We’ll talk more about home-ice advantage in another post but if you’re interested go read Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim to get some great insight about the home court advantage theory.
What we’re focusing on here is whether or not being the regular season NHL champion in the modern era has any bearing on whether or not that leads to an advantage over the 15 other playoff teams.
The Presidents’ Trophy has been in existence since the 1985-1986 regular NHL season. In that span only 7 teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup after winning the Presidents’ Trophy, with the Detroit Red Wings being the most recent winner during the 2007-2008 season. That would be 7 out of 24, which roughly translates to about a 30% success rate.
Now, winning the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t automatically disqualify a team from winning the Stanley Cup or giving them less of a shot. It also doesn’t mean that they’re guaranteed to raise the cup. What it really means is that fans shouldn’t automatically assume that the Canucks’ will win the Stanley Cup just because they won the Presidents’ Trophy. There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.
What winning the Presidents’ Trophy gets you is playing in front of a frenzied and most likely sold-out arena, playing against supposedly weaker teams, a chance to give rest to some players that need it. Add all those perks plus 30% odds of winning the Stanley Cup, and, yes, that gives the Canucks an advantage. It just doesn’t guarantee anything. Upsets happen every year in every major sports league.
While some have said that there’s a curse attached to the Presidents’ Trophy the real test the Canucks will face is winning four straight playoff rounds, keeping injuries to a minimum and hopefully avoiding the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
But if the Canucks don’t win the Stanley Cup their name will be added to the long list of Presidents’ Trophy winners turned losers and quickly become an afterthought among Canucks fans.