It didn’t come as a surprise to many NHL
fans when the Washington Capitals were knocked out of the current playoffs in
the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to some, the Capitals
were unfortunate enough to have been crowned the Presidents’ Trophy winners
this year for having the best regular-season record in the league. There are
fans out there who believe this trophy comes with a curse attached to it and
the Capitals early exit was just par for the course. Looking back through the
annual statistics and postseason results, these curse believers may have a bit
of a point.
The Presidents’ Trophy was first handed out
to the NHL’s top club in the 1985/86 campaign. It’s nice to win it, but the
ultimate goal for everybody in the league is the Stanley Cup. The Presidents’
Trophy winners are always one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup once the
postseason begins since they have home-ice advantage throughout, but so far
they haven’t really been that successful. Of the 30 Presidents’ Trophy winners,
just eight of them have gone on to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug at the end of the
This means 22 of the Presidents’ Trophy
winners haven’t been able to achieve their postseason goals. In fact, six of
them have been eliminated from the playoffs in the very first round and another
six were sent packing after the second round, including the Capitals this year.
On three occasions, the Presidents’ Trophy winners failed to even make the playoffs
the year after winning the award. But on the other side of the coin, the top
point-getting team in the NHL reached the Stanley Cup Finals 45 per cent of the
time between 1982 and 2009.
The eight teams that managed to top the
league in the regular season and capture the Stanley Cup were the Edmonton
Oilers (1986/87), the Calgary Flames (1988/89), the New York Rangers (1993/94),
the Dallas Stars (1998/99), the Colorado Avalanche (2000/01), the Detroit Red
Wings (2001/02 and 2007/08), and the Chicago Blackhawks (2012/13). These eight
represent 26 percent of Presidents’ Trophy winners. Three of the winners went
on to lose the Stanley Cup Finals, and these were the Boston Bruins (1989/90),
the Detroit Red Wings (1994/95) and the Vancouver Canucks (2010/11).
Therefore, 11 of the 30 Presidents’ Trophy
winners made it as far as the Stanley Cup Finals, which represents 37 per cent
of them. Things have even been worse lately though as just four of the league’s
top teams have won the Stanley Cup since 2000 and Chicago has been the only one
to do it in the past eight seasons. For interest sake, let’s compare the top
regular-season NHL clubs to the top teams in the MLB, the NBA, and the NFL.
The last National League baseball team to
win the World Series after topping the MLB standings in the regular season was
the New York Mets back in 1986. The past six top National League clubs haven’t
even made it to the World Series. The last National League squad to finish with
the best overall record in baseball and reach the World Series was the St.
Louis Cardinals with a record of 105-57 and they lost the final in four
straight games to the Boston Red Sox. Over in the American League, three of the
past eight clubs that boasted MLB’s best record have won the World Series. The
top two baseball teams in the American and National League have met each other
just once in the Fall Classic since 2000. The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis
Cardinals in six games when this occurred in 2013.
Things are a bit better for the top NBA teams
though as the Golden State Warriors could be the fourth consecutive top team to
win the championship if they can pull it off this year. Golden State won the
title last season after finishing with the best overall regular-season record
as did the San Antonio Spurs in 2013/14 and the Miami Heat in 2012/2013.
However overall, just six NBA teams have won the championship and the topped
the league standings since the 1999/2000 campaign. When it comes to the NFL,
the top NFC and NFL teams have met only three times in the Super bowl since
Being the top NHL club over a grueling
82-game season is something to be proud of, but being knocked out of the
playoffs could be due to reasons other than a curse. Some teams simply run out
of gas, suffer from injuries or run into a hot goaltender. In addition, the NHL
schedule is unbalanced and the Presidents’ Trophy winner could have had the
fortune of playing in a weaker division and/or conference. However, the
possibility of a curse isn’t necessarily out of the question either.
Labels: Ian Palmer