In any other sport, wrapping up a season with the distinction of having the best record in the league is met with a lot of optimism and fanfare. In the NHL, however, it seems that the accomplishment draws weary eye and askance glances.
The reason for that is simple: there is a belief among many hockey fans that the President’s Trophy represents some kind of curse to a team’s season, and recent history backs that assumption up. According to the good folks at ESPN Stats and Info, of the last 10 President’s Trophy recipients, only one, the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings, ended up winning the Stanley Cup. Over that stretch, four other teams have been eliminated in a first round upset at the hands of the eighth seeded team. The 2011 Vancouver Canucks were the only team other than the ’08 Wings to make the Cup Finals, and two other clubs lost in the conference finals.
With all of that as context, it would stand to reason that fans shouldn’t be overconfident in the chances of the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2013 Stanley Cup. Despite their remarkable 24-games points streak, an 11-game winning streak, and spurts of totally dominant play, this team still has some question marks to address. Even with those things in mind, the notion of a “President’s Cup Curse” isn’t one that fans of the team should be worried about.
For help in dispelling the notion of a curse that recent history has so aggressively hammered home, we turn to an article written by Jonathan Willis of Backhand Shelf a few years ago. In the piece, he went over all the playoff performances of teams ranked 1-16 in the standings, and concluded that out of all those seeds, it was actually the top seeded team that won the Stanley Cup the highest number of times, with five victories over the course of (now) 18 seasons.
While a 33-percent success rate doesn’t exactly scream “FAVORITE,” it does state it rather forcefully. It also pushes back against the false assertion that a team that nails down the top overall seed is at some kind of cosmic disadvantage in seeking a championship. In fact, with home ice advantage and the assumed superior club as decided by a full season’s worth of games, the top seed IS one that teams should strive for, and fans should be happy with.
So for all of the times that guys like Jaroslav Halak and Jonathan Quick have single-handedly robbed a top seeded team of their Cup dreams, there have been plenty more instances of teams like the Nicklas Lidstrom-led Red Wings that have gone on to hoist the chalice at the end of the season.
Blackhawks fans should stop living in fear of the trophy that has supposedly “cursed” the likes of Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals and Henrik Sedin’s Canucks for years, and should instead focus on the prime position that award puts their team in as they strive for the organization’s fifth championship.