The strike-shortened NHL season comes to a close, setting the stage for a fast-paced 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff season. As the hunt for Lord Stanley’s grail begins, all eyes focus on the Presidents’ Trophy winners in Chicago, as the Blackhawks look to win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
The Hawks finish the year with the most points in the NHL, earning them their first Presidents’ Trophy in 22 years. Their season started and was defined by an amazing stretch of 24 games in which the Hawks gained at least one point. “The Streak” ultimately put the Hawks back on top of the hockey world, and for a few weeks dominated the headlines of most major news outlets across North America.
But it’s been a long time since the streak. While the team finished the year with only a combined 12 losses (seven in regulation and five in overtime or shootout), history has not been kind to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season.
In the past five years, each Presidents’ Trophy winner has lost before they could secure the ultimate prize of the Stanley Cup. The last team to win both the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup were the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings.
Since 2008, three of the last four Presidents’ Trophy winners have been bounced from the playoffs in the first round. The Vancouver Canucks of 2010-11 were the only team of the previous four Presidents’ Trophy winners to make it past the first round. In fact, they were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup, but lost due to an amazing performance by eventual Conn Smythe Winner Tim Thomas.
So as the last four years have shown, the best in the NHL does not make a team any more favorable to win the Cup. To the contrary, it actually gives a very ominous sign for the Chicago Blackhawks of 2013. But fear not, Hawks fans. This trend of losing among the previous NHL-best teams is nothing new in the history of the Presidents’ Trophy.
Before the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008, the previous five Presidents’ Trophy winners failed to win the Stanley Cup. The 2002 Red Wings were at the time the last team to bring both pieces of hardware home. So what does this mean? The ’08 Red Wings broke a losing trend among Presidents’ Trophy winners. But the pattern doesn’t end here.
Before the 1998-99 Dallas Stars brought home Lord Stanley’s Cup and the Presidents’ Trophy, the previous four Presidents’ winners failed to bring Lord Stanley home. And in 1993-94, the legendary New York Rangers not only ended their long Cup drought, but they ended yet another four-year drought of Presidents’ Trophy winners not winning the Stanley Cup.
So why bother with looking at the past when the present is all that matters?
Well, simply because the past gives us a list of trends to help predict how the future can shape out.
Only recently has the Presidents’ Trophy been a kiss of death of sorts for any team looking to win the Stanley Cup. This isn’t even something irregular if looking at the trend since the Presidents’ Trophy was introduced in 1985.
The winners of the Presidents’ Trophy have won the Stanley Cup once every five years three times in the history of the award.
So if history is any indication of what will happen in the future, the Chicago Blackhawks will win the 2013 Stanley Cup.
However, there is a reason why a team must win 16 times in the playoffs to bring home the Cup.
Nothing is written in stone, so the Blackhawks will need to take each series as they come. Or to invoke an old sports cliché, the Hawks need to just play one game at a time. They will show to the rest of the world whether or not their regular season success can translate into the postseason.