The Canucks are now at 109 points with six games to play . If they win three of those remaining games, they will finish with at least 115 points and lock up the Presidents trophy for the first time in their 40 years of existence. As a result, they will enjoy home ice advantage for all four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Or will they be done in by the “Presidents’ Trophy Curse?”
Over the past seven seasons, only one Presidents’ Trophy winner – the Detroit Red wings in 2008 – has gone on to win the Stanley Cup. During that same period, four regular season point leaders have been given the boot in the first or second round. Not a very convincing record of success.
Given that I am trying to build a case for the Canucks to WIN the Stanley Cup this year I had to dig a little deeper. What I learned was that leading the NHL in standing points for the regular season is actually a good predictor of success in the playoffs. While it does not guarantee taking home the coveted Holy Grail of hockey known as Lord Stanley’s Cup, the odds for the Presidents’ Trophy winner to make it to the final round and win the Stanley Cup are still pretty damn good.
Over the past 11 NHL seasons, the Presidents’ Trophy winner has captured the Stanley Cup four times. Over the 24 seasons that the Presidents’ Trophy has been awarded there have been seven Cup winners and two losers in the final round.
Both of these stats put the odds of the Presidents’ Trophy winner making it to the Stanley Cup finals at around 37%.
If you go all the way back to the 1982 Stanley Cup, when the current playoff system was adopted (four rounds of seven games each), the case is even stronger. In the 28 seasons starting with 1981-82, of the teams that led the NHL in points during the regular season:
• 12 have gone all the way to the Stanley Cup finals (43 percent).
• Three-quarters of those teams have won the cup (9 of 12)
• 19 have made it to at least the Conference finals (68 percent)
• Only five have been eliminated in the first round (18 percent) – Chicago in 1991, St Louis in 2ooo, Detroit Red Wings in 2006, San Jose Sharks in 2009 and The Washington Capitals in 2010.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the benefit of winning the President’s trophy is to review the fate of all other teams that have made it into the NHL playoffs.
Over the past 28 seasons, 42o other teams also started out in round one. Only 44 of those teams (just over 10 percent) have made it to the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only 19 (under 5 percent) have won the Cup.
If history is any guide, the team that leads the NHL in regular season points is four to five times more likely than any other team in the playoffs to make it into the Stanley Cup finals, and seven to eight times more likely to win the Cup.
Of course, history does not guarantee the Canucks anything. Only their talent, hard work, good coaching, and a little puck luck will give them the chance to take that first drink from Lord Stanley’s cup that has eluded this franchise for 40 years.
The deal closer on this one for me is the amazing coincidence that the last two times that a Canadian city hosted the Winter Olympics the host cities team went on to win the Cup the following year! The Canadiens did it in 1977 and the Flames did it in 1989.
Nevertheless, we can say with confidence that, when they win the 2011 Presidents’ Trophy, the Vancouver Canucks are well positioned to make a deep run into this years Stanley Cup playoffs. Go Canucks Go!