Winning is pretty much everything when it comes to sports. As former New York Jets’ head coach Herm Edwards so famously said, “You play to win the game!”
The Sharks are currently on pace to capture the Presidents’ Trophy for the second straight season but as fans across the Bay Area will tell you, this means about as much as a promise from a politician.
The collapse by San Jose last season in the playoffs is hardly a new outcome from the team that finishes the regular season with the best record. Since the Presidents’ Trophy was introduced at the start of the 1985-86 NHL season, winning the trophy has become somewhat of a curse to the team that carries it into the playoffs.
Out of the 23 times that the Presidents’ Trophy has been awarded, only nine teams have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, of those nine teams, seven have been able to capture the Cup. So, if a team can manage to make it that far, they have a great chance of bringing home the most coveted trophy in professional sports.
But making it this far has become a predicament. In fact, recently, just getting out of the first round has been quite the challenge for the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
Two of the past four winners have stumbled in the worst way possible. All of that hard work in the regular season, just to see it wiped out by an eight seed.
And therein lies the problem.
Most of the time, the Presidents’ Trophy winner has had their playoff bid locked in a month or so before the playoffs have even begun. They have a tendency to take their foot off of the gas and coast the rest of the way into the playoffs.
On the other hand, the eighth seed has had to scratch and claw their way just to get in. They have that fire burning within them and their backs against wall. They know that it is live or die time and are already in that playoff mindset before they have even begun.
Even if a team can get out of the first round, things hardly get any easier due to the beast that is the NHL Playoffs.
But recently, advancing past round one seems to get the supposed best team in the NHL back on track. Since the NHL changed their division format for the 1993-94 season, only one team has not been able to advance to the Conference Final series once past the first round.
Most hockey fans will agree that the Presidents’ Trophy is a novelty award that is nice to have. But in reality, it is not the award that anyone truly strives for.
The San Jose Sharks learned this lesson quickly last season, and perhaps this season they should allow the Chicago Blackhawks or some other pressing team to pass them and take the award.
Perhaps trying to win all of their games should not be part of their agenda. Maybe Todd McLellan needs to take a page out of the book of NFL coaches. Rest your stars. It seemed to work well for the Indianapolis Colts
This philosophy may ring true even more this season with most of the Sharks’ elite players taking part in the Olympics. But only rest your stars long enough to make the final few games of the season to mean even more.
McLellan shouldn’t be afraid to lose a few games coming back from the Olympic Break. Fall down that standings a little bit just so the boys have something to fight for down the stretch.
As much as I hate watching the Sharks lose, it could be something that will help them a little further down the road.