Last night, the Vancouver Canucks clinched the Presidents Trophy, which is the trophy awarded to the team with the best record in hockey. It was their first career Presidents Trophy in franchise history. Led by Henrik and Daniel Sedin, along with Mikael Samuelsson the Canucks have been staying hot all year and with Roberto Luongo protecting the net, this team will be a tough out come playoff time. But could this possibly be a curse? Only four out of the past fifteen President Trophy winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Well lets take a look at some stats of the last fifteen years at the President's Trophy winners and how they have fared in the playoffs:
Is it the Sedin's time?
This was the start of a powerhouse in the Western Conference that still exists today. With a young Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman in his prime, and Chris Osgood leading the way in goal, Detroit went on to win 62 games in 1996, a record that is still held today. Many felt that there was no stopping this team. After steamrolling by Winnipeg in the first round in six games, they struggled in the second round against the high intense St. Louis Blues, but eventually sneaked by them in seven games. Everyone predicted that it would be the Red Wings vs. the second seeded Colorado Avalanche in the Conference Finals, and the the Avs, led by outstanding goaltender Patrick Roy were able to defeat Detroit in six games, and go on to sweep the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup.
Coming off the Stanley Cup victory over the Florida Panthers, the Avalanche carried that momentum into the 1997 by winning the President's Trophy. The team was led by young Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Claude Lemieux, and one of the best goaltenders in the game, Patrick Roy. After getting by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round they faced the Edmonton Oilers, who were coming off an upset of the Dallas Stars. A hard fought series by the Avs propelled them to a five game series win and a rematch with the Detroit Red Wings. Despite great goaltending by Patrick Roy throughout the series, the Wings got their revenge on the Avs by beating them in six games proving that last year was already off their minds. The Red Wings then beat the Philadelphia Flyers in a four game sweep to capture the Stanley Cup.
The Dallas Stars were the next victim to fall to supposed President's Trophy "curse." Signing Ed Belfour in the offseason to go along with Captain Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Sergei Zubov, the Stars set a franchise record with forty-nine wins in 1998, and believed adding Belfour was the piece they needed to win the cup. After rolling by the San Jose Sharks in round one, and disposing of the Edmonton Oilers in five games, they went on to face the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings. However, this series would be without Nieuwendyk who was lost for the season after suffering a crushing hit that tore his right ACL. The Stars lacked the fire power needed to beat the Red Wings, and they beat the Stars in six games and wound up winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The "real" missing piece
Ok, so maybe Ed Belfour was not the missing piece, but Brett Hull was. Picking Hull up in the offseason from the St. Louis Blues added to the core players already in place. The Stars again captured the President's Trophy, this time doing it much more dominantly, setting a new franchise record in wins. They swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round and took care of the St. Louis Blues (Hull's old team) in six games. In the conference finals, they faced the Avalanche, and they found out that maybe this was a team of destiny. With their backs against the wall down three games to two, playing in Colorado, the Stars wound up winning the next two games in convincing fashion (4-1, 4-1). Looking to break the Presidents Trophy Curse, they wound up beating the the Buffalo Sabres in six games to claim the Stanley Cup. However, Brett Hull's controversial clinching goal where he stepped in the crease prior to touching the puck still has Buffalo fans wondering if this goal should have counted.
Led by the dynamic duo of Chris Pronger and Al Maclnnis, the St. Louis Blues recorded a franchise record 114 points on their way to the Presidents Trophy. This seemed like the team that would finally get the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, they first had to go through the San Jose Sharks. After falling behind three games to one, the Blues attempted their own little rally. Showing why they were the President's Trophy winners, they dominated the next two games winning 5-3 and 6-2 to force a game seven in St. Louis. Their comeback came up short however, and were stunned by the Sharks in the first round losing 3-1, bowing out of the playoffs.
With most of its core players still in tact from the 1996 Stanley Cup Champion team, the Avalanche took it upon themselves to claim the 2001 President's Trophy. They obtained Ray Bourque, a long time Boston Bruin, and considered to be one of the greats, yet he still hadn't won a Stanley Cup. The key acquisition of defenseman Rob Blake was what the Avs believed they needed for another run at the Cup. They blew by the Edmonton Oilers with a four game sweep; however, struggled in the second round against the LA Kings but eventually squeaked by them in seven games. In the Conference Finals, the Avs beat the St. Louis Blues who were looking to seek revenge from last year's playoff debacle. The final three games went to overtime with the Avs winning two out of three.
They faced the top seed from the East, the New Jersey Devils, in the Finals, which featured Patrick Roy vs. Martin Brodeur, two of the best at their position. With the Avalanche down three games to two, the Avs shook off a shaky start to win in a rout of the Devils 4-0. In Game 7, Alex Tanguay was the hero for the Avs as he scored two goals to give Colorado the Cup, and Ray Bourque one happy man. Another team that overcame the supposed "curse."
Scotty Bowman going out on top!
In Scotty Bowman's final year, he could not have asked for more. The Red Wings locked up their third President's Trophy in seven years, and continued their dominance of hockey. In the playoffs, they had an up and down ride to the Stanley Cup. In the first round they dropped the first two games to the Canucks at home, but then shook off the losses and went on to win the next four games. They dismantled the Blues in a five game series to advance to the Conference Finals against a familiar foe. They met the defending champion Avalanche again as the top two seeds. The Avalanche took a three games to two lead. Led by Chris Osgood, the Red Wings shut out the Avs in the next two games winning 2-0 in Game 6, and a 7-0 thrashing in Game 7 to advance to the Finals.
Facing the surprising Carolina Hurricanes in the Finals, the Canes took a 1-0 series lead after winning in overtime in Game 1. The Red Wings would go on to win the next four games, including a three overtime victory in Game 3. Could the jinx be disappearing?
Even with off-ice problems and the team filing for bankruptcy mid-season, the Senators were able to capture the President's Trophy. Led by Alexei Yashin and Daniel Alfredsson, it seemed as if it would be a storybook ending for this franchise. After losing the first game to the Islanders in the first round, they rallied off four consecutive victories to steamroll into the second round. They played flip-flop with the Philadelphia Flyers until Game 5 when they took control of the series and finished off the Flyers. Onto the Conference Finals where they met the New Jersey Devils, and quickly fell down 3-1 in the series. Staving off elimination twice including a game winner in overtime in Game 6, the Devils rallied to win Game 7 with the game winner coming with just over two minutes to play in regulation. The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup, and "curse" continues.
The Detroit Red Wings returned to the top of the NHL Standings in 2004 and looked to make another Stanley Cup run. After two games in the first round, it seemed as if they were poised to do that against the Nashville Predators. The Preds tied the series after four games with convincing victories in Games 3 and 4. They regained the Detroit playoff mojo and took care of the Predators in the next two games to advance to play the Calgary Flames. Again they were tied after two games with the Flames; however, this time the Red Wings could not find a way around Mikka Kiprusoff in the next two games and Flames disposed of the Wings 1-0 in both games with the series clincher going to overtime. The Flames made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals where they were upended by the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
After a one year lockout by the owners, the NHL was back and ready to crown another champion. It was a new era in Detroit with Mike Babcock at the controls as head coach, but the same result occurred as the Red Wings claimed the top spot in the NHL at the end of the regular season. They looked to shake off the upset by the Calgary Flames of a couple years ago. They ran into the Edmonton Oilers in the first round and started things off right by winning Game 1 3-2. However, Detroit never seemed to get back in the series against Edmonton as they fell behind three games to two heading into Game 6. Detroit jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two periods, but the Oilers rallied to tie it twice, the second time on a controversial goal, which was debated whether or not the puck was kicked in. Alex Hemsky provided Detroit more misery by making the game winning goal with just over a minute to go in the game sending the Wings home.
Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman saw their last years in Detroit as Shanahan was lost to free agency after the season and Yzerman retired.
Breaking the streak of Western Conference President's Trophy winners, the Buffalo Sabres claimed the trophy in 2007. Led by goaltender Ryan Miller and defenseman Brian Campbell, the Sabres posted the best record in hockey along with participating in the first ever NHL Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sabres took their high octane offense in thrashing the New York Islanders in five games to move on to the second round. In a hard fought series with the New York Rangers, the Sabres split the first four games. The Sabres had to fight for their last two victories of the series, with both wins being one goal victories including overtime in Game 5. On to the Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators, who they knocked out the previous year. A controversial hit on Chris Drury of the Sabres in Game 1 seriously injured Drury and forced him to leave the game and series. From then on, the Senators seeked and took their revenge on the Sabres, dismantling them in five games; however, falling to the Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Detroit once again asserted itself as the top team in hockey, with a new look team with the exception of Niklas Lidstrom and Chris Osgood, who seem to want to play forever. The Red Wings looked to forget about the last two times they won the President's Trophy, which resulted in early playoff exits. Again in the first round with the Nashville Predators, they split the first four games before burying the Predators in the next two games. The second round featured the Red Wings against the Avalanche, a familiar foe, except the Avs had a much more new look against the Red Wings, and it was no match for Detroit, as they throttled Colorado in four games including an 8-2 victory in the clinching game. In the Conference Finals vs. the Dallas Stars, the Red Wings jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series before the Stars staved off elimination twice to force a Game 6. Detroit took it upon themselves to dispose of the Stars in this game by winning convincingly 4-1 to move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Red Wings looked to capture the championship, and seemed to do it jumping out to a 3-1 series lead with Game 5 in Detroit; however, the Penguins showed their resiliency and won the game 4-3 in triple overtime to force a Game 6. The Wings jumped out to a 3-0 lead and had to stave off desperation comeback by Pittsburgh to capture their fourth Stanley Cup in the last eleven years. Detroit. Colorado, and Dallas remain the only teams to capture the Stanley Cup after winning the Presidents Trophy.
The playoff woes continue for the Sharks
Over the past couple years, the San Jose Sharks played their best hockey in the regular season, but seem to forget how to play hockey come playoff time. In 2009, they captured the President's Trophy. :Led by Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks rolled into the playoffs again with high spirits. Playing the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, they quickly found out that this was going to be a long series. Jonas Hiller, the goaltender for the Ducks, pitched a shutout in Game 1 and again in Game 4 to give the Ducks a 3-1 series lead and Sharks on thin ice. In Game 5, the Sharks staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory in overtime. In Game 6, the Ducks used their big names of Teemu Selanne and Cory Perry to dominate the game throughout and lead Anaheim to a 4-1 victory. The loss put a big question mark on the Sharks, wondering if they would ever get over this playoff jinx they supposedly have.
The Washington Capitals looked to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997, and 2010 seemed like their best shot. Featuring the game's most exciting player, Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps dominated the NHL throughout the season and carried their high flying offense into the playoffs. They faced the Montreal Canadians in the first round, and this is where Jiroslav Halak came on to the NHL Spotlight. A surprising 3-2 OT victory for the Canadians had the Caps reeling off the bat. The Caps responded with a 6-5 OT victory in Game 2 showing why they have the best offense in hockey. They continued their dominance in Games 3 and 4 beating Montreal 5-1 and 6-3. On the brink of elimination, Montreal turned to Halak who went into operation lockdown and allowed no more than one goal in each of the next three games leading Montreal to one of the greatest comebacks in NHL Playoff Hockey history, leaving the Capitals speechless.
Is it good to win the President's Trophy? Does regular season dominance transfer over to the playoffs? Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado believe in that, but the eleven other Trophy winners have experienced the "curse" that goes into being the NHL's Top Team in the regular season.