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With the Florida Panthers on the verge of being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, the President's Trophy is about to claim another victim. I'm calling it a curse, but historically speaking I suppose it would be too early to go that far. From the
In the first 34 years the league handed out the trophy to the team with the best regular-season record, only eight recipients have gone on to win the Stanley Cup and none since 2013. In the last 20 years, more Presidents’ Trophy winners have lost in the first round — five — than won the Cup.
I suppose the only reason it wouldn't be considered a curse is because the winner of the Trophy has won the Cup 8 times. Hard to consider something a curse when there is considerable success attached to it. Nonetheless, since 2013 no team has managed to win both. A major failure that comes to mind in recent memory is the 2019 President's Trophy winning Lightning team getting swept in Round 1 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. That series gave birth to what appears to be a dynasty with Tampa looking very strong to 3-peat this year. But why is this Trophy seemingly a drag on teams? I think it comes down to several factors.
Pressure, Expectations, and Parity
If you win the Trophy that means you scored the most points for the regular season. Consequentially that means you should be the best team in hockey. Going into each round of the playoffs, all the pressure will be on you to defend home ice, and win the series. The other teams are usually playing with house money by the time they get to you. However, just because you scored the most points in the regular season does not mean you are the best team in a league like the NHL though. When compared to other leagues, I think the NHL has some of the best parity among it's teams. Any team can win on any given night, especially when it comes playoff time. In other leagues it's extremely rare for the top seed to fall to the lowest seed in the first round, as Tampa did to Columbus in 2019. In the NBA this has only happened 3 times in it's history. In the NHL it's not uncommon for the lower seeds to reach the Cup Finals. 4 seven seeds and an 8 seed have all made the Cup Finals (they all lost). While 3-0 deficits have been come back from before (Islanders- 1975, Flyers-2010, Kings-2014) I don't see it happening here. Tampa is too good of a team and franchise to allow that to happen. Although the Panthers now have Claude Giroux, and he was in this situation before back in 2010.