The Penguins Shouldn't Want or Care about the President's Trophy by @MedinaMarie_PI

Being number one is a great feeling. The feeling that a team is the best of the best. All of the hard work has paid off and the team sits in first place in the National Hockey League.

The prize for such an accomplishment is known as the President's Trophy. It has been awarded to the top team in the NHL at the end of the regular season since 1986. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been awarded this trophy once since then, which I will touch on a bit later.

While having the most points at the end of the regular season is impressive, it is only half the battle. The NHL playoffs, also known as the "second season", is a new ball game and being the number one team in the league does not guarantee success in the post season.

In fact, in recent years, many hockey fans have thrown around the idea that being the President's Trophy winner carries a curse along with it.

The "curse" reads (more or less) like this: If a team wins the President's Trophy, they will not win the Stanley Cup.

This is a topic that has been up for debate. While many hockey writers and statisticians have gone on to try to debunk the idea, diehard fans will swear that the curse is real.

I am not here to settle the score either way, however we will examine some facts:
President's Trophy
  • Fact 1: There have been 15 overall recipients of the President's Trophy since 1986.
  • Fact 2: The Detroit Red Wings hold the most trophies with six, followed by the New York Rangers with three
  • Fact 4: The Red Wings are the only team to win both the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup twice (2002, 2008)
  • Fact 5: In 10 seasons, only two teams have won both trophies (the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the Detroit Red Wings in 2008)
  • Fact 6: In 30 years, the President's Trophy winner has seen a first round exit from the playoffs six times, a quarterfinal exit six times, and a  a semi-final exit seven times.
  • Fact 7: In 30 years, only 11 President's Trophy winners have gone on to participate in the Stanley Cup Final. Eight of those have skated away with a championship. That is a less than 25 per cent chance that the team leading the NHL at the end of the regular season will win it all.

Of the eight teams that have been able to earn both trophies, none of them are the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact, the year the Penguins did win the President's Trophy (1993), they lost to the New York Islanders in the second round.

That does not give much of a positive outlook does it?

The facts being what they are could, in fact, give a bit of credence to there being a curse but there are also other factors in play.

When a team comes into the playoffs being the leader of the league, a great deal of expectation is placed upon them. The expectations are heightened even more when a team is the defending champion. The NHL playoffs are the most gruelling series in sports to get through and when a team is expected to produce high end results, that stress can weigh heavy.

Just ask the Washington Capitals. They have twice come into the playoffs on top of the world only to see their championship hopes fall apart one or two series in. They crack under the pressure to stay number one, while a team seated a notch or two below them surges at the right time.

Hence the theory of a curse.

Both teams sit in the same situation this season. As of March 14, the Penguins (95 pts.) are in second place and a mere two points behind Capitals (97 pts.) in the division standings with 13 games remaining. The Penguins, however, hold a game in-hand over the Capitals, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are knocking on the door only one point back behind the Pens.

The next three weeks are going to be interesting.

Looking at the overall scope, the Penguins need to worry about the bigger picture. They are a team decimated by injury right now with a majority of their remaining games coming against Metropolitan Division opponents. These opponents (such as the New York Rangers, Flyers, yes, the Blue Jackets) know what is at stake, they know the condition of the Penguin roster at the moment, and would like nothing more than to make their situation worse.

Finishing the season in the top three as in tact as possible and getting most (if not all) of the injured players back to healthy, playable status needs to be the top priority.

A deep run into the playoffs in hopes of a repeat Cup victory will not be possible without a healthy team and a focus on a greater prize instead of worrying about individual player trophy races or a division lead.

Let Connor McDavid win the scoring trophy. He still has a long way to go before he can say he is on the same level as Sidney Crosby. Let someone else win the points race (well, anyone but Patrick Kane). It will end up being consolation prize if their team doesn't win it all.

There is something much greater awaiting the Penguins as long as they can keep themselves level headed and in the fight. The Stanley Cup is the only trophy that really matters.

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About Medina Menozzi

I write about the Penguins and anything associated with them. I work a lot and my social life reflects that. How do you handle me? With a good shot of tequila and a prayer. Kat Stratford is my spirit animal.
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