NHL Presidents' Trophy Not a Curse

The award for top-scoring team is not a predictor of playoff failure

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators
Frederick Breedon / Getty Images

When it comes to NHL team awards, few seem to care about the Presidents' Trophy, which has been handed out annually since 1985–86 to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points in the standings. In the eyes of some fans, the award has little meaning in the league unless the team goes on to win the Stanley Cup, the trophy presented the winner of pro hockey's annual championship tournament.

There is a belief that the President's Trophy carries with it a curse — that the team that wins this prize is destined not to win the Stanley Cup. That mistaken notion is a myth.

Background of the Myth

Only eight of the Presidents' Trophy winning teams have actually gone on to win the Stanley Cup, but three other teams have reached the finals but failed to win the title. Still, the statistics show that about one-third of teams that have won the trophy have gone on to at least compete in the NHL's championship series.

Indeed, Presidents' Trophy-winning teams reach the Stanley Cup Final — and win it — more than any other seed in the playoffs.

The Statistics

More than half of NHL teams are thrown into the playoff tournament — which, essentially, starts a second season with teams participating in four best-of-seven series. The randomness of a best-of-seven series can sometimes lead to unexpected results. Top seeds are upset from time to time, but more often than not the top team in the regular season ends up at least reaching the NHL's final four, as these figures illustrate:

  • Stanley Cup Winners: 8
  • Lost Stanley Cup Final: 4
  • Lost Conference Finals: 5
  • Lost Second Round: 7
  • Lost First Round: 6

Year-By-Year Look

To get a clearer view of the myth of the President's Trophy "curse" — or lack thereof — it's helpful to view an annual listing trophy winners together with their eventual results in the playoffs. Information from recent years was compiled by Wikipedia.

Year Presidents' Trophy Winner Playoff Result
2015-16 Washinton Capitals Lost Second Round
2014-15 New York Rangers Lost Conference Finals
2013-14 Boston Bruins Lost Second Round
2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks Won Stanley Cup
2011-12 Vancouver Canucks Lost First Round
2010-11 Vancouver Canucks Lost Stanley Cup Final
2009-10 Washington Capitals Lost First Round
2008-09 San Jose Sharks Lost First Round
2007-08 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2006-07 Buffalo Sabres Lost Conference Final
2005-06 Detroit Red Wings Lost First Round
2003-04 Detroit Red Wings Lost Second Round
2002-03 Ottawa Senators Lost Conference Final
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2000-01 Colorado Avalanche Won Stanley Cup
1999-00 St. Louis Blues Lost First Round
1998-99 Dallas Stars Won Stanley Cup
1997-98 Dallas Stars Lost Stanley Cup Final
1996-97 Colorado Avalanche Lost Conference Final
1995-96 Detroit Red Wings Lost Conference Final
1994-95 Detroit Red Wings Lost Stanley Cup Final
1993-94 New York Rangers Won Stanley Cup
1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins Lost Second round
1991-92 New York Rangers Lost Second Round
1990-91 Chicago Blackhawks Lost First Round
1989-90 Boston Bruins Lost Stanley Cup Final
1988-89 Calgary Flames Won Stanley Cup
1987-88 Calgary Flames Lost Second Round
1986-87 Edmonton Oilers Won Stanley Cup
1985-86 Edmonton Oilers Lost Second Round