Last night the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings and clinched the NHL Presidents’ Trophy in the process.  This is the first Presidents’ Trophy in team history and it’s definitely a great accomplishment for the franchise.

However, any player, coach or general manager will tell you that the Presidents’ Trophy means nothing in comparison to the Stanley Cup.

Are the Canucks a team that can claim the greatest prize in the sport?

If the playoffs started today, the Vancouver Canucks would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.  It seems like a bit of a cruel fate that the Canucks’ reward for earning the best record in the league is playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions.  However, it’s not just the defending champs that the Canucks may see when they look at the Blackhawks, they will also see the team that has ended their season two years in a row.

Sure, the Blackhawks are a different team this year and Roberto Luongo won’t have to deal with the Dustin Byfuglien causing havoc in front of his net, but the Hawks could also represent a mental block for Vancouver.  Can they overcome the feeling that the Blackhawks have their number?

Perhaps the even bigger question is can they overcome the notion that the team – and Luongo in particular – can’t win the big one?

Roberto Luongo may have silenced some of his critics when he took home an Olympic gold medal last year, but many still have the perception that he isn’t a “money goalie” and that he can’t win when it counts.  These labels have followed him throughout his career and, if the Canucks are going to succeed this season, Luongo will need to prove his critics wrong.  In that sense, perhaps it’s best that the Canucks face the Hawks and that Luongo is given another chance to slay his demons.  It could be the confidence booster that he needs if he can do it.

However, the Chicago Blackhawks and Roberto Luongo’s reputation aren’t the only pieces of history that are siding against Vancouver this season.  Even if the Canucks draw a different first round opponent, the history of Presidents’ Trophy winners doesn’t look at Vancouver favourably.

24 teams have won the trophy prior to this season.  Out of those 24 teams, only seven of them have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.  Two other teams have lost in the Stanley Cup Final.  That’s only nine out of 24 teams that have gone on to play for the Cup.

In the last two seasons the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals have defined what some call “the Presidents’ Trophy Curse.”  Both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and the criticism started to fly.  However, the 2008 Presidents’ Trophy winners were the Detroit Red Wings, and they went on to claim the Cup.

So is there actually any correlation between the Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup Success?  The fact that several teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup mostly defeats the idea that there is some kind of curse attached to the trophy, but history does show us that the playoffs are a totally different animal and that regular season success doesn’t necessary translate into playoff glory.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the Canucks’ season without mentioning injuries.  Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra, Andrew Alberts, Mikael Samuelsson and many, many other Canucks have missed time this season.  The fact that Vancouver has been able to find success with so many pieces of their line-up absent deserves serious credit.  The team’s depth is what got them to this point and depth is certainly key in the playoffs.

But will all of these injuries catch up to the Canucks?  The playoffs are a long grind and Vancouver already has several players who are playing with increased roles on this injury-laden team.  Will those players burn out or suffer injuries themselves?  Is Vancouver deep enough to overcome everything they’ve been through and everything they may go through in the postseason?

Obviously there’s no way to know how the Canucks will fare until the time comes.  However, the adversity that Vancouver has been through may be enough to bring the team back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994.  Only time will tell.

Comments (7)

  1. I’m not sure if “only” is the right word when you say that “only 9 out of 24 that have gone on to play for the Cup.” Considering there are 15 other teams every season who are also playing for the Cup and are very good, 9 out of 24 is actually a very high percentage.

  2. Considering the Canucks won the season series against the Blackhawks I’d say they have sufficiently devoured those demons. There was that seven goal abomination early in the year but that was countered by a shutout by Luongo. These are new teams with new looks and I think its silly to believe that all the Canucks are in mental servitude of the Hawks or that the Bruins are destined to blow a 3-0 series lead. Honestly, I am getting quite bored of reading the same article over and over again.

    • @Trevor
      The Canucks/Blackhawks season series was even this year as each team won two games. There was a 2-1 Blackhawks shootout win in October though, so technically the Canucks were 2-1-1 which is what I assume you were mentioning.
      The season series was even last year as well, as well as in 2009. Not taking away anything from the Canucks at all, but a season series and a playoff series are completely different things. If they do meet in the first round, it will be a good series and the Canucks will likely have the edge.

  3. Canucks and Bruins in the final. Tim will be all tired out by then of writhing around in the net and the Canucks will win in 5. That’s my prediction, for what it’s worth.

  4. Yeah, we heard the “but they split the regular season series!” argument last year, and all that ended with was the Canucks doing their part to keep The Fratellis wealthy again.

    The thing is that, right now, they have the advantage of being the least flawed contender in the West, between the Wings’ and Kings’ injury woes, the Sharks being bigger chokers than even the Canucks, and the Hawks’ time-share of their core with Atlanta.

    Although I’m starting to think the ‘Yotes might just be onto something….

  5. 16 teams make the playoffs – probability of winning = 6.25% (1/16)

    The winning percentage for President’s trophy winners = 29% (7/26)

    I’ll take the president’s trophy winner any day over the “average” playoff team.

    The idea of a curse is absurd.

  6. I think the Canucks have smarter players and the key to the Blackhawks winning both series was the BS officiating that was the major turning point in every win.
    We will see how they are this year I don’t mean to make excuses but it was terrible as was the Finals last year. Let the players play n just call the obvious ones both ways the refs shouldn’t be deciding games.

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