By George Ofman-
(CBS) The Blackhawks are headed for a date with infamy.
If, on April 28th, they wake up with the most points in the league, they’re doomed.
OK, maybe not doomed, but sentenced to the curse of The President’s Trophy. They would much rather have Stanley’s Cup but the path of least resistance to obtain it would be to avoid any contact with the trophy for having the most points.
The President’s Trophy has been awarded 26 times since its inception during the 1985-86 season and only seven teams have gone on to win the cup that matters the most. In fact, only nine teams that won The President’s Trophy actually made it to the finals. Worse yet, six teams lost in the first round of the playoffs, including the 1990-91 Blackhawks. The following year, the Hawks made the finals and lost four straight to Mario Lemiuex and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perhaps the league should rename the award the President’s Albatross. The Vancouver Canucks have won the last two President’s Trophy’s and look where it got them? I imagine not too many Hawks fans will shed a tear for the Canuckleheads, but what if it happens to your team?
It’s hard to factor why so few President’s Trophy winners have been able to skate around with Lord Stanley’s coveted urn but home ice advantage isn’t what it used to be. It’s actually been shrinking in recent years. There hasn’t been a repeat champion in the NHL since the Red Wings did it in ’97 and ’98. And since 2003, there have been nine different winners. Let’s just say it’s tough to win the Cup, best record or not.
Since the 1926-27 season, 40 percent of teams with the best regular season record went on to win the Cup. Of course, the league operated with just six teams for many years until expanding in 1966.
The numbers aren’t much better in other major sports.
Since the NBA was established in 1946-47, 48 percent (31-of-65) of teams that had the best regular season record went on to win the title. That’s better than the NHL, but only two of the last 12 teams have done it. And it’s worth mentioning that the Celtics’ dynasty accounted for a large portion of the teams who have done it. During a period from 1955 to 1967, 11 teams pulled off the feat with Boston doing it eight times.
Baseball offers yet a different equation. The World Series has been contested 108 times. The team with the best regular season record won it 47 times or 43 percent. But before baseball expanded to divisions in 1969, the only playoff series was the World Series itself and the team with the best record won it 57 percent of the time. The Yankees won 20-of-35. From 1969 to 1993, the team with the best record won only 7-of-25 times. And then, after the cancelled Series in ’94, teams with the best record have won only 3-of-15.
Of course, you must be wondering about the NFL. We’ll size up their champions from the 1966 season when the first Superbowl was played. Since then 47 have been played and 23 won by the team with the best record. That’s just about 50 percent. But only one team with the best record has won in the last nine years.
To summarize: Being the best doesn’t mean you are really the best. In the last nine years, only six teams with the best records won in the four major sports. That’s six out of 36. But at least the Blackhawks have something going for them even if they win the President’s Trophy. The three other teams that started undefeated in regulation through the first 14 games went on to win the Cup.
There is still hope.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM. Look for him on Facebook and find him on Twitter at @georgeofman.