NHL Regular Season: Everything is Made up and the Points Don’t Matter

We are in the midst of the Conference Quarterfinals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and there haven’t been any enormous upsets.  Of the four top-seeded teams, two of them – the Ducks and Canadiens – are leading their series 3-0.  The Blues are behind 1-2, and the Rangers are leading 2-1.  As recipients of the President’s Trophy, the Rangers are supposedly the best team in the NHL, yet they have not been playing that way.  This seems to happen often- there are certain teams that historically dominate in the playoffs, yet aren’t that good in the regular season.  How often do the top-performing teams go on to win the Stanley Cup?  To further investigate, I looked at the past 20 seasons, and analyzed how the President’s Cup recipients performed.  Only five teams went on to win Lord Stanley, and only two more teams made it to the Stanley Cup finals.

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Why do top-performing teams underperform in the playoffs? It’s kind of unfair that a team’s season it judged by how they perform in the playoffs – if they are knocked out in the first round, their season is a waste, even if they won the President’s Trophy.  Eight teams get thrown into the playoffs, where any sort of randomness can factor in and make it or break it for a team.  It’s even gotten to the point where some fans would rather their team not win the President’s Trophy, because they think it is a curse that will cause them to be eliminated earlier in the playoffs.

That being said, this year’s recipient of the President’s Trophy, the New York Rangers, are one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup.  Especially after their mid-season trade acquisitions, they are one of the most talented teams in the League.  The last time that the Rangers won the President’s Trophy, the 1993-94 season, they went on to win the Stanley Cup.  Although I am somewhat superstitious, I really believe that they have a god chance at winning this year as well.


-Charlie Elwart