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How much validity does talk of a Presidents’ Trophy curse hold for the 2019 Lightning?

It signifies regular season greatness, but not postseason success. Can Tampa Bay reverse the trend?
How could something that looks so innocent be considered so menacing? Well, nine of the last 10 Presidents' Trophy winners have failed to win the Stanley Cup. [Photo courtesy of NHL.com]
How could something that looks so innocent be considered so menacing? Well, nine of the last 10 Presidents' Trophy winners have failed to win the Stanley Cup. [Photo courtesy of NHL.com]
Published Apr. 9, 2019|Updated Apr. 9, 2019

In the eyes of some, the NHL Presidents’ Trophy is more burden than blessing, which seemingly defies logic. Yet the trophy, annually awarded to the team that finishes first in the overall points standings, hasn’t translated to postseason success in recent years. Only one of the last 10 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, but with the Lightning concluding its record regular season with a dazzling 128 points and a passel full of records, does talk of a curse apply? We convene the roundtable to get answers.


No Bambino here

Diana C. Nearhos, Lightning beat writer, @dianacnearhos: There’s no curse. As a Boston native, I grew up hearing about Babe Ruth’s curse against the Red Sox. Now the Sox have won four World Series titles since 2004. In hockey, winning in the regular season takes a different skill set than winning in the playoffs. The Lightning can clearly play a skilled, finesse game. Now, we’ll see what it can do in a show of perseverance through four potential series. There are are many ways the Lightning could lose (injuries, hot goaltending and allowing goals chief among them), but a curse won’t be one.

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Presidents’ what?

Mari Faiello, Times staff writer, @faiello_mari: The Presidents’ Trophy is merely a mile mark on the Lightning’s road to the Stanley Cup. While it’s a great achievement, the trophy itself carries no weight for what the Lightning will (or won’t) be doing in the postseason. We hear time and time again that there are two seasons to the NHL, and the second season is just beginning. The curse itself is bunk. The curse only exists in the fact that people still talk about it and treat it like it is one, creating the illusion themselves. Otherwise, it’s just another achievement. I believe this team knows what’s at stake. They’ve checked almost all the boxes save one, the coveted Stanley Cup. And I certainly don’t think winning the Presidents’ Trophy will allow this team to lose sight of the ultimate goal.


Recent Presidents’ Trophy winners/results

Year Winner Points Playoff Result
2008-09 Sharks 117 Lost conference quarterfinal
2009-10 Capitals 121 Lost conference quarterfinal
2010-11 Canucks 117 Lost Stanley Cup Final
2011-12 Canucks 111 Lost conference quarterfinal
2012-13 Blackhawks 77* Won Stanley Cup
2013-14 Bruins 117 Lost conference semifinal
2014-15 Rangers 113 Lost conference finals
2015-16 Capitals 120 Lost conference semifinal
2016-17 Capitals 118 Lost conference semifinal
2017-18 Predators 117 Lost conference semifinal

*-shortened season


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Trophy reflects determination

Frank Pastor, digital sports editor, @frankpastor66: Complacency won’t be a problem for this team. It’s come too close too many times before, and it has the teams that ended its most recent playoff runs (Capitals and Penguins) in the field to remind it. From the start of the season, the Lightning has had its sights set on one thing and one thing only, and it wasn’t the Presidents’ Trophy. The 62 wins weren’t part of some fanciful run; they were indicative of how determined this team is to complete the job this time around. When you steamroll the opposition, you leave nothing to chance. As it approached win No. 62, the Lightning didn’t exhaust its reserves in an attempt to match the single-season wins record. It maintained its level of play while looking for opportunities to rest its key players. Cup hopes can be derailed by all sorts of things: lack of scoring depth, injuries, fatigue, a hot goaltender, even bad luck. But a curse isn’t one of them.

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Nashville Predators won the Presidents' Trophy in 2018, but lost to Winnipeg in the Western Conference semifinals. [AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File]
Nashville Predators won the Presidents' Trophy in 2018, but lost to Winnipeg in the Western Conference semifinals. [AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File]


Yeah, but …

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: Winning the Presidents’ Trophy should not be perceived as a negative (despite its recent history), and the Lightning’s record run all but negates talk of a curse. This isn’t just a regular-season points leader, this is one of the best regular-season efforts ever. However, the Lightning needs to quell any doubts by bolting to a great start against Columbus. In a seven-game series, the first game could hardly be critical, but it shouldn’t risk unleashing doubts with a sporadic effort. With its talent, experience and determination, they need to unleash the kraken and send the Blue Jackets a distinct message: It’s our year.


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First to curse? Not necessarily

Rick Stroud, Sports Day Tampa Bay host, @NFLStroud: You don’t win 62 games, tying for the most in NHL history, accomplishing it during the salary cap era, by being mentally weak enough to believe in curses. But just like regular season success doesn’t guarantee a championship in any sport, the same holds true in this one. Only one team can win the Stanley Cup. It’s a grueling marathon. Injuries are a big factor. How teams match up may matter. A good bounce. A bad call. Anything can happen. It’s one of the most difficult championships to win. But the ice is pretty level the way the playoffs are structured. There’s no team with a back to back while their opponent is on a long homestand. Travel is the same. All that being equal, the best team should win. The Lightning proved they have the best team in the NHL. A historically great team. Is there pressure? Sure. But like Jon Gruden says, you either feel it or apply it. If the Lightning don’t win the Stanley Cup, the weight of the President’s Trophy won’t be why.


Captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the 2008 Red Wings were the last team to win the Presidents' Trophy in a full season and then go on to capture the Stanley Cup. [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the 2008 Red Wings were the last team to win the Presidents' Trophy in a full season and then go on to capture the Stanley Cup. [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]


Zero

Martin Fennelly, columnist, @mjfennelly: The Lightning could lose any number of ways in the playoffs, but not to a curse. Beyond talent, these lads are consumed with mission without talking about it. This will be their time. they are out to walk together forever - and will.


So what if nine of the last 10 winners didn’t take it all

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: Remember that time the Seattle Mariners won the Ambassadors’ Trophy and didn’t even make the World Series? How about the time the Dallas Mavericks won the Secretary of States’ Trophy and got bounced in the first round? Yeah, me either. Because the other major leagues don’t celebrate regular-season champions, and neither should the NHL. This business of giving a trophy for the best record in the regular season feels like someone in the NHL office couldn’t say no to a trophy company sales rep. I’m also not buying “curses,” not now. Not ever. So what if nine of the last 10 Presidents’ Trophy winners failed to win the Cup? Four lost to the eventual Cup champion and only one got bounced in the first round by a team that failed to reach a conference final.

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