I don’t think Theo Fleury will turn out to be correct with his prediction that the Canucks are headed towards a first round loss, but we all know that the idea is not out of the question. Almost any Flames’ fan is likely to be hoping he is correct. His reason – that Luongo is not good enough – is a little foolish though. Among the playoff teams only Pittsburgh and San Jose have a goaltender who has won a Cup. Is that a reason to pick a Sharks-Pens final? Almost everyone has “unproven” goaltending and I’m happy to have an “unproven” goalie who should be a Vezina finalist this year.
Anyway, we’ll also be hearing a lot about how frequently the President’s Trophy winner does poorly in the playoffs. The TSN quiz wondered whether the fact the President’s Trophy winner has only one Cup in the past seven years was happenstance or whether it had deeper meaning. After all the President’s Trophy winner has only won seven Cups since 1986 when the Award was introduced. That’s “only” 28% of the time.
(Digression: The Canuck’s magic number to win their first President’s Trophy is now three. Any combination of three Canuck wins and three Flyer regulation losses will clinch it for the good guys.)
This annual story – the failure of the President’s Trophy winner to win the Stanley Cup very often – is one of my media pet peeves. I find myself particularly peeved this year since the Canucks are the near certain regular season winners. Three points:
1) While there is no doubt that the big prize of any season is the Stanley Cup, its foolish to denigrate other accomplishments in the hockey season, be it the President’s Trophy or even a Divisional title. The more we diminish the regular season, the less reason any of us has to watch.
2) It may not be the big prize, but the Canucks should be very proud of themselves for being the best regular season team. Its every bit as hard – perhaps harder – to be the best team over an 82 game schedule. Why do we want to believe that it means nothing if a Cup does not follow? It is – by itself – something.
3) All the statistics about President’s Trophy winners tell us is that it is very hard to win a Stanley Cup. I’ve often said that the only reason any team wins is that somebody has to win it. History may not be a perfect guide, but the probability of a President’s Trophy winner also hoisting the Cup appears to be about 28%.
That’s not bad. Its actually pretty good, higher than I would peg the Canuck chances. After all, that only leaves 72% for the other 15 playoff teams. The team that finishes second or third or tenth in the regular season almost certainly won’t win a Cup more often than the President’s Trophy winner. All the Canucks will have going into this year’s playoff is a better chance than any other team. They certainly can’t have anywhere near a better chance than the entire field.
Suppose the Canucks have a 90% chance of winning the first round, an 80% chance of winning the second and a 70% chance of winning the third. In the Final, they have a 55% probability of winning. What are their chances of winning four straight series when they were the overwhelming favourite in each? About 28%.
That’s got nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with arithmetic. Canuck fans – and players – will be devastated with anything less than a Stanley Cup. For many, it will ruin a wonderful season. This is unfortunate because they probably won’t win. There’s no reason why they probably won’t win.