It’s been almost a week since the Pittsburgh Penguins stunned the heavily favored Washington Capitals in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Penguins have now advanced to face the Tampa Bay Lightning for a chance to appear in the Stanley Cup Final, a place where they haven’t been to since 2009.
But moving on, the President’s Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record in NHL each year, carries a curse behind its’ lore. Because the last team to win both the Stanley Cup and Presidents Trophy, was the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. A team that contained three soon-to-be Hall of Famers in Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg.
This year it was the Washington Capitals, everyone’s overwhelming favorites to hoist the Cup since the 2011 Vancouver Canucks. That team made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before falling short of the magical Boston Bruins – a series that turned out to be one of the most controversial in Stanley Cup history.
As any hockey fan, you want to see your team to win, but that’s not always the case. For past Presidents Trophy winners, the theme has been the same: achieve ample amounts of success from November to April, only to then fizzle out in the middle of May. To see the most explosive player in the NHL, Alexander Ovechkin, fail to even make the conference finals sits well for only a small minority.
In comparison to the 2011 Vancouver Canucks, who had the two most interesting players skill-wise the NHL has ever seen – Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Both are overvalued in Vancouver, but underappreciated everywhere else. To this day, people still can’t get over how that 2011 team didn’t win that year. As a team, the Canucks led the league in goals scored with 262, and goals against (185).
This is why, the entire hockey landscape should quantify just how hard it is to win a championship, even more with added pressure. But make no mistake, Ovechkin doesn’t grant a pass for never making the conference finals in his career. Because at the age of 30, Ovechkin, even with all of his goals scored and individual precision needs to win a Cup in the next few years, or else, he will be crowned NHL’s best player ever to never win one.
For every Pat LaFontaine, Adam Oates, or Marcel Dionne, whom are Hall of Famers that never won a championship. There’s a Sidney Crosby or Patrice Bergeron – outstanding players that have just one championship, however a title is a title no matter how you spin it.
At some point, the Capitals might want to start thinking of trading the Russian superstar before his trade value diminishes significantly. The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup in their 42-year history and have only amassed one appearance in the Final.
This year’s team won’t be intact forever. But there are certain players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie that down the road demand long-term negotiations. And eventually, Washington will run into salary cap issues if they want to try to improve their roster. That’s why it was so important that they won it all this year.
At the end of the day, the Stanley Cup is the hardest North American Trophy to win. That’s not just a cliché but more so a fact. Over the last 16 Stanley Cup playoffs, the No.1 seed has won the cup just three times. The point is, Ovechkin will have a chance to win the Cup again, but how many great opportunities will he have going forward to win it like this year?