NHL Presidents’ Trophy: Curse or Noise for Boston Bruins?

NHL Presidents’ Trophy: Curse or Noise for Boston Bruins? article feature image

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrice Bergeron (Bruins)

The NHL Presidents' Trophy has been awarded to the team with best regular-season record since 1986.

The one thing we've learned recently about this prestigious regular season award is it is just that — a regular season award, that guarantees absolutely nothing in the postseason.

Over the last decade, we have heard nothing but "the Presidents' Trophy winner is cursed! So what they have 100+ points, wait until the playoffs."

Ok, enough already. Who put a curse on the Panthers at the start of this series? How did that not go in!?Come on.

— Chris (@Chrispyyyyy) May 22, 2022

If I’m reading this right: the Colorado Avalanche, President’s Trophy winners with 84 points, choked by losing to the Vegas Golden Knights, team that also had 84 points. Did I get that right?

— Patrick Damp #WeMakeKDKA (@SynonymForWet) June 11, 2021

The Tampa Bay Lightning just eliminated the President's Trophy-winning Boston Bruins… Without Steven Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov

— Jonathan Arnholz (@JArnholz) September 1, 2020

The Current Contender

The last time a Presidents' Trophy winner actually won the Stanley Cup was the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2013. The current 9-year drought is the longest since the inception of the award — something the Boston Bruins hope they can break in their upcoming playoff campaign.

Many hockey fans think this iteration of the Bruins are built to break the curse. That would make sense, considering we may not have seen this well-built of a roster and experience, with this pedigree, in a long time.

The Bruins set the franchise record in wins and points this year — not only that, the Bruins have passed the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for the most points in an NHL regular season this year.

Wait, it gets even better. Boston is the first team to hold both the points and wins records since the 1995-96 Red Wings overtook the Canadiens with 62 wins.

The Curse

There have been six Presidents' Trophy winners with 120+ points. Three of them lost in the first round, two made it to the second round and only one reached the conference finals.

Not only that, but each of the last seven Presidents' Trophy winners have failed to make it past the second-round, the longest stretch in the history of the award. The last to do so was the Rangers in 2015.

It's important to note that the "Presidents' Trophy Curse" is only a more recent phenomenon. Since the Blackhawks won in 2013, the nine winners have only won a total of nine playoff series combined.

Prior to that, trophy winners have won a little over two series per year, with eight Stanley Cup champs in 27 seasons, with 11 making the Stanley Cup Final.

One interesting note about the Presidents' Trophy winners struggles is conference related. Of the seven Stanley Cup winners entering the playoffs with the Presidents' Trophy tag, six came out of the Western Conference and only one came from the East — the 1993-94 New York Rangers.

The only other Eastern Conference team to even make the Stanley Cup Final with this distinction was … the Boston Bruins back in 1990.

Is it the pressure? The added media attention? A lack of preparation?

I asked our resident NHL betting expert, historian and overall hockey aficionado, Michael Leboff (@TheBigLeebowski), his thoughts on the curse and why it's come to a head in recent history:

"I think one thing that people always forget is during the regular season — especially with the surge in tanking recently — the gap between good and bad teams is so wide. Now when you get into the postseason, the gap shrinks considerably, especially after Round 1. While you may be a lot better than your Round 1 opponent, in Round 2 you're almost certain to get a really strong, prepared team — as we saw with the Lightning and Panthers last year. Plus, the NHL playoff format changed in 2013, when it went from a 1 vs. 8 to this divisional format, which is important to note since that's when this has all started really."

The Betting Background

If you had to point to a reason why this Bruins 2023 campaign stands to be a bit different than the rest, it would have to be Boston's playoff pedigree.

If you are looking for a reason why this year will simply be more of the same, look no further than the odds.

Boston entered the 2023 regular season with +2800 odds to win the Stanley Cup. In the 37-year history of the Presidents' Trophy, only one team opened the season with higher than +2800 odds and ended up winning the prestigious regular season award — that was the 2000 St. Louis Blues.

The Blues entered that season with +3000 odds to win it all, ended up securing the trophy with 114 points, entered the playoffs as the favorite at +300 and ended up losing in seven games in the first round to the San Jose Sharks.

The series was also ultra competitive, with San Jose holding a 3-1 series lead before losing two in a row and beating the Blues in St. Louis, 3-1, in Game 7.

If you look through history, only six teams have won the Presidents' Trophy with higher than +1500 preseason odds and each of those six teams won a total of six playoff series, with only one even making the Conference Finals.

Highest NHL Preseason Odds — To Win Presidents' Trophy

2000 St. Louis Blues (+3000) — Lost in First Round

2023 Boston Bruins (+2800)

1992 New York Rangers (+2500) — Lost in Second Round

2022 Florida Panthers (+2200) — Lost in Second Round

2003 Ottawa Senators (+1600) — Lost in Second Round

2015 New York Rangers (+1600) — Lost in Conference Finals

2018 Nashville Predators (+1550) — Lost in Second Round

As of now, the Bruins are currently +375 favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup in June, which would fall right in the middle of the pack in terms of the previous 36 trophy winners.

From specifically a Bruins perspective, 2023 is the fourth time Boston has held the Presidents' Trophy crown entering the playoffs. The previous three saw them lose twice in the second round, with their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1990 being the furthest they've gone with the scarlet letter on their chests.

A reason for the Bruins and their fans to show some optimism heading into the playoffs — aside from every record they've set along the way — the previous eight Presidents' Trophy winners who eventually won it all had a bit of a weak "Strength of Schedule" (11th or worse) and each had a top-3 SRS (Simple Rating System; a rating that takes into account average goal differential and strength of schedule).

The Bruins are currently 20th in strength of schedule and first in SRS.

For a city that hasn't seen a winner since the 2018 Red Sox and Patriots, their fan base would say they are due (…wink).

Historical odds history via Sports Odds History

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