No Ordinary Trophy

This Presidents’ Trophy thingy, I think it’s a pretty big deal.

Mind you, I don’t know what it looks like, and I don’t think it ought to be paraded around town by team officials, or necessarily enshrined at Verizon Center or Kettler (there’s a spacious lunch room at team HQ; it might look good in there), but from where I blog, it’s no trifling matter.

The NHL regular season is long, too long, but hockey’s heritage — whether it’s Wayne’s 894 goals, Montreal’s 60 wins in ’76-’77, or Martin Brodeur’s 109 shutouts — is forged in the regular season. It’s where the most meaningful records are kept. The Presidents’ Trophy is just 24 years old, but some notable member clubs of distinction are without one: Montreal, Philly, Toronto, Vancouver, the Islanders. The ice shavings will have settled on the 2009-10 regular season at week’s end, and your Washington Capitals will have staked a significant claim to the league’s honor enrollment.

Or put another way: it’s becoming more and more difficult to associate the Capitals of today with their laughingstock predecessors of the past. Consecutive 50-win seasons is nifty all right. Now there’s nice hardware to acknowledge all the terrific work from October til April.

There’s much more significant hardware looming. We all know that. But the league contests games and fans and media compare achievements and records because our game is so special. What the Washington Capitals have achieved already this season is stunning; this trophy is the culmination of a season in which the club established a new benchmark for consecutive wins (14), and will likely win its division by 30 or more points. It’s a regular season that merits memorialization.

I prefer to think of this award as symbolic. Every player in the NHL would tell you that there’s only one piece of hardware in the sport that truly matters. And if the Caps stumble in one of the first three rounds of the upcoming postseason, they will have endured an upset, and the season will rightly be judged unsuccessful.

Still, there’s no small pride in earning what the Caps did this past weekend. Twenty nine other NHL clubs wish they’d had the season the Caps did. (It’s a good way to sell tickets, for instance.) It seems certain to me that the reigning Stanley Cup champions are less than thrilled at being upwards of 20 points back of the Caps in the standings. That’s been less than a robust defense of their Cup. The President’s Trophy is perhaps like earning valedictorian status at a high school: getting to no. 1 with hard work through school is significant, and it merits a moment on a stage, but much in the future is expected of the honoree, and now is the time to go out in the real world and demonstrate that distinguished pedigree. Just like the players, management and coaches desperately seek our sport’s Holy Grail — then and only then will what they tore down and resurrected last decade achieve its fullest reward — but never before has a Capitals’ club skated with a we’re-the-best-in the-league swagger as it has this season. This trophy is a tangible keepsake of that distinction.

This acknowledgement also serves as additional vindication for Ted Leonsis and George McPhee and Dick Patrick and all the others in team ownership and management who endured the slings and arrows of disappointment and dismay at a hockey club without a cornerstone star, a skilled supporting cast, a blueprint and infrastructure for durable success going forward, and most especially hope.

Early on at Verizon Center tonight no doubt there’ll be a spirited acknowledgement of the feat during a stoppage in play. That’ll be a special moment, one to savor, for it’s been an autumn, winter, and early spring of hockey to savor in Washington. Capitals’ fans should be even more proud today to brandish their uniform color about town. We’re at the head of the class this spring, but there’s a bigger job still to pursue.

Year Winner Points Playoff Result Win #
1985–86 Edmonton Oilers 119 Lost Division final (CGY) 1
1986–87 Edmonton Oilers 105 Won Stanley Cup* 2
1987–88 Calgary Flames 105 Lost Division final (EDM) 1
1988–89 Calgary Flames 117 Won Stanley Cup* 2
1989–90 Boston Bruins 101 Lost Stanley Cup final (EDM)^ 1
1990–91 Chicago Blackhawks 106 Lost Division semi-final (MIN)# 1
1991–92 New York Rangers 105 Lost Division final (PIT) 1
1992–93 Pittsburgh Penguins 119 Lost Division final (NYI) 1
1993–94 New York Rangers 112 Won Stanley Cup* 2
1994–95 Detroit Red Wings 070 Lost Stanley Cup final (NJ)^ 1
1995–96 Detroit Red Wings 131 Lost Conference final (COL) 2
1996–97 Colorado Avalanche 107 Lost Conference final (DET) 1
1997–98 Dallas Stars 109 Lost Conference final (DET) 1
1998–99 Dallas Stars 114 Won Stanley Cup* 2
1999–2000 St. Louis Blues 114 Lost Conference quarter-final (SJ)# 1
2000–01 Colorado Avalanche 118 Won Stanley Cup* 2
2001–02 Detroit Red Wings 116 Won Stanley Cup* 3
2002–03 Ottawa Senators 113 Lost Conference final (NJ) 1
2003–04 Detroit Red Wings 109 Lost Conference semi-final (CGY) 4
2004–05 No winner because of the
2004–05 NHL lockout
2005–06 Detroit Red Wings 124 Lost Conference quarter-final (EDM)# 5
2006–07 Buffalo Sabres 113 Lost Conference final (OTT) 1
2007–08 Detroit Red Wings 115 Won Stanley Cup* 6
2008–09 San Jose Sharks 117 Lost Conference quarter-final (ANA)# 1
2009–10 Washington Capitals (clinched) 114+ TBD 1
Table via Wikipedia

     * Team won the Stanley Cup.      ^ Team lost in the Stanley Cup finals.      # Team lost in the first round of the playoffs.

This entry was posted in Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Ted Leonsis, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to No Ordinary Trophy

  1. Eric says:

    It is a big deal. To say that you consistently won over a 6 month, 82 game season, is a real accomplishment. It just comes with a bit of troubling history regarding the winners’ playoff success.

  2. Bradford says:

    Minor note: St. Louis won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 1999-2000 season.

    And as good as the Devils have been over the past 10-15 years, I can’t believe they haven’t won a Presidents’ Trophy.

  3. Post fixed. Thanks Bradford.

  4. Elliotte says:

    Interesting that with all the talk about the weak Eastern Conference, counting the Caps, a team from the East has only won the trophy 7 times.

    Also interesting, all the the times the trophy winner lost in the first round, the trophy winner was from the West.

  5. The Horn Guy says:

    This is an amazing achievement even if it is ultimately pocket change. It’s a matter of pride for the fans, and the team should be proud of their record, but the Cup is the goal.

    I just wish I could be at the game tonight. The crowd will be pumped. I hope the Caps, who as of now really have no reason to bring out their A-game for the remainder, show the home fans why they won this award.

  6. Paul says:

    Any idea what the team will do with the $300,000? Not much in the scheme of player salaries, but I wouldn’t pass it up. Pizza for the fans on Sunday, perhaps?

  7. Pingback: Caps Links on the Web | Capitals Outsider

  8. Eric says:

    They should use of the dough to pay the Avalanche for beating the Sharks last night.

  9. Caps_Girl says:

    Wow, I’m surprised at Detroit’s 70 point season for 94-95. Compared to the other years, it was obvious that season went into the crapper for everyone. Any idea why?

    And regardless of any “jinx” attached to it, I think it is very commendable for the Caps to win this trophy. Another milestone in the books and be proud of.

  10. The start of the 94-95 season was delayed due to a lockout of the players, thus reducing the schedule to 48 games. I recall a Caps bumper sticker reading “the sprint to the playoffs”.

  11. Tara says:

    That is a spot-on analogy between the Presidents’ Trophy and valedictorian status. Well-said!

  12. penguin pete says:

    i tell ya, that president’s trophy sure will look nice in ovi’s arm next to the hart trophy come the awards night photoshoot.

    of course the cup will be photographed in sid’s hands…

  13. Pingback: Congrats to the Washington Capitals and Someone Sent an Excellent Prayer to the “Gods of Hockey” « Singing From The Crease

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