Every winter, you can count on a columnist or two to harp about the unimportance of finishing first overall. Dave Hodge does so is here. A Caustic Matriarch demonstrates disdain for the President's Trophy here.
While ending the regular season in first place is no guarantee of winning the Cup, it is definitely the best place to be to give your team the best chance at winning it. Three times the odds of the next best spot, in fact. Since 1980 (the first season that saw 16 teams in the playoffs), first place finishers have won the Cup 9 times. The only other 'placements' to win it are 2nd through 7th, with an anomalous 10th place winner (the Devils) in the lockout year of 1995. Teams finishing first overall won the Cup 36% of the time. No other seed has a rate higher than 12% (3rd/5th/6th).
Think those numbers are skewed by those early 80s dynasties? You'd think right, but only a little bit. Say the Flames '89 Cup delineated the end of the NHL dynasty. Since then, President's trophy teams have won the Cup 31% of the time, compared to 12.5% for the next best seeds (3rd through 6th). The #1 team is still 2.5 times more likely to meet the president than anyone else.
Another interesting fact: Other than the Devils' lockout-year win in '95, no team outside of the top seven has won the Cup in the era of the 16 team playoff. The top seven teams are currently Detroit, Ottawa, Carolina, Buffalo, Dallas, Calgary and Nashville.
Red Storey passed away yesterday. Here's Red, on Red.