NHL’s ongoing Presidents’ Trophy ‘curse’ extended by Panthers

Watch as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers exchange handshakes after the Lightning win Game 4 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final and see the captain of the Lightning Steven Stamkos interviewed by Kyle Bukauskas after the win.

Make that nine in a row, folks. Nine consecutive years in which a team other than the Presidents’ Trophy-winning club ends up hoisting the Stanley Cup.

The Florida Panthers had their best regular season in franchise history in 2021–22 and were coming off the team’s first playoff series win since 1996, however their season ended Monday night after being disappointedly swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That they lost to their cross-state rivals who were missing one of the best two-way players in the league in Brayden Point serves as some metaphorical salt in the wound.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow. Getting swept is tough,” standout Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad told reporters Monday night. “It hurts. It stings. There’s no doubt about it.”

The Panthers shouldn’t be uniquely disappointed in their early playoff exit, though, considering the consistent post-season failures of whoever ends up as regular-season champions.

There has been only one Presidents’ Trophy winner to earn the Stanley Cup in the same year since 2012 and only one additional first-place team managed to advance to a conference final in the past decade. The most common result has been a second-round exit just like the Panthers.

2011–12: Vancouver Canucks (111 pts), lost in first round

2012–13: Chicago Blackhawks (77 pts*), won Stanley Cup

2013–14: Boston Bruins (117 pts), lost in second round

2014–15: New York Rangers (113 pts), lost in Conference Finals

2015–16: Washington Capitals (120 pts), lost in second round

2016–17: Washington Capitals (118 pts), lost in second round

2017–18: Nashville Predators (117 pts), lost in second round

2018–19: Tampa Bay Lightning (128 pts), lost in first round

2019–20: Boston Bruins (100pts**), lost in second round

2020–21: Colorado Avalanche (82pts**), lost in second round

2021–22: Florida Panthers (122pts), lost in second round
*shortened schedule due to lockout
** shortened schedule due to COVID

In fact, the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings are the only other team besides the 2013 Blackhawks to win both trophies in the same year since the 2001-02 Red Wings did it in the pre-cap era.

The 122 points the Panthers accumulated this past regular season was the highest total since the 2018-19 Lightning roster that led the league in goals and set a salary-cap era record with 128 points in standings.

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That Lightning squad was ironically swept in the opening round that year but the group was able to turn that epic disappointment into long-term determination. The back-to-back reigning champions have literally not lost a playoff series since then.

Perhaps these Panthers, which became the first team to average more than four goals per game since the 1995-96 Penguins, can do the same and use that past edition of the Lightning as motivation beginning next season?

“They’re really good. I mean, they’re Stanley Cup champions for a reason, and their evolution of how they were once a high-flying kind of offensive team and they found their recipe how to win and they stick with it,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “Obviously, we aspire to be them, and this was another learning experience for us.”

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