The NHL awards the Presidents’ Trophy to the team with the most regular season points each year. While it is a very impressive feat, the reward is simply a picture with the trophy and a banner raised to the rafters of the team’s home arena. Over the past few years, there has been more and more discussion surfacing about whether or not there should be a more rewarding motivation to win it.
Teams in the NHL need a new reason to play for the trophy. If anybody reading this is superstitious, you will likely be in favor of adding a bigger reward, as the Presidents’ Trophy seems to have a bit of a curse when it comes to the playoffs. Since the 2004-05 lockout, the trophy has been awarded 17 times. Here is how the teams have faired after winning it:
- Five first-round eliminations
- Seven second-round eliminations
- Two third-round eliminations
- One Stanley Cup Final elimination
- Two Stanley Cup champions
The second round hump seems to be the biggest hurdle in the playoffs among the Presidents’ Trophy winners. So, instead of awarding a banner to these teams, here are a few ideas that could make the trophy more appealing to win.
Presidents’ Trophy Winner Picks Their First Round Opponent
The biggest benefit for any team would be to carry some momentum into the playoffs after winning the Presidents’ Trophy. If the winner could choose their first round opponent, they may be more inclined to push in those final games of the season.
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Currently, the team that wins the trophy plays the second wild card team in their conference. Due to the wildcard playoff format, it may be a bit tougher to figure this one out, but I think it is definitely possible. The top three teams in the Atlantic (A1, A2, A3) and Metropolitan (M1, M2, M3) Divisions are guaranteed to make the playoffs, along with the two wildcard spots (WC1, WC2).
Using the 2021-22 season as an example, the first-time Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers were matched up with the Washington Capitals, who were in the WC2 position. Let’s say the Panthers wanted to play the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were in the M3 position. The New York Rangers, M2, would then be without an opponent, and the Capitals would also need a new matchup. With the M3 spot open, we could have the WC1 team move into the M3 slot, and WC2 move into WC1. This would mess some divisional things up, as this would have Boston playing in the Metropolitan Division in the first round, but it could be done.
To lay things out more clearly, if the Panthers chose the Penguins, the new first round bracket would look like this:
- A1 Florida Panthers vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins
- A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning
- M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC2 Washington Capitals
- M2 New York Rangers vs. WC1 Boston Bruins
This would take some work, sure, but the pressure would be on Panthers general manager Bill Zito and the rest of the staff deciding this. If the Panthers were to pick the Penguins, and lose, everyone would point and say how bad of a decision it was. It could also be strategic in choosing who other teams play. If the Panthers could see a way of making things easier for themselves, while also making things a little tougher for a contending team, it could be a win-win scenario for them.
Related: Changing the NHL Playoff Format
I think this may be one of the most interesting, and complex options, but would be so much fun to be able to watch a team collapse to a team they chose to play. I don’t see the NHL making any changes to the current format unless they return to the 1-8 seeding, but for the sake of the conversation, this would be my vote.
Presidents’ Trophy Leads to Additional Draft Picks
The NHL Entry Draft is one of the most important events in building a successful franchise. I have seen quite a few different ideas tossed around on Twitter about implementing a reward into the draft. The first of which is that the team finishing with the most points gets the 16th best odds in the Draft Lottery. If they win the lottery and move up 10 spots per the new lottery rules, they keep it. If not, their pick would stay appropriate to where they finish in the playoffs.
One suggestion I do like, however, is an additional draft pick at the beginning of the second round. They would keep their original second-round pick, but have the additional, 33rd overall pick. Similar to the first proposal, this would keep the top teams trying their best until the very end.
Having a change this big at the draft would need the approval of the Board of Governors, as is the case with most changes, but this expands further than the on-ice product. With a second-round pick, it is usually two to four years before these selections join their respective clubs full-time, so it would be a bit of a long-term reward.
Additional Home Games The Following Season
There are a lot of benefits to playing at home. On the ice, you get the last line change, meaning you get to choose what players play against who, and you also get a bit of an advantage in the faceoff dot. Other than that, a lot of the benefits come off the ice. Being able to stay at home during an extended home stand makes things much easier on the players. Seeing your family, feeling comfortable in your facilities, and having external support all play big factors, but most importantly, there is no travel.
Having this as the Presidents’ Trophy reward would be interesting as there are some teams that could really benefit from additional revenue. Between this, and the slight on-ice performance advantages, this could be a very realistic possibility for the NHL to introduce to the league some day.
The players wouldn’t benefit the most from this, the owner would. The average NHL game sells around 17,000 tickets. If, for example, the Panthers had five additional home games this season, they would have sold nearly 75,000 extra tickets, plus commissions, parking, and all of the other things fans spend their money on for the sport they love.
Share Your Presidents’ Trophy Reward Ideas
These are some of the most popular ideas, and when I asked online, these were by far the most common. If you have any others, make sure to leave them in the comments, tag me on Twitter, and just get those ideas out there!
Ultimately, I think most of us can agree that there should be some sort of reward for winning the trophy, it is just a matter of finding one that the Board of Governors will agree with.
My name is Jacob Billington, and I cover the Carolina Hurricanes here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, becoming a hockey fan was quite easy. Falling in love with the game in the early 2000’s, and taking in as much knowledge as I could since then. I appreciate everybody who reads my content, and I take pride in creating the best experience for readers. Feel free to reach me on Twitter, I am always active and talking about anything hockey related!