Last season, the Vancouver Canucks discovered the secret to winning the Presidents' Trophy, a secret the Detroit Red Wings have known about for years: play bad teams often.
This isn't meant to diminish the accomplishments of the very good 2010-11 Canucks but, in a league with tremendous parity, any advantage is a welcome one, and playing the league's worst teams the most times is definitely an advantage.
When the 2010-11 regular season drew to a close, four of the five teams in the Northwest found themselves outside the playoff picture. It was the first time in the post-lockout era that any Western Conference division had only produced one playoff team.
Up until a couple seasons ago, the Northwest had been viewed as one of the most competitive divisions in the league, with four or five teams often vying for the top spot late into any given season. Then, in 2009-10, the group made like the Blue Angels and took a collective nosedive. The combined 434 points of the five teams was the lowest total among the six NHL divisions that year.
Last season, the Northwest got even worse. Though the Canucks improved drastically, winning the Presidents' Trophy with 117 points, a large part of their great leap forward was the great leap backward taken by their competition. Even factoring in Vancouver's numbers, the division's combined 427 points was the third-lowest total in the post-lockout era, behind the 06-07 Central (426 points) and the 07-08 Southeast (418 points).
If you remove the points of the divisional winners, last year's Northwest looks even worse.
Not counting the top team, the Northwest collected a combined 310 points, only 8 more than the 2006-07 Central's absolutely pitiful 302. (Seriously, the South Park pee wee team could have won the Central, which is saying something, because the 2006-07 Detroit Red Wings beat the stuffing out of them, too.)
Randy Marsh = Ryan Lambert.
Since the lockout, the mean total of points collected from any one division, minus the winner, is 346. 310 is shameful. 302? The suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.
But there's nothing shameful about riding a wave of pure crap to the beaches of glory. In the six years since the lockout, the Presidents' Trophy winner has come from the least competitive division five times, the one anomaly being the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres, who did it despite playing in the toughest division that year. But let's make like the NHL war room and disregard the Sabres.
Will the Vancouver Canucks repeat as Presidents' Trophy champions?
It seems unlikely, since no post-lockout organization has won the points race in consecutive years. But it isn't really up to them, anyway. More than likely, the league's pointiest team will be the team whose division yields the easiest points. That in mind, the real question is: which division sucks the most?
Looks to me like the Northwest Division hasn't gotten much better, so a Vancouver repeat is very feasible.