A hockey player’s goal is to win the Stanley Cup, it’s that simple. A trophy so idolized in its nature, it is widely regarded as the most difficult title to capture in major professional sports.
On the first day of training camp, coaches make it clear to their players that their one goal throughout the season is to lift the 34.5-pound object that symbolizes that they are the champions of the hockey world.
St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, however, has another objective in his mind for his club that is leading the Central Division with 90 points and is currently ranked 2nd in the overall standings with 20 games left to play: The President’s Trophy.
Presented to the team that finishes with the most points in the league during the regular season, “Hitch” revealed his desire for the award on Tuesday:
“To do all this work and not chase down the Presidents’ Trophy is ridiculous. We’ve got to chase that down. Any high seed is worth it. Any home-ice advantage is worth it. To put all the effort in we’ve put in so far and then just let it go and just play average doesn’t cut it for us. It doesn’t cut it for the players. It certainly doesn’t cut it for coaches and management. We’ve got to chase down the Presidents’ Trophy.”
The Blues made a splash at the Trade Deadline last week with a blockbuster deal acquiring Ryan Miller and Steve Ott, and it appears to be hit-or-miss for a team that has never won the Stanley Cup in its existence since entering the league in 1967.
For good reason, too, as the Blues now boast one of the top defenses in the National Hockey League thanks to superstars like Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester shutting down the opposition.
Their offense has heavily increased its production as well, with forwards Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie leading the scoring. Combine that with an upper-echelon goalie in Miller, and St. Louis is for sure a contender hoping to erase that dreadful 47 year curse this season.
A President’s Trophy does not guarantee playoff prosperity, though.
In the only season the Blues held this privileged award (1999-2000), they were quickly eliminated in the Western Conference Quarterfinals by the San Jose Sharks in seven games. This year’s team is hoping to replicate that record-setting regular season performance, but also perform in the postseason.
In order to do so, St. Louis will need to win twelve more games to match the franchise-record total of 114 points set fifteen years ago. If they succeed in their coach’s ambition, they will clinch home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs, something Hitchcock believes will be the difference come April.
“Home-ice advantage in any series is a big advantage because there are just so many good teams,” Hitchcock said. There are eight, nine teams here that think they can win the West, and just any little advantage we can get we need to take advantage of. But it also means that all this work you’ve put in is worthwhile.”
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