So just how ridiculous has this Blackhawks season been so far?
Well, consider that at 44 games played, the Hawks would be just past the halfway point of a full, 82-game schedule — Gary Bettman permitting — and already they have 73 points.
In a full season, that projects to 136 points. Needless to say, that would be an NHL record. The franchise record is 112, set in 2009-10 when the Hawks finished third in the NHL in points and later danced with Lord Stanley’s goblet.
The 1976-77 Canadiens recorded the most points in NHL history with 132. That team, coached by Scotty Bowman, went 60-8-12 in an 80-game season, boasted a 21-game unbeaten streak and won the Stanley Cup.
With 34 victories, the Hawks would also be on pace for 63 wins, topping the record of 62 held by the 1995-96 Red Wings, also coached by Bowman. That club lost in the conference finals to Patrick Roy and the Avalanche during their first year in Colorado.
But if the season ended today, with 73 points, the Hawks would also have as many or more points than six Hawks teams of the last 14 years, since the 1997-98 club that ended a streak of 28 straight playoff appearances.
That includes such illustrious squads as the Craig Hartsburg team that first missed the playoffs in 1998; the Dirk Graham-Lorne Molleken disaster of 1998-99; the Alpo Suhonen-Mike Smith experiment of 2000-01; the 59-point team of 2003-04 led by Tyler Arnason and his sore neck; the 2005-06 team that came out of the lockout built — oops — for the previous era’s rules; and the 2006-07 team that saw the end of captain Adrian Aucoin’s supremacy in Chicago.
With such horrid memories feeling like a distant memory, the Hawks are in search of the Presidents’ Trophy, which came into existence in 1985-86.
It has not translated for most of the winners, with only seven of the first 26 going on to capture the Stanley Cup. Since the lockout of 2004-05, which wiped out an entire season, the record is even worse.
Only one Presidents’ Trophy winner — the 2007-08 Red Wings — has won the big prize in the last seven years, and four of those No. 1 overall seeds — three in the Western Conference — have been upset in the first round.
That includes the Canucks of a year ago when Vancouver lost to No. 8 seed Los Angeles, which went on to win the Stanley Cup.
So is there a Presidents’ Trophy curse?
Of course not. It merely speaks to the parity of the NHL, especially in the Western Conference.
Matchups are huge in the postseason and if you run into the wrong one, a team with great expectations can go home quickly.
Size has been a big problem for the Hawks the last two playoff seasons, as they have found opponents willing to pound them early and often, and it’s had a significant impact on the Hawks’ defense and skill players.
It could happen again if the Hawks aren’t mentally prepared for a physical beating.
Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, the Hawks have good reason to think this year could be different. They’ve got much improved scoring depth and strength through the defense, but the power play — which has been dreadful again this season — is going to be crucial if the Hawks are to take advantage when opposing teams take liberties.
“We know that in the near future here it’s going to matter a lot,” Jonathan Toews said this weekend of the power play. “So we need two confident units to go out there and make plays. Even if we don’t score, we (need) to get some kind of momentum off it.”
The Hawks broke an 0-for-19 skid with the man advantage Friday, scoring a pair of goals, and added 2 more Saturday, giving them as many power-play goals in the last two games as they had in the previous 14.
“We know we have to move the puck better and quicker,” said Marian Hossa. “Especially with the one-timers, we can surprise goalies. Sometimes, when things aren’t going well, we try to force things when the play is not there.
“We have to get more pucks on net and not worry about making perfect plays.”
Yes, they will need the power play when the playoffs begin next week. If they can get it going, it will go a long way toward deciding whether the Hawks are just another ugly mark on the Presidents’ Trophy.
Or a team that spits on something as ridiculous as a curse.
ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.