The Hangover: Stanley Cup Style

As we enter the first week of November we are still hearing the term “Stanley Cup hangover” being tossed around by players, coaches, fans and media.  The Stanley Cup hangover of course refers to a slow start to the regular season by a Stanley Cup Finalist because of perceived emotional, mental, and physical fatigue from playing into the previous June.

And when you look at the point totals for the first 10 games for both the Cup champs Boston Bruins and the runner-up Vancouver Canucks, it’s hard to argue.  Boston started the season at 3 wins and 7 losses (for 6 points), tying the 1990 Edmonton Oilers for the dubious honour of the worst start by a Stanley Cup Champion.  Vancouver was only marginally better at a tally of 4-5-1 for 9 points after 10 games.  While Vancouver seems to be getting out of their funk, the Bruins have yet to put two straight wins together.

Boston netminder (and Conn Smythe Trophy winner) Tim Thomas recently stated “We’re not that far off” echoing similar sentiments from Canucks players including Henrik Sedin.  And Canucks GM Mike Gillis admitted on the TEAM 1040 just yesterday that it was hard for the team to get into things both emotionally and mentally. 

So is the Stanley Cup hangover in full effect?  The numbers seem to say so.

I took a look at the 12 Stanley Cup Finalists since the 2005-2006 season.  To refresh your memory, it was Carolina over Edmonton in 2006, Anaheim over Ottawa in 2007, Detroit over Pittsburgh in 2008, Pittsburgh over Detroit in 2009, Chicago over Philadelphia in 2010, and you know what happened in 2011.

Of these 12 teams, only 5 of them (Edmonton in 2006-2007, Ottawa in 2007-2008, Detroit in 2008-2009, Pittsburgh in 2008-2009, and Pittsburgh in 2009-2010) earned 12 or more points in the first 10 games of their post-finals season and two other teams had 11 points.  The remaining 5 teams had only 10 points or less over the first 10 games.

Over these 10 games, the average accumulated points were 11.7 for the Stanley Cup winners and 12.0 (again out of a possible 20 points) for the Stanley Cup runner-ups.  So virtually a dead heat.

I mentioned that Boston’s 6-point start is the worst-ever since the lockout.  Sadly, the Canucks are right behind them tied for second (with the 2007-2008 Anaheim Ducks) with only 9 of the possible 20 points.  And speaking of those 2007-2008 Ducks, they went on to finish 4th in the Western Conference with 102 points.

The combined 15 points of Boston and Vancouver are by far the lowest total for Stanley Cup Finalists over the past 6 years; next closest are Carolina-Edmonton (2006-2007) and Chicago-Philly (2010-2011) with 22 points total.

When you look past the first 10 games at the entire regular season, the numbers tend to even themselves out.  The 5 Stanley Cup winners have averaged 100 points in their post-Cup regular seasons while the runner-ups average only 93.6 points for their next season.  So it seems that the champions are able to re-establish themselves a tad better than the runner-ups.

Since the lockout, only 2 Finalists have failed to return the playoffs the following year and they happen to be from the same year:  the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers of 2006-2007.

So despite the poor starts, both the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins have history on their side of returning to the post-season.   Teams this year are naturally playing hard against the Bruins and Canucks as everyone tries to assert themselves.  Add to the fact that each team has annoying agitators (Marchand, Lapierre) and it’s easy to see why they are targets.

We all know that a lot can happen in a short period of time including injuries, roster moves and goaltending problems.  And while I can’t see the Canucks failing to make the post-season, the Bruins need to get moving now before they fall too far behind.

Missing the playoffs would be a sobering thought indeed.