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A short-term celebration

Sunday, 04.12.2009 / 9:24 PM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Twenty-four hours is how long the celebration usually lasts.

Twenty-four hours to celebrate 82 games. Twenty-four hours to reflect back upon one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. A mere 24 hours to bask in the glow of a remarkable accomplishment.

But for the team that wins the Presidents' Trophy, that more than enough time to enjoy the achievement.

The San Jose Sharks are no different. The sense of accomplishment they feel by winning the Presidents' Trophy is great, but right now it's also meaningless.

"It has no bearing once the playoffs start," Sharks GM Doug Wilson told NHL.com. "You get home ice, but it's really just part of the journey and it reflects a body of work for 82 games. Once the playoffs start, you have a body of work of 28 games, potentially.

"It's part of the process, part of our journey. That's what it is."

San Jose became the 13th team to win a Presidents' Trophy since the League established the award in 1986. Only seven times in the last 22 seasons has the winner gone on to hoist the Stanley Cup, as well.

It's not like there is a curse to winning the Presidents' Trophy, but hockey players know it guarantees them nothing more than home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. And, really, that only becomes valuable if you get to the Stanley Cup Final, when the important games will all be in your barn.

"Eighty-two games is a difficult road for an NHL player and it is without a doubt the most grueling of all the sports because of our fatigue level, conditioning, punishment level and travel," Sharks veteran Jeremy Roenick told NHL.com. "So, with what we go through in a year, to win the Presidents' Trophy is gratifying.

"The sense of accomplishment is great, but it's put into perspective knowing everything we play for is the next season.  The salaries stop. Nobody gets paid. The level of our ability and our play goes up two levels when we're playing for pride, for championships. For us, that's what it's all about."

 
 
Roenick knows all too well how little winning the Presidents' Trophy means once first puck gets dropped in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He played a starring role for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1991 en route to their only Presidents' Trophy. Yet, the Hawks were bounced out of the first round in six games by the Minnesota North Stars.

"It was a great feeling at the end of the season because we knew we had such a great team and we rolled through the regular season," Roenick said. "We thought that we had it in the bag and, because of that feeling, we took a team that was playing well in Minnesota for granted. We just got spanked.

"I remember going off the ice at the old Met Center and getting hit with a hot dog bun and having a beer thrown at me. It was a big kick in the face after such a great season. I'll never forget that feeling."

""Eighty-two games is a difficult road for an NHL player and it is without a doubt the most grueling of all the sports because of our fatigue level, conditioning, punishment level and travel. So, with what we go through in a year, to win the Presidents' Trophy is gratifying." -- Jeremy Roenick

Asked if he has or plans to bring up that experience with his Sharks teammates, Roenick admitted it's a possibility.

"If it ends up coming up, that will be a big teaching tool for me leading up to Game 1," Roenick said. "I won't talk about that stuff until it's needed, but I'll bring it up if it has to be brought up."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan can join Roenick in leading the discussion about overconfidence. He was part of Detroit's coaching staff in 2005-06 when the Red Wings rolled through the regular season with 58 wins and 124 points to win the Presidents' Trophy.

They, too, were gone in the first round, losing to Edmonton in six games.

"We had it locked up quite a ways before the end of the season and everything was fine," McLellan told NHL.com. "We go in and play against Edmonton and we don't have success, so really that home-ice advantage didn't matter."

Rob Blake, though, has experienced the opposite feeling. He's part of the proof that winning the Presidents' Trophy can lead to winning the Stanley Cup.

Remember 2001?

Colorado, which acquired Blake with 13 games to go in the regular season, won the Presidents' Trophy with 52 wins and 118 points. The Avalanche breezed through Vancouver in four games and then used home-ice to beat Los Angeles in seven.

After taking out St. Louis in five to win the Western Conference championship, the Avalanche trailed 3-2 going back to New Jersey for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. They won, 4-0, and had Game 7 back in Denver.

Without the Presidents' Trophy, they wouldn't have been assured of having Game 7 at home; but they did get to play in the Pepsi Center and they took advantage by beating the Devils, 3-1 in that do-or-die game.

"It paid off in the right way," Blake told NHL.com.

Until Game 7 of the Final, Colorado's 23rd game of the postseason, the Presidents' Trophy had little impact on the Avalanche.

The Sharks plan to adopt the same philosophy.

"It's a sense of accomplishment for 24 hours and it's totally forgotten until they raise that banner the next year," Roenick said. "It's great, but I don't think it's very important. For us, it's more important to have home-ice advantage because of our record at home."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

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