The Anaheim Ducks have clinched the Pacific Division title and hold a four point lead on the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Western Conference. There is no question that Anaheim has had quite the successful regular season. But for the Ducks, it’s not about regular season success.
Anaheim has won the division in three straight seasons. In 2013, they fell in the opening round of the playoffs to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. Last year, in the first season of the new divisional playoff format, the Ducks won their conference quarterfinal series before falling to the Kings in seven games in the second round. Another early playoff exit after a successful regular season would not be Anaheim’s preferred destiny.
However, Anaheim hasn’t exactly been a successful playoff team in recent years. The Ducks did win the Stanley Cup in 2007. Since then, Anaheim has two playoff series wins in sevens campaigns. They lost in the opening round in 2008 and 2011 and lost in the conference semis in 2009. They didn’t win the division in any of those years before claiming the Pacific as their own since 2013.
Not that winning the Pacific Division is a surefire path to postseason success. The winner of the Pacific division has struggled to find their way deep into the playoffs in recent league history.
Pacific Division Winners Playoff Results Since 2000
|Year||Pacific Division Champ||Postseason Result|
|2000||Dallas Stars||Lost Stanley Cup Final|
|2001||Dallas Stars||Lost Conference Semifinals|
|2002||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Semifinals|
|2003||Dallas Stars||Lost Conference Semifinals|
|2004||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Finals|
|2005||Dallas Stars||Lost Conference Quarterfinals|
|2007||Anaheim Ducks||Won Stanley Cup|
|2008||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Finals|
|2009||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Quarterfinals|
|2010||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Finals|
|2011||San Jose Sharks||Lost Conference Finals|
|2012||Phoenix Coyotes||Lost Conference Finals|
|2013||Anaheim Ducks||Lost Conference Quarterfinals|
|2014||Anaheim Ducks||Lost Conference Semifinals|
That chart really says it all. The 2007 Ducks are the last Pacific squad to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup and only one other division champ even made it to the Finals. The best run of playoff excellence may have been from 2010-2012 when three straight Pacific winners made the Western Conference Finals (the Sharks the first two years and the Coyotes in the last in their only division winning season in franchise history). Overall, the Pacific Division champion has lost in one of the first two rounds of the playoffs eight times in the past 14 seasons (57.1%).
Now, you may ask how important is winning your division to winning the Stanley Cup? The answer is simple, it’s pretty important.
Stanley Cup Winners Since 2000
|Year||Stanley Cup Champion||Division Winner|
|2000||New Jersey Devils||No, 2nd in the Atlantic|
|2001||Colorado Avalanche||Northwest Champs|
|2002||Detroit Red Wings||Central Champs|
|2003||New Jersey Devils||Atlantic Champs|
|2004||Tampa Bay Lightning||Southeast Champs|
|2005||Carolina Hurricanes||Southeast Champs|
|2007||Anaheim Ducks||Pacific Champs|
|2008||Detroit Red Wings||Central Champs|
|2009||Pittsburgh Penguins||No, 2nd in Atlantic|
|2010||Chicago Blackhawks||Central Champs|
|2011||Boston Bruins||Northeast Champs|
|2012||Los Angeles Kings||No, 3rd in Pacific|
|2013||Chicago Blackhawks||Central Champs|
|2014||Los Angeles Kings||No, 3rd in Pacific|
In that same time frame from 2000 to now, 10 of the 14 Stanley Cup Champions have been division winners. That’s 71.4%. And those numbers are only that low because of the odds-defying Los Angeles Kings, who have two Cup wins in the last three years without winning the Pacific. In the previous 10 seasons, only the 2009 Penguins could achieve that feat which makes the Kings playoff dominance in that time such an outlier. Add in the fact that they made the conference final in 2013, and the Kings run to glory is all the more impressive.
Since 2000, the Pacific is the division with the second most Stanley Cups, tied with the Atlantic for three. Like the Atlantic, two of those Cups belong to non-division winners. But, those two Atlantic champs were both good teams. The 2000 Devils would have won either of the other two Eastern Conference Divisions with 103 points. The 2009 Penguins were the fourth seed with home ice in the opening round and made the Cup Finals the season before. Even those non division winning teams were above average teams. For the most part, winning the division goes a long ways toward your playoff success, unless you are the Kings.
So where does that leave the Ducks? In the same place they were when the season started, a good team that really needs to make a deep playoff run. The postseason is a fickle mistress and the Ducks haven’t been the best playoff team since winning the Cup in the first year after the season cancelling lockout of 2006. The Ducks need to win a round this year, preferably two. It’s time for the Pacific Division Champion to make real playoff noise again.