Okay, sure, it’s not the Stanley Cup and nothing has the lustre of that Holy Grail. In fact, if you put a dozen NHL trophies on a table and asked fans to pick out the President’s Trophy from the lot, most would have to get close enough to read the engraving to be sure.
But the fact is that having the best record over the 82 game grine is no small feat. In some ways it is a bigger accomplishment than winning 16 games in the playoffs. Sure, playoff games are way more intense, the physical toll is enormous, the mental strain of the media glare and the constant threat of elimination are taxing and thrilling at the same time. But six months of fluctuating travel schedules, widely varying styles of opponents, trade deadline worries, injury rehab, and the sheer number of games presents its own challenges.
Upsets happen in the playoffs, but why do they happen, why are they considered upsets? Because the team that loses has proven over 82 games to be a superior squad to the one that got hot at "the right time". Many factors go into an upset: overall team health; a hot or cold goaltender; streaks; matchups at key positions; coaching; bad bounces; the quality of refereeing (which despite the NHL's blind insistence is far from consistent in this league, especially in the playoffs). Often a team that upsets a favourite is cannon fodder in the next round, having already achieved beyond their true abilities by playing over their heads for seven games or less.
I think you can make a very valid argument that the President’s Trophy winner is more likely to be the actual best team in the league rather than the Stanley Cup winner. You can get hot and steal playoff series and sneak out a Cup win. But no one wins the PT by accident. I mean, was Edmonton really the 2nd best team in the NHL in 2006?
They don't throw any parades for the President's Trophy winner, this is true. They also don't hold any riots.