March 25, 2023

There are always people who think a player’s career is wasted if they don’t win a Stanley Cup. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many things certain players give to fanbases and teams regardless of if they win or lose, and there are many Hall of Famers without a Cup. Many of those NHL greats have also had long careers as beloved players. There are now 32 teams in the NHL, and it is very difficult for any team to win each season.

The Edmonton Oilers are on the rise and have more to prove. Here’s a look at why Connor McDavid‘s career isn’t being wasted in Edmonton as many suggest it is.

Oilers Are Built to Win

The Oilers have a top-six that is as good as any in the NHL, led by the two top scorers in the league. Over the past year and a half, the team has locked up many of their secondary scorers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was locked up long-term, and Zach Hyman was signed in free agency to a seven-year deal. The Oilers also brought in Evander Kane for very cheap and extended him while giving short-term deals to players like Ryan McLeod, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jesse Puljujarvi; all of whom have the potential to put up more points than they have so far this season. The forward group is capable of taking this team deep into the playoff-like they did last season.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Oilers’ defence continues to be a concern, but since all the focus is on their play in the defensive zone, many have overlooked their offensive contributions. Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse have already combined for six goals and 21 points, and Barrie continues to do a great job manning the point on the top power-play unit.

Although Brett Kulak is a great skater, his skates haven’t cooperated this season, which has caused a number of great chances against him. Evan Bouchard is getting there. He has all the talent in the world, and he shows it at times in the offensive zone. But if he can start getting shots through to the net and reach the level he was at last season, the team will have a scoring threat from the blue line on every line.

Related: 3 Reasons Oilers Fans Shouldn’t Worry About Team’s Record

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Goaltending may not be where it should be, but sometimes goalies need time to adjust to a new team. We saw it in Jacob Markstrom’s first season with the Calgary Flames before he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting last season. Jack Campbell is the real concern here, not Stuart Skinner.

Campbell has a 4.27 goals-against average (GAA) and .873 save percentage (SV%) but has a 6-4-0 record thanks to a great deal of goal support. His numbers aren’t close to his career numbers, so I expect him to start settling in and performing better. On a good note, Skinner has been much better than anyone could have hoped for and is taking some pressure off Campbell. He hasn’t had the same goal support but has shut the door for the most part. If the Oilers are able to run two goalies effectively, it will pay off greatly for them throughout the season and in the future.

McDavid is Just Entering the Prime of His Career

McDavid has never played better than he has this season. He has taken a step forward from his outstanding playoff performance, with two hat tricks already and leading the league in goals and points. He is only just reaching the prime of his career at age 25.

The best player in the world has already reached the 700-point mark, among the fastest in NHL history and is playing at a point-per-game pace not seen since Mario Lemieux in the 90s when scoring was much higher. There is no matching McDavid’s speed and agility with the puck, and we could see him score 125-plus points each season. The rest of the pieces the Oilers have just need to fall into place at the right time.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon skates against Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How is McDavid’s career being wasted when he’s dominating the league, and we get to experience the highlight reel plays and the amazing talent he is every night? Sure the Oilers haven’t won yet. But as I mentioned above, there are 32 teams in the NHL now, so it is very difficult to win the Stanley Cup.

Some players win it in their first season like Tyler Seguin, but others like Alex Ovechkin take years to finally hoist the Cup. It took the Washington Capitals’ captain seven Rocket Richard Trophies, three Hart Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, and three Ted Lindsay Awards before he won the Stanley Cup in his 13th season. McDavid is at two Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, and four Art Ross Trophies in just seven seasons and is on pace to win the Rocket Richard, Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, and Hart this season.

At least someone of Ovechkin’s talent eventually won because there are a ton of great names who haven’t. At the top of the list is Marcel Dionne, Jerome Iginla, Adam Oates, Peter Stastny, Dale Hawerchuk, Mats Sundin, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Pierre Turgeon, Mike Gartner, and Gilbert Perreault.

Luongo and Lundqvist are two of the best goaltenders of all time, and Carey Price, another of the best to ever play in net, may join them soon. All three of them have meant so much to the organizations they played for as they were able to provide great goaltending for years and help keep their teams competitive and winning games. If it weren’t for them, who knows where the franchises would have been?

All of those skaters mentioned are in the top 40 all-time in career points. Dionne is sixth all-time in points, while Stastny is sixth all-time in point-per-game. McDavid will surely compete with both of them for their respective ranks in history when it’s all said and done, but he has many years to still win the Cup. In the end, it’s a team game and certain players can only control what they do on the ice. The rest is up to teammates and management to perform and assemble a winning squad.

Very Difficult to Win in the NHL Nowadays

It’s harder now more than ever for teams to win. Top teams aren’t guaranteed playoff wins, and there are upsets every night. The Oilers have made the playoffs three seasons in a row and have won two series. That means they are miles ahead of other teams who haven’t qualified for the playoffs in years or haven’t won a playoff series in years.

To realize just how difficult it is to make the playoffs and win, here are some stats. There are 11 teams that haven’t made it to the postseason in two or more consecutive years:

  • Buffalo Sabres (11 seasons)
  • Detroit Red Wings (6 seasons)
  • Ottawa Senators (5 seasons)
  • Anaheim Ducks (4 seasons)
  • New Jersey Devils (4 seasons)
  • San Jose Sharks (3 seasons)
  • Arizona Coyotes (2 seasons)
  • Chicago Blackhawks (2 seasons)
  • Columbus Blue Jackets (2 seasons)
  • Philadelphia Flyers (2 seasons)
  • Vancouver Canucks (2 seasons)

There are five more teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season. Here’s a look at first-round series win droughts. For the purpose of not dragging out the list, only teams that have lost four or more series in a row are mentioned:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs (17 years, 7 subsequent series losses)
  • Buffalo Sabres (15 years, 2 subsequent series losses)
  • New Jersey Devils (10 years, 1 subsequent series loss)
  • Detroit Red Wings (9 seasons, 3 subsequent series losses)
  • Los Angeles Kings (8 seasons, 3 subsequent series losses)
  • Minnesota Wild (7 seasons, 6 subsequent series losses)
  • Anaheim Ducks (5 seasons, 1 subsequent series losses)
  • Ottawa Senators (5 seasons)
  • Nashville Predators (4 seasons, 4 subsequent series losses)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (4 seasons, 4 subsequent series losses)
  • Washington Capitals (4 seasons, 4 subsequent series losses)
Buffalo Sabres Henri Jokiharju Casey Mittelstadt Jeff Skinner Rasmus Dahlin
Henri Jokiharju, Casey Mittelstadt, Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There are seven teams with longer Cup droughts than the Oilers and 12 franchises that have never won a Cup. Here are the seven teams with longer droughts than the Oilers, followed by franchises who have never won a Stanley Cup in their history:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs (54 seasons)
  • Buffalo Sabres (51 seasons)
  • Vancouver Canucks (51 seasons)
  • Philadelphia Flyers (46 seasons)
  • Arizona Coyotes (42 seasons)
  • New York Islanders (38 seasons)
  • Calgary Flames (32 seasons)

Stanley Cup-less Teams:

  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Florida Panthers
  • Nashville Predators
  • Winnipeg Jets
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Vegas Golden Knights
  • Seattle Kraken

It isn’t easy building a team that can not only be successful for the first 82 games and qualify for the postseason but also beat out 15 other teams and win four series to hoist the Cup. After seeing all of those stats, I hope it is much clearer just how difficult it is to win. Sometimes teams who have the right pieces like the Blackhawks, Kings, Penguins, or Tampa Bay Lightning over the past decade come around. But that’s just four teams in a long list. McDavid is still young and only getting better. The Oilers have the pieces in place to become the next team to beat in the league and win the Stanley cup after 31 long years.

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