All the great players in NHL history have a major trophy, but it’s not because of him that they have earned that status.

“Edmonton” made it to the NHL Finals for the first time in 18 years. Since 2006, the team has gone through different times, having been an abysmal underdog, picking up the first picks in the draft, of which there were four from 2010 to 2015. And the biggest one happened in 2015 when the Oilers took potentially the best player of a generation, Connor McDavid.

And the biggest one happened in 2015 when the Oilers took potentially the best player of a generation, Connor McDavid.

In the era of Canadian talent, the Finals became the first. It took nine years to reach it. During that time, Connor McDavid was involved in many things: Edmonton failed to make the playoffs, lost a key game in the series, leading 3-0 by the 57th minute, caught the sweeps in the first round, and lost to the future champions.

McDavid is exactly the kind of player that almost all Oilers fans (or even almost all Canadian fans) have their hopes tied to. There are no teams in sight that can bring the Stanley Cup to Canada anytime soon.

To begin speculating on what status the Edmonton captain might have after winning the NHL’s premier trophy, we need to understand where he stands now. Since Connor has no team trophies, and such talk mostly dances around personal statistics, let’s get to it.

Connor McDavid / AP
Connor McDavid / AP

What level is McDavid at? Let’s start with his record-breaking season in points, which was recorded just over a year ago: a fantastic 153 points in 82 games.

That’s the best result in the 21st century, next only to MacKinnon and Kucherov, who battled each other for Art Ross in this regular season. Connor’s scoring record is 15th in NHL history, with only three people – Gretzky ( 9 times), Lemieux (4) and Eiserman (1) – having notched more points.

In general, McDavid has never been a pronounced sniper, but he owns the third-highest goal total of the century in a single regular season (64 goals). The only people ahead of him who will demolish Gretzky’s record are Ovechkin and Matthews. But he’s doing just fine with assists: this season he became the fourth player (a little later Kucherov became the fifth) in history to reach 100 assists in a single regular season.

And McDavid is also currently third in average scoring (counting those who have played more than 100 games in the league). Gretzky and Lemieux are ahead of him.

It was enough to go over the top here to understand McDavid’s level – without spending even half of his career, Connor rewrote several major records of the XXI century, and only Gretzky and Lemieux are ahead of him in history. Let’s not talk about the abundant productivity during the time of these two players, otherwise, it would take a long time.

We talked about this statistic to say that McDavid has booked his place in the Hall of Fame in advance, and it’s just a matter of time before he gets there. But what’s missing, as it seems, is the most important thing – the Stanley Cup.

McDavid’s name was mentioned above along with Gretzky, Lemieux, Ovechkin, and Eiserman. And then there’s Esposito, Messier, Orr, Jagr, Crosby, and many others. What would catch your eye if you compare the best player of the current generation to them? Naturally, the lack of a cup.

Only the situation for almost all of them (with the exception of Ovechkin) is the opposite – these people first won cups and then began to claim the status of a great player, which for the most part came from statistics, not from repeated victories in the NHL playoffs. Gretzky won his first trophy at 23, Orr won his first Stanley Cup at 22, and Lemieux at 25.

What is the conclusion to be drawn from all of this? The foundation of a player’s greatness is not the Stanley Cup, as cliché as that sounds. Henri Richard has 11 Cups. Does that make him any more great than Gretzky? No, it doesn’t. Phil Kessel has three Cups and Mario Lemieux has two. Does that fact make Kessel superior? Also no.

Wayne Gretzky with the Stanley Cup / AP
Wayne Gretzky with the Stanley Cup / AP

Let’s get to the main question – will Connor McDavid’s status change after winning the Finals? Let’s compare the situation with Alexander Ovechkin, who took a long and painstaking path to the Cup with Washington and won it in 2018.

On June 7, 2018, did Ovechkin go from being a great player to a great player? There was no such thing. Alexander simply closed that day as one of the last questions to be asked of his playing career.

It will be the same with McDavid – a win won’t change his status, it’s unclear what can happen to keep people from calling Connor great at the end of his career. A Stanley Cup would only solidify his standing and remove one of the questions from critical fans and philistines.

The status will change for only one group of people – Edmonton fans. The comparison with Lionel Messi and his career with the Argentine national team is apt. Fans of the national team loved Diego Maradona more because his name was associated with winning the World Cup, Messi didn’t have that. But on December 18, 2022, Leo closed the last gestalt and his status changed, but it was for the fans of the Argentine national team.