July 19, 2024

Connor McDavid’s Conn Smythe win provides small consolation after coming up empty in Stanley Cup quest


The Conn Smythe Trophy went untouched on Monday night. That’s because its winner, Connor McDavid, was in the Edmonton Oilers locker room following a 2-1 loss in Game 7 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

McDavid was brilliant in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He put up gaudy numbers that the NHL hasn’t seen since Wayne Gretzky was carving up the rest of the league. McDavid’s heroics in Games 4 and 5 were probably the only reason we reached a Game 7 in the first place.

And yet, McDavid could only watch as rats rained down onto the Amerant Bank Arena ice and the Florida Panthers celebrated their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

That’s the nature of the NHL playoffs. They’re cruel, and often the best players in the world walk away empty-handed, but this loss might sting a little more than usual for McDavid.

Consider the way the Oilers began the 2023-24 season. On American Thanksgiving, the typical barometer for playoff contenders, the Oilers were 5-12-1. Their 11 points were only one more than the Chicago Blackhawks and four more than the San Jose Sharks, the two teams at the top of the 2024 NHL Draft.

As a result of that slow start, Edmonton fired head coach Jay Woodcroft and replaced him with Kris Knoblauch, who coached McDavid when he was playing for the OHL’s Erie Otters.

After that, the Oilers went on a tear with McDavid leading the way. Edmonton went 46-18-5 with Knoblauch behind the bench, and McDavid finished the season with 100 assists to go along with his 32 goals. Those numbers made McDavid a Hart Trophy finalist, and he might win that award, too.

As good as McDavid was in the regular season, there were times throughout the postseason when he was even better. In Game 1 of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings, McDavid made a statement by posting five assists.

The Oilers superstar began the playoffs on a seven-game point streak, totaling two goals and 15 assists in that span. In his team’s series-clinching win over the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final, McDavid came up clutch with a goal and an assist.

After the Oilers fell into a 3-0 hole against the Panthers, all McDavid did was post back-to-back four-point games to pick his team up off the mat.

As he was driving Edmonton on its deep postseason run, McDavid was climbing the NHL record books. His 34 assists are an all-time record for a single playoff season. The rest of the top five? Wayne Gretzky (three times) and Mario Lemieux.

McDavid’s 42 points in the 2024 playoffs rank fourth all time. I’ll save you the trouble of guessing the three players ahead of him. It’s Gretzky (twice) and Lemieux.

Still, that place in history probably isn’t the one McDavid was hoping to take on Monday night. Those NHL records and the Conn Smythe Trophy are small consolations for the way the season ended.

McDavid failed to record a single point in the last two games of the Stanley Cup Final, and he came the length of the crease away from tying Game 7. Late in the third period, McDavid had Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky down and out when Gustav Forsling tied up his stick just before McDavid could slide the puck into the net.

That makes this an extremely bitter ending to an otherwise tremendous year for McDavid. His reaction when asked about winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, one of the NHL’s most prestigious trophies, made that clear.

“Obviously, I guess, an honor with the names on that trophy but yeah,” McDavid trailed off before fielding the next question.

After all the dazzling performances and record-setting point totals, McDavid came up one game short of hockey immortality. Tomorrow, those numbers will go back to zero, and he’ll have to start all over again next season.

No one questioned McDavid’s excellence coming into these playoffs, and they certainly shouldn’t question it now. Posting Gretzky-esque stats and becoming just the second skater ever to win the Conn Smythe as a member of the losing team isn’t something we should take for granted.

The only lingering question for McDavid after this postseason is, “When?”





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