The Edmonton Oilers return to the Stanley Cup Final is a chance to end 18 years of "what ifs?"

McDavid and company have carried the Oilers back to the finals for the first time since 2006 with a chance to break a curse and strengthen a few legacies.
Dallas Stars v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six
Dallas Stars v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages
2 of 2

The pre-McDavid days were rough

In the years following Edmonton's appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, things weren't as fun. They finished near the bottom of the league the following season and were just a few points short of the playoffs in the next two seasons.

From 2010 to 2012, the Oilers accomplished something that only the Quebec Nordiques have ever done in league history. The Oilers were so bad, and their odds for the draft lottery were so good that they earned the top pick in the draft in all three years.

Unfortunately, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov couldn't turn things around for Edmonton. With their continued issues on the ice, their draft luck would eventually change. In the 2013 and 2014 drafts, the Oilers drafted defenseman Darnell Nurse seventh overall and German sniper Leon Draisaitl third overall, respectively.

The real prize came in the 2015 Draft, when the Oilers won the lottery for the fourth time in six years, allowing them to select generational talent Connor McDavid with the top pick. From there, things got a little better for Edmonton.

A Stanley Cup win cements the legacies of McDavid and Draisaitl

It took a few years for the Oilers' stars to establish consistent team success despite personal success. There is no denying how excellent Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on their own. McDavid is a three-time Hart Trophy winner, a four-time Ted Lindsay Award winner, and a five-time Art Ross winner. He's one of the most exciting players ever to play the game. Draisaitl has an Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, and Hart Trophy win under his belt, along with a trio of 50-goal seasons and five 100-point seasons. They each appear to be well on their way to first-ballot Hall of Fame careers.

Despite being two of the most skilled players in the league, the Oilers have never been able to get over the hump. Including this season, the Oilers have only made it to the conference finals twice with McDavid and Draisaitl. In 2022, the Oilers came up short of the Stanley Cup Final. This season feels different. They have a better supporting cast around them. Zach Hyman is the league's leading goal-scorer this postseason. Evan Bouchard has become a scoring machine. Stuart Skinner has started to right the ship. It'll take a village to win the Stanley Cup, but the Oilers seem equipped to do so.

Narratively, it would be fitting for McDavid and Draisaitl to be the duo to break the Canadian Cup Curse. Montreal was the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, doing so in 1993. Canada's last six attempts to win the cup have failed, including Edmonton's in 2006. While winning a Stanley Cup would look good for legacies, being the first Canadian team to do so in over three decades would make it even sweeter.

With how competitive the NHL is and how unpredictable the Stanley Cup Playoffs are on a yearly basis, it's impossible to know whether this will be the final chance McDavid and Draisaitl will have to win the Stanley Cup. That's why this opportunity is so important for them. I believe that a loss in this series won't do anything to change how we look at their careers once they retire. However, it will continue to be a talking point until they manage to do so. It's their time to right the wrongs from 2006 and to forever have their names engraved in history.