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Connor McDavid can cement his NHL legacy with first Stanley Cup

Remember the scene from the 2006 film, Rocky Balboa, when world champion Mason “The Line” Dixon is arguing with his promotor about fighting Rocky, and his promotor says (and I’m paraphrasing), “Don’t tell me you’re worried about your legacy. You know what’s better than having a legacy? Getting paid.”

But legacies do matter to professional athletes, even in today’s world when the very best earn enough money before the age of 30 to set themselves up for life.

Edmonton Oilers superstar center, Connor McDavid, 27, already has enough career earnings ($85.6 million according to Spotrac) to be set for life. He’s currently the best hockey player in the world and became that not long after being selected first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s played in the NHL All-Star Game seven times. He’s been named NHL First All-Star Team (essentially, First-Team All-Star/All-Pro) five times. He’s won the Art Ross Trophy (awarded annually to the league leader in points) five times. He’s earned the Hart Memorial Trophy (awarded annually to the NHL MVP) three times. McDavid is currently 104th all-time in points scored with 982–including 335 goals and 647 assists–but if he plays another 10-15 years (and most great hockey players tend to play into their 40s), he’ll at least put himself in the same hemisphere as the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, who is the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,857.

Yes, McDavid has it all, but the one thing he doesn’t have in a hockey sense is a ring. He’ll be looking to change that when the Edmonton Oilers faceoff against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

McDavid’s legacy as one of the NHL’s all-time best players is becoming more obvious by the season, but how will he be remembered without the team hardware? Even if he challenges Gretzky for the all-time leader in points, will fans of the sport be willing to put him on the same level? What about the same level as Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe?

Speaking of all-time points leaders, Jaromir Jagr, who won two Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early-’90s, is second all-time with 1,921. Yet, despite the team and personal hardware (he won one Hart Trophy and five Art Ross Trophies), Jagr has a hard time even approaching the top five when it comes to discussions of the greatest players in hockey history.

The fans and media are fickle when it comes to a player’s legacy, and they’re even more fickle when championships aren’t part of the evidence. It doesn’t matter what the sport is and what that person achieved, if they don’t have the team hardware on their resume, good luck carving out a legacy alongside the all-time greats.

Furthermore, McDavid plays in Edmonton, the hockey town that the Great One built. In addition to his scoring titles (10) and MVPs (nine), Gretzky led the Oilers to five Stanley Cup Finals and four championships in the 1980s. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy (awarded annually to the postseason MVP) twice.

Forget carving out a legacy alongside hockey’s all-time greats, McDavid is going to have a hard time carving out one with the team he currently plays for.

Having said that, the Oilers are in their first Cup Final since 2006, and they’re just four wins away from their first title since 1990. That, alone, would go a long way toward making McDavid a revered figure in his professional hockey hometown. For that matter, if Edmonton wins the Cup, it will be the first one for a Canadian-based team in 31 years.

Forget local and NHL legacy, McDavid could become a national hero if he leads his team to a Stanley Cup title this summer.

When a hockey franchise wins the draft lottery and selects a generational talent, it does so with the hopes that this will lead to a Stanley Cup title or several.

Connor McDavid is finally on the threshold of getting the Oilers their first one in a long time. If he can do that, his legacy as one of the NHL’s all-time greats will begin to feel legit.




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