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Will Oilers’ Rich History Trump Panthers’ Rat-Pack Mindset?

Holy travel miles, Batman! The Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers have combined to create a new Stanley Cup Final record: the furthest distance between the two competing teams. The Oilers and Panthers will travel 2,543 miles between their respective cities for the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final. That’s not the only thing separating them.

If we dig into their histories, each club could not be more different. Florida is favored per the NHL odds, but both teams have just as much stake given what has come before them.

Will Oilers’ Rich History Trump Panthers’ Rat-Pack Mindset?
Members of the Florida Panthers - Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

 

Edmonton: Resurrecting the Old Dynasty

Is it too early to label the Edmonton Oilers as a rising dynasty? They have the best player in the world in Connor McDavid, seemingly unbeatable special teams (namely on the power play) and a strong supporting cast. Edmonton has finally returned to the Stanley Cup Final after 18 years. But this one feels similar to the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.

Those Oilers were an upstart team led by Wayne Gretzky. They’d finally broken through and challenged the three-time defending champion New York Islanders.

But bad news, Oilers fans: Edmonton was swept by the grizzled Islanders. It was a humbling moment for Edmonton and the players took it to heart. The Oilers returned with a vengeance the next season and dethroned the Islanders to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.

 

Similarly, McDavid’s Oilers have suffered many shortcomings in several postseasons, albeit much longer than Gretzky’s team before winning it all.

“It’s been a bit of a bumpy road, whether it be off-years or heartbreak in the playoffs,” McDavid said. “This was always part of the plan to be in this moment.”

It was a passing of the torch as that Stanley Cup victory was just the first in the Gretzky era. It was the first of four Stanley Cup championships in five seasons for the OIlers. And they may have won more had Gretzky stayed (they won one more in 1990 to bring their total to five).

 

The Apostles of the Hockey Messiahs

Superstars win awards. Teams win trophies. The Oilers managed to win one Stanley Cup without Gretzky due to the depth of their team. They still had Mark Messier and Jari Kurri as their stars. But it was Bill Ranford who caught fire in goal and carried the team to an unlikely Stanley Cup victory in 1990, the franchise’s fifth and final one.

Today, Edmonton can also rely on Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Evan Bouchard as their main scorers outside McDavid. And yet it is Stuart Skinner who has stepped up in this postseason.

After a rough start to the playoffs, the netminder has gone on a hot streak. He averaged a .922 save percentage in his six starts against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference finals and has not given up more than two goals in seven of his last eight games.

If McDavid’s teammates can continue to play this way, we may see a Stanley Cup Final that is more like 1990 than 1983.

 

Florida Panthers: Emerging from the Shadows

Unlike the Oilers, the Panthers do not have any Stanley Cup victories to bring up. Nay. This Stanley Cup Final appearance is Florida’s third and the franchise hopes it’s “the charm.” The Panthers return to the Final nearly one year after losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. That’s been the theme with this franchise as it often finds itself overshadowed by its rivals.

Florida watched as Tampa Bay, its in-state rival, had three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final, winning back-to-back titles in 2020 and 2021. The Lightning even ousted Florida from the playoffs during two of these runs. But last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, even if it ended in a defeat, was the best Florida has produced in 27 years.

The Panthers made a surprising Stanley Cup run in only its third season as a franchise (1995-96). It was also during that season that Scott Mellanby, the Panthers’ captain, killed a rat in the locker room. He scored a pair of goals later that evening and goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed it a “rat trick.”

As the story then went viral, Panthers fans celebrated by throwing rubber rats on the ice. Coincidentally, this was also the Year of the Rat, per Chinese astrology.

However, Florida was no match for the Colorado Avalanche in the Final and was swept. It still marked Florida’s most successful season until a year ago.

 

To Slay a Messiah: Enter Barkov

While Florida enters this 2024 Stanley Cup Final as the favorite, history suggests otherwise. The Oilers have produced a dynasty and have featured two of the greatest superstars to ever play the game. Florida’s most notable for plastic rats and playoff futility. If the Panthers flip the narrative, they will need their best player – captain Aleksander Barkov – to produce

Unlike McDavid or even Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Barkov is not posting sexy stats. A former No. 2 overall pick, he has 80 points from the regular season and 17 in the playoffs. But his prolific two-way prowess will be Florida’s key to neutralizing McDavid, the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite (+200).

“Who he is as a person applied to his vocation as a hockey player actually pulls out a lot of those same qualities in his teammates,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito told Jeff Marek of Sportsnet regarding Barkov’s leadership. “So, it’s paramount to the effort.”

Barkov trails McDavid at +400 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Panthers. With the NHL betting lines in their favor, the captain may finally lift the team out of the shadows.

 

 

Questions Of The Day

Which NHL team has won the most Stanley Cups?


The Montreal Canadiens have an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup victories as of the 2024-25 season.

What is the Florida Panthers’ record in the Stanley Cup Final?


The Panthers are 0-2 in the Stanley Cup Final. They lost to Colorado and Vegas in 1996 and 2023, respectively.

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