Before the 1987 Canada Cup, the hockey world knew Mario Lemieux as an incredible talent with a ton of potential. Drafted in 1984, Lemieux and the Penguins would have to wait six years to see legitimate playoff success. A big part of Lemieux and the Penguins’ future success can be traced back to the 1987 Canada Cup and Mario’s experience playing with Wayne Gretzky. Many have said this is where Lemieux learned what it took to win.
The comparables are there with Connor McDavid and the current status of the Edmonton Oilers. With the Sept. 3 announcement of NHL players returning to the Olympics, one can’t help but imagine what McDavid will pick up by being around proven winners like Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron. McDavid has tasted success with the World Juniors and had a positive experience with the 2016 World Cup of Hockey Under 23 team.
But the Olympics are different. They are the big kahuna, and this has the makings of being McDavid’s big coming-out party. The Bejing 2022 Winter Olympics will provide McDavid with the canvas to show the world his amazing skills. And more importantly, behind the scenes, he will learn from experienced leaders and coaches in the Team Canada dressing room.
Another Gear for Connor McDavid
Since breaking into the NHL in 2015, McDavid has had some strong leaders as teammates, a few with Stanley Cup rings, but none with the pedigree of a Sidney Crosby. Having Duncan Keith in the dressing room in 2021-22 is already going to help McDavid and the Oilers in terms of leadership. Adding the experience of the Olympics will take McDavid and the team to where they want to go. Yes, hockey is a team game, and the Olympics could also benefit players like Leon Draisaitl and possibly Darnell Nurse. But the benefits for a superstar like McDavid will be almost incalculable. If Team Canada were to win the gold medal in Men’s Hockey, it will translate into the playoff success that the Oilers franchise and their fans so heavily desire.
Need Further Proof?
In the early 1970s, Bobby Clarke was a talented young leader with the Philadelphia Flyers. It was in 1972 as part of Team Canada in the Summit Series where Clarke learned what it took to be a champion. His stature and importance grew as that series went on. Eventually coach Harry Sinden trusted Clarke to be on the ice for important faceoffs and in pressure situations, especially in those crucial final games in Moscow.
Clarke took the lessons from 72 back to Philadelphia with him, where he led the Flyers to three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances, winning two cups in 73/74 and 74/75.
Olympic Games Could Energize McDavid and the Oilers
This could be the year the Oilers knock down the door when it comes to playoff success. With key players like McDavid, Draisaitl and possibly Nurse drawing on their Olympic experience, as well as having an improved group of forwards, the prognosis for more success for the team looks the best it has since 2006. Yes, the defence has some question marks, and so does the goaltending, but overall, this team is trending up. Add an Olympic experience for McDavid into the mix, and you could have the kind of success Oiler fans have been hoping for all along.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.