Oils well that ends well? You bet

June 9, 1993. The day, and last time a Canadian entrant won the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens.

“Amazing it’s been 30 years,” said Guy Carbonneau to Global last year at this time. Carbonneau remains the last captain from a Canadian team to take home the trophy. “Not just Montreal, which is pretty unusual, but in Canada.”

Most of us who were around to witness will remember watching the event unfold on that massive 25-inch-full-colour TV at home (the pride of your life, no doubt). Or maybe you were perched on a pew at the local tavern viewing the Montreal win over Los Angeles on one of those vaunted big-screen projection TVs (Remember the ones? You needed to sit at a particular angle to get a passable view).

Roseanne, Cheers, Northern Exposure and Murphy Brown were killing it on the Nielsen ratings that month; Jurassic Park, Sleepless in Seattle and A Few Good Men were raking in the major money at the box office; “That’s the Way Love Goes” had Janet Jackson at No. 1 on the Billboard charts; Brian Mulroney was our prime minister; Bill Clinton was running the show to the south.

Who doesn’t love a good timeline?

So here we are some three decades-plus ahead . . . still waiting for The Next One (that’s if you buy into this whole Canada-against-the-world-it’s-our-game-dammit! stuff).

There have been a few close calls. The Habs came near during the COVID shutdown season of 2021 when a banged-up Shea Weber couldn’t quite carry the club over the finish line against Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to that, in 2007 Ottawa got to the final only to be sandblasted by a tough Anaheim group led by the dynamic tandem of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Vancouver (twice), Calgary and Edmonton also had shots to bring it home in the past 30 years but went out in the final.

Last year there was no representation. In fact, even that ‘four conference finalists list’ was devoid of any hearty Canadian squads as Vegas (eventual Cup winners), Dallas, Florida and Carolina took centre stage.

After an extremely late Monday night for the east coast, though, Canada is back in the spotlight. No stunner there. It was an inevitability weeks ago when Edmonton was slated to face Vancouver in Round 2.

The Oilers are Canada’s last hope after an exhausting fracas of a seven-game set with the Canucks. It was easily the best of the second-round set-to’s, filled with violence, both physical and verbal.

But this is what it takes to lift Lord Stanley.

Overcoming exhaustion and finding another gear.

And that’s what the Oilers will need to find in quick order as the Western Conference final starts lickety-split, Thursday night in Cowboys’ country.

But of all the four hopefuls on the Canadian side who entered the fray back on April 20th, the Oilers held the best hand in the end. The Leafs were just too handicapped on the blueline and in goal; Vancouver, especially one Quinn Hughes, were run into the ground physically in Round 1 versus Nashville (and further by Edmonton in Round 2); and Winnipeg was extraordinarily strong but couldn’t withstand hockey’s second-best, one-two punch in Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon.

Which brings it back to Edmonton.

Questions in goal?

Sure thing, but that jaunty duo of Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard do (and did) just enough correctly to let their mistakes get rectified by hockey’s absolute-best one-two punch in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

In case you missed it, they’re fairly good.

Draisaitl was the one who said prior to the season beginning: “Cup or bust.”

So here you go, Leon. The show and the stage are yours.

And halfway through the post-season, Leon’s been The Man. Eight goals, 24 points and two game-winners put him at the top of the scoring sheet and at the top of the (early, still) Conn Smythe candidate list as well. Draisaitl’s also been physical and feisty and chirpy.

Meantime, McDavid’s dancing, try-and-catch-me routine has also been first rate. His 19 assists lead the league.

Noticeable as well is former London Knight (hey, they’re back in the Memorial Cup!) and Oakville, Ont. (hey, my hometown!) native Evan Bouchard. The 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft sits third in league scoring with 20 points and is an NHL best plus-10.

All this to pose a few questions: The Oilers will topple Dallas, the deepest team in the entire league? The Stars? The team with eight(!) 20-goal scorers? The team with a decided edge in goal and in overall defensive play? The team with former standout, Ottawa Senator superstar Evgenii Dadonov (just checking to see if you’re still awake) staffing the wing?

Hard to say. Hard to buy too.

Dallas is – comparatively – well-rested and holds home-ice. Dallas has Jake Oettinger back on his game in a big way.

Dallas has super-sophomore Wyatt Johnston, gnarly Jamie Benn and an unbreakable defence to boot.

And so . . .

Edmonton in seven.


PHOTO: Courtesy CBC.ca