The Stanley Cup Final is officially locked in, as the Edmonton Oilers will take on the Florida Panthers in what is truly a nightmarish scenario for Calgary Flames fans. Both the Oilers and Panthers were able to knock off their opposition in six games in their respective Conference Final rounds, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who says they aren’t deserving of being in this situation.

Related: Flames: 5 Teams Who Could Look to Trade for Markstrom

Both teams took different paths of getting to the Cup Final. For the Panthers, it has been a revenge season of sorts, as they lost last year’s Final to the Vegas Golden Knights. They were excellent all season long, and many consider them to have the NHLs most complete roster, top to bottom.

The Oilers’ path was far different. After being eliminated in the second round of last year’s playoffs by the Golden Knights, Connor McDavid referred to this season as being Stanley Cup or bust for his team. Early on, hopes of that happening seemed to be an impossibility, as they started the season with a 2-9-1 record. Against all odds, however, they were able to turn things around, and look like a force to be reckoned with.

Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As mentioned, this series is not at all what Flames fans wanted to see. That said, their fan base is a hockey crazed one, guaranteeing that they will be tuning in. Despite the Flames and Oilers rivalry being arguably the biggest in the NHL, there are some reasons to consider cheering for their Albertan counterpart to win it all.

Oilers Have a Plethora of Canadian Players

Not only would the Oilers be the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so back in 1993, but they also boast a ton of homegrown talent. In fact, they have the most Canadian-filled roster we have seen in nearly two decades.

The Oilers have a total of 18 Canadian players in McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, Evan Bouchard, Evander Kane, Brett Kulak, Dylan Holloway, Cody Ceci, Adam Henrique, Connor Brown, Warren Foegele, Darnell Nurse, Ryan McLeod, Vincent Desharnais, Sam Carrick, Corey Perry, Stuart Skinner, and Calvin Pickard. That number jumps to 20 if you include Sam Gagner, who has been a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs thus far, and Troy Stecher, who recently underwent season-ending surgery.

The Panthers, on the other hand, have nine Canadian players. That is still a relatively large number, but pales in comparison to the Oilers. Based on birthplaces alone, they truly are “Canada’s team” heading into the Stanley Cup Final.

Matthew Tkachuk Set Flames Back

While the Panthers do have a notable Flames alumni, he isn’t exactly a player the fan base is too keen on any more. Arguably their best all-around player, Matthew Tkachuk, spent the first six seasons of his career with the Flames, where he quickly established himself as a cornerstone of the franchise.

Flames fan absolutely loved Tkachuk during his time in Calgary, as he was not only a great offensive producer but got under the skin of opposing teams like none other. The hope was that he would spend his entire career in a Flames jersey, but ultimately, he didn’t want that to be the case.

Tkachuk essentially forced his way out of Calgary following the 2021-22 season, as he told management he wasn’t interested in signing an extension. As a result, the Flames dealt him to the Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a first-round pick. The move, especially paired with the Huberdeau extension, has set the Flames back years in terms of potential success, and is all due to the fact Tkachuk wanted out.

Flames Management Could Learn from Oilers

Despite many Flames fans hoping the team would go into full rebuild mode, general manager (GM) Craig Conroy has instead made it clear he would rather try and retool on the fly. The first-year GM has said he wants to follow the Dallas Stars model, which is to build through great drafting to fill out the roster.

The Stars have certainly done that, as they have found some gems in the draft including players such as Jason Robertson, Wyatt Johnston, Jake Oettinger, and Logan Stankoven, amongst others. The problem with this, however, is that very few teams, if any besides the Stars, are actually able to draft that well. Expecting that the Flames can do it when so few teams have may be ill-fated.

Related: Flames Should Consider Trading for Lightning Forward Jeannot

Also worth noting is that despite the Stars excellent drafting, is that they have yet to win a Stanley Cup with this group. Instead, they were knocked out by the Oilers, a team who, after years of struggles, drafted two of the game’s most elite players in Connor McDavid (first overall, 2015), and Leon Draisaitl (third overall, 2014). Seeing the success they are now having could convince Flames management that tanking is the way to go, as having elite players on your roster is often needed to win it all.

Thrilling Cup Final in Store

Regardless of who Flames fans choose to pull for, this Stanley Cup Final has the potential to be one of the best we have seen in some time. Not only are these two truly elite teams, but there are some great storylines. The Oilers and Tkachuk have had some well-noted run ins over the years, while McDavid, who will go down as one of the best hockey players of all time, will have a chance to capture his first championship. It all begins on Saturday, June 8, with Games 1 and 2 taking place in Florida.

The Hockey Writers Substack banner Calgary Flames


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here