Connor McDavid is going to pick up his second career Hart Trophy this summer and, in the process, force a smile.
Or hide a tinge of something.
Don’t get me wrong, the Oilers superstar center should be proud as hell of his regular season output. It was a season that ranks up there with the best all-time.
But it’s not what makes players like him tick.
Or at least the ones that end up winners. Which McDavid will be one day.
Go back to Nikita Kucherov picking up the Hart Trophy in June 2019 after a stellar offensive season. Be honest. All you could think of as he picked up the award was Tampa’s shocking four-game sweep at the hands of Columbus after a 62-win season and Kucherov’s one-game playoff suspension for his meltdown.
One year later, that was all forgotten. Or at least forgiven. Kucherov was a rock star as Tampa lifted the Stanley Cup.
Sidney Crosby got his just four years into his career, and that’s after a trip to the Cup Final three years in.
Fair or not, Crosby’s early Cup ring cast a burden on rival Alex Ovechkin for nearly a decade, with a few Olympic triumphs thrown in there plus two more Cups in 2016 and 2017 to thicken the narrative. No. 87 was a winner, No. 8 was not.
Until Ovechkin was. Man, 2018 was gigantic. Now, the modern era’s greatest goal scorer, a man who single-handedly changed the fortunes of the Capitals franchise on and off the ice, was a Stanley Cup champion.
Steve Yzerman. The pressure on No. 19 to get the Red Wings over the hump in the 1990s was unreal. But Yzerman dug in, and his Red Wings not only got over the hump but once they entered the Cup champion penthouse they became regular visitors.
Mario Lemieux had to win in Pittsburgh so we could have those Mario vs. Wayne conversations on a full scale. Fair? Maybe not, but No. 66’s two Cups completely changed his career.