The Athletic's Oilers vs. Leafs Stanley Cup matchup ranking should be higher

The Athletic has ranked the best potential Stanley Cup Final matchups based on narrative and the Oilers vs. Leafs should be getting more love.
Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs
Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

We might still be in the first round of the playoffs, but thoughts have already turned towards which two teams fans and media alike would like to see contesting the Stanley Cup Final. And even allowing for this being an Edmonton Oilers site, you have to imagine a lot of objective/neutral observers would like to see Connor McDavid's team involved.

In any event, The Athletic's Sean McIndoe took on the task of ranking the best potential Stanley Cup Final matchups, based purely on narrative. He ended up counting down 25 possible scenarios, of which four included the Oilers.

In fairness, four possible scenarios involving the Oilers isn't too bad, considering there were 64 available entering the playoffs. The four matchups McIndoe mentions including the Oilers, involve the New York Islanders at 16th *, the Rangers at 12th and the Carolina Hurricanes at eighth.

Oilers vs. Leafs deserves higher ranking

However, what doesn't seem quite as acceptable, is ranking a potential Oilers versus. Toronto Maple Leafs matchup at only fourth. In front of this, McIndoe has the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Florida Panthers third, the Colorado Avalanche vs. Islanders at second *, and the Dallas Stars vs. the Hurricanes ranked first.

In our humble opinion, the Oilers vs. Leafs should be first, with a whole host of compelling narratives. This includes the first all Canadian matchup since the Calgary Flames vs. Montreal Canadiens, which the Flames won back in 1989.

Second, an Oilers vs. Leafs matchup would guarantee the first Canadian Stanley Cup champion since the Canadians, in 1993. Third, it would feature two of the top offensive teams from the 2023-24 regular season, with the Leafs and Oilers ranking second and fourth respectively in goals scored.

And fourth, comes arguably the best narrative of all for this particular Stanley Cup Final. Namely, it would feature a glamour superstar matchup between the game's best player in McDavid, and the game's top goalscorer, in Auston Matthews.

The narratives for the competition

Now we understand that the Golden Knights vs. the Panthers is a compelling matchup, featuring a rematch between last year's Stanley Cup teams; Vegas would be looking to win two in a row in just their seventh season of existence, while the Panthers would be chasing their first trophy. However, even allowing for this, how can you determine it is a more intriguing rivalry than the Oilers vs. Leafs?

Similarly, we appreciate the Avalanche vs. Islanders* features the narrative of the return of Patrick Roy, while the Stars. vs. Hurricanes would see two longtime teammates in Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski face off, to see who can be the first to claim a Stanley Cup. Again though, are you really telling us either of these is a 'sexier' matchup than the Oilers and McDavid facing off against the Leafs and Matthews?

In truth, and with due respect to the excellent McIndoe, the narratives in general are arguably a bit hit and miss. With the Oilers' ranked matchups for example, a 1980s rematch between the decades two dynasties in the Oilers and Islanders* is a good narrative; the Mark Messier matchup between the Oilers and Rangers, not so much.

The positives and negatives of the Oilers' day off. dark. Next. The positives and negatives of the Oilers' day off

Overall, we acknowledge that rankings of any kind will always be subjective and open to debate and disagreement -- look no further than all the weekly power rankings media outlets do for the NHL, and indeed all professional North American sports leagues. Regardless, to not have the Oilers vs. Leafs as the number one potential Stanley Cup Final matchup, just seems wrong on so many different levels.

* Editor's note - Since this post was written, the Islanders have been knocked out of the playoffs by the Hurricanes.

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