Ever since Wayne Gretzky lived up to his junior hockey hype, scouts and NHL pundits have been trying to predict each successive “Next One”. That phrase wasn’t coined when Mario Lemieux came on the scene, but if it was it would have been likely to have been pinned on him, too.
With Gretzky being the “Great One”, who were these next ones? Well in order, I heard much hype over the aforementioned Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Sydney Crosby and (still in junior hockey) Connor McDavid.
Only Eric Lindros and Connor McDavid didn’t lead their NHL team to the Stanley Cup. Obviously Connor McDavid hasn’t had the chance yet and Eric Lindros appears to be the only failure amongst the “Next Ones”.
I’m not quite sure what went wrong with Lindros in his early years. Maybe it was grandstanding parents. Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers simply had to get rid of too many quality players for him. He didn’t win a Stanley Cup in his early days and the successive concussions he suffered mid and late career prevented him from getting any Stanley Cups. Of all the next ones, Lindros was the lone dud.
May I now posit that Lindros was a dud simply because he didn’t go to Pittsburgh or Edmonton.
The Great One played for Edmonton in his young prime and won 4 out of 5 cups in a row. Mario Lemieux played for Pittsburgh and collected two Stanley cups in a row. Sydney Crosby has won the Stanley Cup Once with Pittsburgh and him and his team are still competitive to this day.
Now someone I know has said that the Edmonton Oilers are currently where good players go to die. If they opt for Connor McDavid this time around, I don’t think their unlucky streak needs to continue. Perhaps he can reach his full potential there and maybe those other highly sought draft picks will help round out the team.
As history has shown, Edmonton, like Pittsburgh is likely to make the most of its Next Ones. And getting a Next One is so statistically unlikely that I have to wonder how Edmonton and Pittsburgh have both rated two of them.
Perhaps they made a pact with the devil. Perhaps they are like those lottery winners who “stupidly” keep playing only to win again. Maybe these two teams have the dirt on all the other teams in the NHL so they wind up with what they want. Perhaps the 1st draft pick lottery just isn’t that fair.
Whatever it is, Pittburgh and Edmonton have beaten the odds and gotten two Great Ones apiece. So maybe they will beat the odds and win more Stanley Cups this decade with those great ones.