On the face of it, the 2018 Stanley Cup Final seems implausible.
The misfit Vegas Golden Knights are hoping to make hay in their maiden season, while the Washington Capitals are hoping to set the legacy of one Alex Ovechkin. Both teams bear the thumbprints of George McPhee, the current general manager of the Golden Knights and former general manager of the Capitals.
McPhee joined Washington in 1997 and immediately engineered the team’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. They were swept by Detroit, but the writing was on the wall and the Capitals were turning around under new leadership. McPhee’s team won seven divisional titles and packed on eight seasons in which they won 40 or more games. They even posted 121 points in 2009-2010, a franchise record.
McPhee and Washington owner Ted Leonsis were behind the profound “fire sale” that saw the Capitals dump Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar, Steve Konowalchuk, and other stalwarts before turning the tide and picking Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
By 2014, McPhee was fired from the Capitals. He was hired by the New York Islanders as an alternate governor, vice president and special adviser in September of 2015.
In July of 2016, Bill Foley lured McPhee away from the Islanders and to his Golden Knights. And the rest, as they say, is history.
McPhee is a finalist for NHL General Manager of the Year thanks to his work in Vegas. He built the team immaculately, starting with an ace goaltender who became the face of the franchise.
And now, McPhee’s Golden Knights will face a club forged in McPhee’s image, with Ovechkin’s Capitals looking for what they feel they’ve been owed all these years.
It’s hard to argue against the plot of Ovie’s redemption.
After all, he’s stomached the brunt of flaring condemnation for his club’s failure to close the deal and he keeps coming back for more. Imagine the feeling he’ll get from lightening the load. He just needs four wins to get it done.
Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has something to say about it, however. He has three championships, but redemption is on his mind as well and he wants to show those crummy Pittsburgh Penguins that they made a horrible mistake. Fleury joined the Penguins in 2003-2004 and was drafted first overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, a year before Ovechkin was picked up by the Caps.
“Flower,” like Ovie, has faced more than his fair share of blame. He was the stooge in Pittsburgh from 2010 to 2013 and Matt Murray all but stole his job. Since then, he’s stood on his head in Vegas and won’t stop smiling.
Stories abound in the Stanley Cup Final and there will be no shortage of drama as these two teams tangle. The first episode airs Monday and we’ll have more coverage along the way.