Connor McDavid

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Connor McDavid shrugged when asked about winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It wasn’t the trophy he was looking to win.

The Edmonton Oilers captain’s voice quivered after a devastating 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final here at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday.

“Obviously, it’s an honor with the names on that trophy,” McDavid said.

Despite not registering a point in the last two games of the Final, McDavid was the obvious choice for the Conn Smythe. He received 16 of the 17 first-place votes to became the sixth player on the losing team to win it, and the first skater since Reggie Leach with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976 despite being swept by the Montreal Canadiens.

Goalies Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (2003), Ron Hextall of the Flyers (1987), Glenn Hall of the St. Louis Blues (1968) and Roger Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings (1966) were also awarded the Conn Smythe after losing in the Final.

“I don’t think he cares,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said. “It speaks to how amazing of a hockey player he is. There is no player in the world that wants to win a Stanley Cup more than him, and he does everything right every single day just to win it one day. It’s hard, especially him being sad and being disappointed.”

McDavid had a chance to cement his legacy as one of the best players in the history of the NHL with a win in Game 7. He gave everything but could not get Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov off his hip all night, and when he did create chances, he didn’t get the puck to bounce his way.

“You have to do that (defend him) with five guys on the ice, you can’t do it one against one,” Barkov said. “He’s probably the most talented hockey player I’ve seen in my life. I never skated against [Wayne] Gretzky, but I imagine he is something similar, for sure.”

McDavid had 132 points (32 goals, 100 assists) in 76 games during the regular season. He paced Edmonton to playoff wins against the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars in the first three rounds.

When the Oilers fell behind 3-0 in the Final against the Panthers, McDavid helped them rally with four points in Game 4 (one goal, three assists) and another four in Game 5 (two goals, two assists).

“We all see it, he’s the biggest reason we’re here,” Edmonton defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “He is our leader, he’s leading out there by example every night. He wants this to work for us and he shows it every night. I mean, there's really nothing you can say. It’s just all positive.”

McDavid's historic playoffs earns him the Conn Smyte Trophy

The Oilers survived five elimination games in the playoffs to get to Game 7 in the Cup Final, two against Vancouver and three against Florida, but were not able to get past the last one.

“We knew it was going to be tight, Game 7 for the Cup,” McDavid said. “We knew it was going to be a real tight game and it was going to come down to one thing here or there. We’re an inch away from going ahead 2-1 before they go ahead 2-1. It’s tough. They do a good job of shutting things down and we had our looks. We just didn’t find it.”

McDavid finished the playoffs with 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in 25 games. Only Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had more in one postseason.

Gretzky had 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 18 games with Edmonton in 1985, and Lemieux had 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 23 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. Gretzky also had 43 points (12 goals, 31 assists) in 19 games for the Oilers in 1988. All ended with a Stanley Cup championship.

“He’s the greatest player to ever play in my books,” Draisaitl said. “There are so many things that people don’t see that he does. He single-handedly turned our franchise around, pretty much. I just love sharing the ice with him and he’s a really, really special person.”

The Conn Smythe is the latest individual trophy won by McDavid, who also has won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP three times (2017, 2021, 2023), the Ted Lindsay Award as the League’s most outstanding player as voted on by his peers four times (2017, 2018, 2021, 2023), the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the regular season five times (2017, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023), and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as leading goal-scorer once (2023).

The only trophy still eluding him is the one the Panthers were parading around the ice Monday.

“You think about the year that Connor had, 100 assists, leading our team, the performance he had in this playoffs, especially in this final round when we were down 3-0 and he comes out with eight points in two games,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Throughout the year he’s our best player and he wanted to win it for the team, and we wanted to do it for him, the captain of our team. I can’t say enough things about what he provides, the leadership and what he does on the ice.”

McDavid had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in the Final but was kept off the score sheet in the last two games. He had two shots on goal in Game 7 and came within inches of tying the game on a tip that went over the net in the third period. He also come close on a rebound in front but was unable to get a shot off.

“We never stopped believing,” McDavid said. “We really believed we were going to get one. I have that one in front, Zach [Hyman] has a whack at it, ‘Bouch’ [Evan Bouchard] has got all kinds of looks. We had a lots of looks, it just didn’t go.”

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