Either the Vegas Golden Knights or Winnipeg Jets will advance to represent the Western Conference at the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams are making their first-ever appearances in the conference final, as the expansion Golden Knights have done the unthinkable and the Jets are Cup contenders seven years into the team’s existence.
Vegas has made headlines for the obvious and historical reasons, while Winnipeg has won over many NHL fans’ hearts with its awe-inspiring whiteout themed crowd and exciting brand of hockey at the Bell MTS Place. With the conference final tied at 1-1 between the two appealing teams, a fair question can be brought up.
What would be a better situation for the NHL?
Having the Vegas Golden Knights or Winnipeg Jets win the Stanley Cup in 2018?
As deemed by Las Vegas forward William Karlsson, the Vegas Golden Misfits are accomplishing something that no other future expansion franchise will more than likely achieve. Cliche, but Vegas continues to defy the odds and will have only lost three playoff games entering a pivotal Game 3 (Wednesday 9:00 p.m. ET).
The last four NHL expansion franchises came nowhere close to making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their first year of existence (2000 – Columbus Blue Jackets & Minnesota Wild; 1999 – Atlanta Thrashers; 1998 – Nashville Predators). In fact, the Knights have already advanced farther in the playoffs than Columbus ever has.
But, is an expansion franchise winning the Stanley Cup in ‘year one’ the better image for the NHL?
Sure, it’s a Cinderella story that would gain plenty of publicity for the NHL and attract all sports fans across the globe. Though, what Vegas has already accomplished can be considered great for hockey as it is.
The Knights have opened up new doorways for other cities and markets across North America that are seeking any type of professional sports teams, while creating hope that a winning product can happen sooner rather than later for potential franchises. No, no one will ever be the Knights again; but the chances are wherever that next expansion team lands (Most Likely Seattle) it won’t pan out to be the Thrashers, either.
The current Winnipeg Jets were once the Atlanta Thrashers (1999-2011).
Who? Yes, the NHL had a team that played in Atlanta.
Atlanta was the lone team from the NHL’s 1997 expansion class that ended up folding and much earlier than anticipated. The Thrashers made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and only to be swept in the First Round (2007).
The former Thrashers organization now finds themselves labeled as Canada’s Team and are the hope to bring a Stanley Cup back North of the Border for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won it back in 1993. Keep in mind that only four other Canadian based teams have made it to the Cup Final since Montreal did (Vancouver in 1994 & 2011; Calgary in 2004, Edmonton in 2006 & Ottawa in 2007).
The Jets have been exciting to watch over the past few seasons, and finally have things firing on all cylinders. The club has come a long way since it not only relocated to Winnipeg back in 2011, but since its painful days in Atlanta.
Now, one of the league’s former expansion franchises that couldn’t last has the chance to knock off the most storied expansion team and eventually hoist Lord Stanley in June. The Jets have paid their dues and have admirably built a team the way it should be done in today’s game (through the draft and over time).
A Winnipeg Stanley Cup would be better for NHL than Vegas doing so in year one.
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