Why Oilers-Avalanche is exactly what the NHL needed

You had to notice the social sell.

Branded like a proper heavyweight title fight — and not a third-round series in a sport that romanticizes the concept of team and rarely focuses on the individual — the Western Conference Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche was presented as McDAVID vs. MacKINNON on the NHL’s online platforms over the weekend.

All that was missing was DRAISAITL vs. MAKAR in smaller font below in an effort to highlight a featured showcase worth tuning in for on the undercard.

To steal from a sport built exclusively on the selling power of certain individuals who can make the masses pay attention says everything about the opportunity that has fallen in the NHL’s lap ahead of a third round of what has been an exceptional and unbelievably entertaining Stanley Cup Playoffs to this point.

This is often the time momentum begins to sag, as the start of summer unconsciously reminds fans to disengage, especially as the active markets dwindle.

But this season, the conference final — or more specifically a matchup between two of the most aesthetically pleasing and entertaining teams in the league — could instead be can’t-miss, making it the most exhilarating round to date.

That’s because for the first time in forever in the NHL, the superstars have taken back control.

Which is exactly what the league needed.

One of the main issues for the NHL in building and selling its sport is that what tends to win at this time of the year are not the things that made fans fall in love with the sport in the first place.

Instead of superstars, it’s scheme and structure.

Author: Lucy Green