The night of April 18, 2015, was one of the most dramatic in recent NHL history.
Hockey fans everywhere gathered around their TVs that evening for the unveiling of a draft lottery that would place the unquestioned No. 1 and 2 picks, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, in two lucky cities.
The assumption at that time was that the winner (Edmonton) and runner-up (Buffalo) would be set up for Stanley Cup contention for the next decade and beyond. That they would essentially be creating a Generation Z version of the Sidney Crosby–Alex Ovechkin rivalry.
Instead, Eichel and McDavid’s teams have combined for one playoff appearance in the past four seasons. Out of a total 656 games played by the Oilers and Sabres, the lucky franchises have won just 256 games (41.4 percent). Both teams have made ill-advised trades, signed players to bad contracts, made coaching and general manager changes along the way and nothing has gotten them over the hump.
Neither club’s shortcomings can be placed at the feet of their generational stars. McDavid is in the midst of his third straight 100-point season and has already set a career high in points this season. In the last three seasons, Eichel has 198 points in 202 games. Edmonton and Buffalo got exactly what they dreamed about — except for the winning part.
So how can the Oilers and Sabres fill in the gaps around their two young superstars to become Cup contenders? Which player’s team is closer? Let’s take a closer look.