Cote: Connor McDavid is overrated & other thoughts, picks for Panthers-Oilers Stanley Cup & NBA Finals

The hockey and basketball playoffs are on a welcome pause until later in the week -- time to anticipate and appreciate. Or, more likely, time to bemoan why your own favorite team disappointed you yet again.

Also, time for me to tell you why the Florida Panthers will lift the Stanley Cup for the first time and why Miami has a hating interest in these NBA Finals.

Here are our thoughts on both championship rounds, starting on the ice, where the Edmonton Oilers visit Sunrise for Game 1 on Saturday.

1. Connor McDavid is overrated. Boom. He puts up big, impressive stats, yes. Fine. But should he really be called “generational,” called the best player in the sport, when in nine seasons he has yet to lead his team to a Stanley Cup?

Edmonton truly had one of those players, once. His name was Wayne Gretzky. He’s why the Oilers bunched five Stanley Cup wins in 1984-90. McDavid? No Gretzky. He has the requisite nicknames -- McJesus, The Chosen One -- but he has not proved beyond-stats transcendant, able to lift a franchise to ultimate heights. McOverrated.

2. America at large and TV networks in particular probably hate this matchup. All they see is an Edmonton franchise that hasn’t won anything in 34 years and a Florida club that has never on it all in its 30 season. Tough luck, folks! Wallow in your jealousy. There’s always the Food Network or re-runs of Matlock.

3. Panthers fans planning to travel northwest into the province of Alberta for road games this series will earn a special kind of fandom medal. It’s a bleepin’ 8-hour flight! Barely takes longer to fly from Miami or Fort Lauderdale to London. [Side note: Had a family friend named Alberta. She lived to be 102. We spread her ashes at sea in the middle Florida Keys. Where was I?)

4. Stay out of the box, Cats! Penalties and special teams may well steer a Final that could be won or lost two minutes at a time. Edmonton’s power play this postseason has been an excellent 37.3 percent (versus Florida’s 23.3). And while the Cats’ penalty kill has been really good (88.2), The Oilers’ has been even better at 93.9.

5. Edmonton is known for offense (fourth in regular season goals) and Florida for defense (second-fewest allowed) -- and those trends have been reflected in the playoffs. But I like the Panthers’ offense better than I like the Oilers’ defense. Small sample, but Florida had plenty of O in winning both regular season meetings, 5-3 and 5-1. Key for the Cats? A reappearance for Carter Verhaeghe, who sort of disappeared in the last round.

6. The Panthers have a vast experience edge at two positions where that matters. They have the best goaltender in this Final in Sergei Bobrovsky, who won his first Vezina Trophy when Stuart Skinner was still trying to climb out of the minors. Likewise Paul Maurice is the vastly more adroit coach in this series, with Kris Knoblauch in his first year in charge.

7. Edmonton’s Big 3 is McDavid, Leon Draisdaitl and Zach Hyman. I’ll take Florida’s: Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk and Bob. By the way, the Panthers’ big fourth, Sam Reinahrt, led everybody in this Final with 57 regular season goals. What you got, Oilers!?

8. Not for nothing is Florida the series betting favorite at -125. Our pick: Panthers in 6.

The Boston Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Sunday, June 9, 2024.
The Boston Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Sunday, June 9, 2024.

Onto the hardwood and our thoughts on Dallas Mavericks-Boston Celtics commencing with Game 1 at The Garden Thursday night.

1. South Florida hoops fans are extremely unlikely to get their wish that both teams lose.

When last the Miami Heat met Dallas in the Finals the Mavs won and owner Mark Cuban celebrated by carrying the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy with him as he urinated at LIV, a Miami nightspot. Larry could not have been very happy. The upside: At least Cuban was in a restroom at the time, not on a dance floor.

Miami hates Boston even more. Long before the Celtics bounced the Heat fast from this year’s playoffs, winning its four games by a combined 88 points, we hated all things Boston and its entitled fans. Nothing warms Miami’s heart more than seeing the Celtics and their fans lose, with the possible exception of seeing the Knicks and their fans lose.

2. Does America really have a rooting interest in these Finals?

Boston has won 17 NBA titles. Rooting for this franchise is like hoping Elon Musk hits the Powerball. Dallas has won only once (that 2011 win over Miami), but rooting for the Mavericks means cheering for Kyrie Irving. Seriously. C’mon now.

3. Boston is clearly better. Fourteen more wins during season including wins over Mavs by 19 and 28 points; 12-2 in playoffs, now nine days rest to get Kristaps Pozingis healthy. Greatest 3-point shooting on Earth, and most efficient offseason in NBA history by some metrics. And Dallas star Luka Doncic isn’t 100 percent (right knee) and a downturn in postseason numbers has reflected that.

4. Why might Dallas win? A) Defensive tweaks have made Mavs really good at that end. B) Jayson Tatum and this iteration of the Celtics are most known for not winning and will be until they finally raise The Larry.

5. Boston is justifiably the series pick going in at -220. I get it. Our pick: Celtics in 7. (Sorry, Heat fans).