Connor McDavid alongside Sidney Crosby. Auston Matthews as leader of a young American club. Alexander Ovechkin and the Russians trying to finally go all the way. So many dream scenarios that must be forgotten, in the absence of the NHL players at the Olympic Games.
The league remained behind the 2018 Olympics for financial reasons and because of the vacuum created in the regular season schedule.
This week, the circuit also said no to the 2022 Games following the increase in COVID-19 cases, which has led to the postponement of many games.
When the 2026 Olympiad arrives, McDavid will be 29, Matthews 28. Crosby and Ovechkin could be retired at 38 and 40.
We have not seen the cream of the crop compete internationally since 2016, at the World Cup.
Here are some lost scenarios, coming from the fact that the NHL players were not in Pyeongchang and will not go to Beijing.
McDavid and Crosby didn’t play together for Canada until 2015, at the World Championship.
Crosby achieved the famous victorious goal against the United States at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver; four years later he was the captain when the maple leaf triumphed in Sochi.
McDavid has won the Art Ross Trophy three times and the Hart twice.
They were to be featured in both South Korea and China.
Would they have been on the same trio? And one can only imagine a power play with Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar as well.
Matthews led the league with 41 goals last season; he was to be the leader of a very strong American team in Beijing.
He and Patrick Kane could have done damage in 2018.
In the upcoming Games, Matthews could have joined other young impact players like Kyle Connor, Brady Tkachuk, Alex DeBrincat, Adam Fox and Charlie McAvoy.
The United States hasn’t won Olympic gold since the 1980 Ice Miracle in Lake Placid. They won the silver in 2002 and 2010, losing to Canada each time.
The Russians prevailed in 2018, betting on KHL players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Their National League stars, however, have not reached the podium since a silver medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2002.
At home, in 2014, they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Finland.
In China, they could normally have relied on goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, in addition to strikers such as Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin, Kirill Kaprizov and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Crosby, Ovechkin and others had Olympic opportunities. For players like McDavid and Matthews, there is still room to maneuver. For others, it might be too late.
Steven Stamkos was not selected for the 2010 Olympics, then he broke his leg before the Sochi Games.
Victor Hedman, winner of the Norris in 2018, was not chosen in 2014.
Brad Marchand, so productive in the National League, has so far been content to have taken part in the 2016 World Cup.
John Tavares was at the 2014 Games but injured his knee there.
Stamkos, Hedman and Tavares are 31, two younger than Marchand.
In all these cases, it is not known whether there will be a new opportunity.