ANTICIPATION

HallMcDavid

It’s not surprising that during the slowest part of the NHL off-season a couple of speed demons hogged the headlines Monday as Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers took a twirl together at the BioSteel Pro Hockey Camp in Toronto.

With training camps still several weeks off, the pairing certainly grabbed the attention of Oiler fans, much like the buzz McDavid created when he scored five goals in a prospect rookie scrimmage in Edmonton earlier this summer. That was the first look at McDavid. Monday was the first look at McDavid and Hall – along with defenceman Darnell Nurse – together.

Oiler fans have been unwilling passengers in the backseat of a smoking, rattling clunker of a hockey team for years, nine to be precise. It’s been a bumpy ride down a rutty road of frustration, ineptitude and defeat that’s seen them end up upside down and on fire in the ditch year after year after year. 

Now, with the 2015-16 season on the horizon, the Oilers have the hockey equivalent of a Ferrari and a Lamborghini sitting side-by-side in the garage. It’s a tandem that might take them from zero-to-contention in the blink of an eye, and fans can’t wait to see what that joy ride might look like after years of being laughed off the road. 

No speed limit.

MUTUAL ADMIRATION

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Speed was the word of the day Monday as Hall and McDavid talked glowingly about each other and fans talked about the possibility they might end up playing side-by-side as linemates when coach Todd McLellan finally kicks open the garage door and turns them loose.

“He seems to glide faster than most guys skate full out,” Hall said. “He’s going to be playing against bigger, stronger guys, but when you have the speed like he does, that will be his meal ticket . . .”

McDavid responded in kind: “It was cool to get a sense for how fast (Hall) was,” McDavid said. “You see it on TV, but it’s a whole different story watching it live” . . . “we’re both fast and that’s something we could certainly use to our advantage, push the pace and all that.”

We don’t know yet what McLellan has on the white board in his office – if he intends to split up Jordan Eberle and Hall and play Hall with McDavid on a second line sheltered by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the first-line centre. It might be a match on paper, but on the ice?

TEST DRIVE

TestDrive

“Being with any good player, it takes a little time to get chemistry and stuff,” said Hall. “But the one thing in Edmonton is we’ve always had forward depth, especially our top six. Whoever I’m playing with, Connor, Nuge or Jordan, they are going to be special players.”

Yes, “chemistry and stuff” matters. Speed alone, as tantalizing as it is, doesn’t necessarily make a match. What seems certain is McLellan will take a look at McDavid and Hall together. If there’s something there, he’ll move in whoever best rounds out the top six. 

Hall and McDavid have the potential to form as dynamic a duo as the Oilers have had in a long, long time. It’s a combination that could have opposition defenceman in cold sweats as they back-peddle like madmen trying to avoid getting turnstiled like Scott Ferguson with his skates on the wrong feet.

I want to see how it looks.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Megaphone

  • Daniel Briere closed the book on a 17-year career when he announced his retirement on Monday. Briere was a terrific player, amassing 696 points in 973 regular-season games. He added 116 points in 124 playoff games. For all those highlights, I still remember Briere for his bantamweight scrap with Mike Comrie in Phoenix. It’s here.

  • Patrick Ewing was winding down his NBA career with the Orlando Magic and the team was staying at the same hotel as the Oilers in Scottsdale. Ewing had been at the game at America West Arena and he bumped into Comrie and the Oiler entourage the next morning as we were checking out. There was Ewing, a seven-footer, looking down at a five-foot-something Comrie and telling him he wouldn’t mess with him because he was a tough little so-and-so. A blushing Comrie took a lot of razz that day.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Connor M needs to be protected. He is 18 and no man muscle-he is still a boy, talented, but a boy nevertheless. Opposing D-men are going to run him to slow him down and make him think twice about his speed in the neutral zone. Also, he is inexperienced at this level. Is Yak the best choice for winger? I would make sure his linemates are the best combination to make him successful. Hall – yes, Yak – maybe not. Certainly, RNH has to be the top line to take top line D off of CM.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      At 18 your officially an adult here in Canada . At 18 your muscles are in balance with your flexibility for most athletes . More power comes a little bit later , but you lose some flexibility when that occurs generally. Experience helps to mask it to some degree . At 18 the testosterone levels are very high as well , aiding player to reach higher levels . Use to have fun with buddies reminiscing over the Young ones have more skill and flexibility , but we have more stagnant power that comes with aging and loss of agility . You try to run them usually results in missing target and get made to look bad , unless you can blind side them . Just like a boxer , many of the kids can take a lick or hit , but just keep on ticking . McDavid appears to have the size , skill , speed , character and intestinal fortitude to handle the physical game at NHL level and still excel . Perhaps you feel otherwise , where I do not .

  • TKB2677

    I personally would keep Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle together. They played extremely well together last year and they could play the tougher minutes against teams bigger lines.

    I think Hall and McDavid are an obvious combination. With their speed, they could play off one another and be extremely dangerous. I know there is some appeal to putting Yak on the right side but I would avoid that at all cost. Yak is too much of a defensive liability and is probably less defensively aware than McDavid and you don’t want to put him on the right side with a rookie. Plus based on what Roy said, Yak is extremely hard to play with as he doesn’t go to the right spots and is all over the place. The last thing you need to give a rookie is an unpredictable winger.

    I would actually put a guy like Purcell on the right side. He’s played with high end players before and had a lot of success (Stamkos). More importantly, he’s a vet, he knows the NHL game, he’s a smart player, he knows where to go and what to do in situations. He may not be a defensive wizard but he knows how to play defense and knows what to do in his own zone. Even though he doesn’t use it, he’s a bigger body which would help. Plus he’s got good offensive instincts, good hands and is a good passer. You want to get the puck to speedsters like Hall and McDavid quickly and in stride. He can do that. You get Hall and McDavid using their speed to penetrate the zone, back up the defense and a guy like Purcell to cruise in to pick up the garbage.

    I have said all along, I don’t know where Yakupov fits on this team. This isn’t me coming down on him, I just look at the make up of the team and I don’t see a fit given all they have. In my opinion, Yak needs to be a top 6 forward but I think it comes down to choosing between Eberle and Yak. In my opinion, you would have a pure offensive player like Eberle or Yak as one of your RW’s and then a different type of RW on your other line that does the things they don’t do. As in a bigger, stronger, more physical, more edge, slightly better all around game. Gives your lines balance and make it so you have a different look from one line to the next on that side rather than have 2 similar. If you look at Hall and Pouliot on the left side, they have that. Hall is the pure offensive attacking guy. Pouliot is the more all around guy that plays a more edgy game. SO personally I would like to see that also for the right side in the top 6.

    Personally I would choose Eberle because you know what you have in Eberle. He’s a lock for close to 30 goals and 60+ points a year. Plus he is way more cerebral than Yak, it’s pretty obvious and though Eberle will never be a defensive wizard, he is and will always be better than Yak in his own zone. I think Yak will be a harder working Semin type. I don’t think Yak has as much offensive flare as Semin but I think Yak will always be a pure offensive guy where if he isn’t scoring, he’s not helping you anywhere else. I don’t see him as being as much of a train wreck as Semin in his own zone because I think Yak tries harder but there will always be that balance of is Yak scoring more than he is giving up. I also see the extreme highs and lows with Yak in scoring like Semin. He might break out and score 35 one year and then dip down for a few years and score 20. Where as Eberle will always score you high 20’s year after year.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I have been thinking this for a long time…and yes, it is somewhat nit-picking, but get ready to trash;

    I don’t think McDavid will be much of a goalscorer. At least early in his career. He will get his fair share of points because of his rediculous speed and vision.

    However, have you ever noticed how he almost never shoots the puck to score?? Most of his goals are just driving junior defenseman wide and sliding the puck past a goalie along the ice. That will not fly in the NHL. The defenseman will be pushing him wide of the net, and IF he gets past them, the huge butterfly tenders will have the bottom half shutdown.

    The players in the NHL that are scorers (ie, Stamkos, Ovie, and my 2010 #1 overrall pick Tyler Seguin) are shooters. Almost never can a player pull 5 dekes on a goalie and slide in along the ice in an NHL game.

    I think he’s smart enough to learn that he will have to shoot the puck more in the NHL, but that will take time. Just my opinion, but besides listening to all the hoopla, what have you seen that would make you think differently?? He wasn’t close to being the best forward on Team Canada at the World Juniors… Petan, Reinhart and Domi all looked better to my eye. He is a talent, no doubt, but I think many people have drank too much McHype juice and will be slightly disappointed come regular season.

    PS- a 5 goal game in a 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 scrimmage did not help with the Hype-factory. That was not real hockey folks. The Nuge will show him the way!!

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      I would agree, I see him as more of a playmaker, who can thread a pass like no other. I’m hoping Yak becomes his triggerman. Yak’s always getting into weird shooting lanes, maybe McDavid is the player to finally start getting him the puck.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      I won’t trash your reply. I totally respect your points of view, even though I disagree with a lot of them. Plus it was a great read.

      Here’s my take:

      I do think he will be a goal-scorer first year. He’ll have more assists of course, but I think he’ll definitely finish in the top 30 in goals per game.

      I think the goalies won’t be able to shut him down along the ice because he’s talented enough to go shelf on them even from in tight if they do. This forces goalies to have to try to play him honestly. His dekes are world class already though and NHL goalies will be at his mercy, even this year.

      And because he is an equal-opportunity threat to score and passer, the other team will need to cover his passes and he probably will pass a little more to start the year. With how lethal it is if they don’t cover the pass this will leave him open to score. Contrary to some elite passers though, he is wise enough to shoot (or deke) himself every bit as often as he will pass it off. He knows that the more he shoots the better chance it will open up the pass for another time, and vice-versa. (I think Doug Weight described that best) I saw that time and time again with Connor MacDavid. He consistently gives the man with the best opportunity the chance to score whether that is himself, or another teammate. It makes no difference to him, only scoring period…and that makes me think he will score early and often, after any initial jitters are out of the way anyway.

      You mentioned his World Junior performance and I agree with you – to a point. I was disappointed too for his first few games. But I knew I had to factor in the fact that he hadn’t played in nearly two months with a broken hand. I just hoped he would get better, because if it was indeed rust it would. And it did. His play improved so much that while at the beginning I would agree that those players were better, by the final two games he was brilliant, and that last game he just dominated! To me that proves that it was the injury, and the rest of his year – taking his team to the OHL finals when they weren’t supposed to be there only cemented it.

      One thing I agree with though: The Nuge rocks, and he will be great as a 1-2 punch with MacDavid. It’s not a competition, they’re teammates, and they’re both great in my eyes!

      Hope you don’t mind hearing my opinion – I just found your post interesting and wanted to chime in myself on it! 🙂