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.
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?
“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
- 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.