I expected Edmonton Oilers’ GM Pete Chiarelli to intentionally set the bar low for Connor McDavid’s rookie season when he sat down with TSN’s Bob McKenzie in Penticton Saturday because, really, that’s the smart thing for him to do. He most certainly obliged.
“I don’t want to put any numbers on him,” Chiarelli offered when McKenzie asked him about realistic expectations for McDavid as a rookie. “Let’s say 20 and 40. To me, that would be really good.”
My first reaction was that Chiarelli was being a touch conservative, but 60 points isn’t far off where I have already pegged McDavid — .89 PPG while playing 78 of 82 games for a total of 69 points.
That’s not what Chiarelli meant. “A good season for Connor McDavid would be 20 goals and 60 points,” McKenzie followed. Well, no. “Twenty goals and 40 points,” Chiarelli interjected, adding, “That’s under-promising, isn’t it? Yeah, I might take the over on that one.”
WHAT PETE SAID
You and me both. A 40-point season for McDavid would be monumentally disappointing. You know it. I know it. Chiarelli knows it. Fact is, there’s no way Chiarelli was going to attach a big number to McDavid. That’s better left to fans and media, who love to prognosticate. Chiarelli touched on that.
“With Connor, obviously he’s a special talent,” Chiarelli said. “There’s going to be ups and downs in the year and I’ve heard some kind of ridiculous statements about him.
“Maybe in five years you look back and those statements aren’t ridiculous, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him and you want to make sure that he’s in the proper development forum, so you may hear me under-promising. It just takes some pressure off of Connor and everybody.
“At the end of the day, we all want to win. He’s a special talent, so . . . he’s going to be with us for a while and producing. It’s just I want to make sure he gets the proper first few steps.” As a follow-up, McKenzie asked Chiarelli what he meant by “ridiculous.”
“Maybe ridiculous is the wrong adjective,” Chiarelli said. “I’ve heard some of these numbers that guys say he’s going to get. I’ve heard some guys talk about, some pundits and other people talk about, ‘He’s the next this. He’s the next that.’ Ridiculous is the wrong adjective. I just want to put it in proper perspective.
“He’s an 18-year-old kid, a young man. It’s a heavy league and you saw the game the other night. I mean, it’s a heavy league and those are rookies playing, so there’s going to be a lot of learning and adjusting along the way. Obviously, he’s a special talent and he’s going to do it more quickly than others, but there’s going to be learning.”
Like I said, for me the happy middle ground between the safety blanket Chiarelli wrapped McDavid in with his 40-point forecast Saturday and the pie-in-the-sky projections we’ve heard and read about McDavid getting 100 points and winning a scoring title is that .89 PPG.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Fans pumped about Darnell Nurse making a bid for a roster spot on the blue line have to be jacked after watching him take apart Rasmus Andersson when the Calgary rookie got in his face and stayed there in Penticton Saturday. It’s one fight, and in a rookie game, but Nurse showed the nasty edge that’s going to be part of his considerable repertoire as an NHLer.
- It looks so far like Leon Draisaitl is picking up where he left off after having a terrific WHL and Memorial Cup playoff with the Kelowna Rockets. Draisaitl will have to be convincing, as everybody knows, to make the roster to start the season. He was Saturday — his set-up pass to Braden Christoffer in the low slot was silky smooth and his game-winner on a penalty shot was money.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.