The Oilers in the Wake of McDavid’s Injury

What happened to Connor McDavid in Tuesday night’s game against the Flyers was a real punch to the gut. And that’s coming from someone who has doesn’t have anything resembling any ties or allegiances to the Edmonton Oilers franchise. Purely as a fan of hockey, it’s nothing short of regrettable that we’re going to be deprived of seeing and enjoying someone who has instantly become one of the most fun players in the league to watch for at least a couple of months. 

While making ‘Auston Matthews to Edmonton’ jokes is low hanging fruit, I wouldn’t say that it’s all doom and gloom for the Oilers just yet. There’s still undoubtedly legitimate question marks surrounding their ability to keep the puck out of their own net, especially now that it’ll presumably be in their control less frequently without one of their best possession players around. And unless Leon Draisaitl can effectively transition out from his cushy role as the top line’s right winger and into a second reliable pivot for them, the options down the middle beyond Nugent-Hopkins leave a lot to be desired. 

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But that top line is so, so very good and maybe now that the blindingly bright light emanating from McDavid’s presence is temporarily out of the picture, Taylor Hall will get the recognition that his dynamite play warrants. 

Hall’s individual case fascinates me. Obviously coming into the league as the first overall pick in the fabled ‘Taylor vs. Tyler’ class instantly put sky high expectations on him right from the jump. It’s always tough to truly gauge people’s beliefs on things like this, but from my various interactions there appears to be a distinct segment of the population that believes Hall has been something of a disappointment to date. That the team’s continuous struggles and lack of winning since he joined the team reflect poorly on him. After all, shouldn’t a player you’re selecting with that first overall pick completely change the course of his franchise around?

I’ve been personally trying to combat that sort of thought process for some time now. While trying to look for silver linings after news of McDavid’s injury timeline broke the other night, I had this exchange on Twitter which I figured was worth expanding on:

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It certainly makes for a great story, one which I’m not surprised certain people have been trying to weave. The problem is that there doesn’t really appear to be any sort of tangible evidence out there to support these notions. 

The fact of the matter is that Taylor Hall had elevated himself into that super elite tier of left wingers long before McDavid arrived in Edmonton. Look at the list of names he’s associated with in terms of 5v5 scoring since his sophomore season back in ’11:

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For whatever it’s worth, his production wasn’t much different with the man advantage. During that same stretch of time he has been near the top of the league in both point production and shot generation on the power play.

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I think there’s also something to be said for the general offensive burden Hall has been having to shoulder by himself. While Individual Point Percentage (IPP) is a stat that can be misleading in smaller samples, I’m willing to believe a trend which has been snowballing for the ~3,500 minutes of 5v5 time Hall has played means something.

His 86.1% IPP – which in essence means that he has factored into 86.1% of his team’s goals scored while he has been on the ice – is the highest in the league during that time. Without going back and looking into every single one of those goals individually, it feels safe to generalize that Hall’s imprints have been on a large majority of what the Oilers have been able to produce over those four seasons. 

This isn’t to take anything away from McDavid’s initial impact in the league, because it has certainly been significant in its own right. Despite a relatively slow start in his first couple of games, he’s still in the top-20 of NHL scoring for the year and was producing at a point-per-game before getting hurt. His 50.38% score-adjusted possession rate was one of the best on the team, and he had drawn three more penalties than he had taken. He’d also chauffeured Nail Yakupov to the best stretch of his career — of Yakupov’s 10 points this season, only two of them weren’t either finished or assisted by McDavid. I imagine the sailing won’t be as smooth for the likes of Yakupov and fellow linemate Benoit Pouliot without McDavid’s playmaking and speed around to set the table for them. How quickly he was able to adjust and assert himself onto the NHL level is a testament for how high the ceiling is for him moving forward.

It just seems like a stretch to superimpose that impact onto Hall’s early season success. Of the nine points in the 198 or so 5v5 minutes that Hall has produced this season, McDavid has only factored into one of those goals and shared the ice with him for just 22 of those minutes. If anything, it has been the Hall and Nugent-Hopkins – who has somewhat quietly been progressing into that second-from-the-top tier of pivots since sometime last season – combination that has been lighting the world on fire for the Oilers. 

While the idea of McDavid drawing attention away from them is a good one in principle, it has actually been that aforementioned top line that has been routinely going up against the toughest competition the opposition has to offer. In that time all they’ve been doing is controlling nearly 54% of all shot attempts and 64% of all goals

The presence of a legitimate second scoring line surely helped grease the skids and make the Oilers a tougher team to go up against for opponents. The mark of a good team is possessing the ability to come at the opposition in relentless waves, without much let-up. But given the sample size stretching back a couple of years now to supplement what we’ve seen in this young season, I think Taylor Hall will be just fine in the absence of Connor McDavid. Whether the Oilers themselves will be as a team is a whole other question. 

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  • OtOil

    It’s true. Hall has been incredible so far. I have never seen him play at this level for such a sustained period. We have all, understandably, been focusing on McDavid, but Hall is emerging as one of the best players in the league. Makes me want to wear my Hall jersey to the game Friday.

    • paul wodehouse

      Ill be there in my NUGE jersey the quiet strong leader of the oilers that plays very well in both ends of the ice. Halls great but NUGE is true Captain material.

      • The Future Never Comes

        When Gagner left the Oilers became Nuges Team…Management has had K-Lowes fat fingers in the Locker-room dynamics for to many years now.Taylor is not the Captain Leadership type…he is the git er done Leadership type…..never was Captain-Bound and might just not wish to be.

        The Oilers asset tree is bearing fruit this season McDavidsky or not…always was going to so no surprises here.

        Now Mac-L and PC have the heat off of them and they have evidence of what they will need to change to properly support Conner when he returns to hoist the Oilers into the Playoffs.

        IMHO Nuge needs to be treated exactly like Conner was in terms of Nuge leading the charge the exact same way because if we remember Nuge was lighting it up the exact same way when he was injured.Then he returned and decided to hone his defensive skills to support the Hall and Ebbs show ,Nuge put his offensive majic in his backpocket he did not lose it.

        If Mac-L ALLOWS Nuge to be DYNAMIC AND EXPLOSIVE and DEMANDS every player on the ice with him get him the PUCK ASAP AND LOOK TO BE IN SHOOTING POSITION AS SOON AS THEY PASS THE PUCK TO NUGE AND WORK TO GET INTO ONE ASAP LIKE THEY DID FOR CONNER …..Nuge is evey bit as good as Conner but the Oilers have NEVER GIVEN HIM 100% support to cut himself loose offensively.

        If Mac-L recognises this by simply looking at Nuges Rookie year then tracking his evolution into a 2-way player he just might see the wisdom in identifying validating supporting and UNLEASHING THE BEAST in Nuge offensively and WHIPPING HIS HORSES TO KEEP UP TO NUGE who can book enough minutes to be 2x shifted….the Oilers must keep themselves ready to support Conners style now…so simply slipping Nuge into his role dynamiclly EXACTLY as Conner was pushing it is the best option because it will allow the Oiler Team to maintain and evolve the cerebral muscle-memory they already built off of McDavidskys impact.

        IMHO Nuge will light it up now….someone needs to slap Hall in the beanbag and tell him Nugey is better than he is and to stay the Puck in the backseat where he belongs.I want Hall moving pucks always upice but not hogging it as he likes to once he gets it there.I want NUGE bringing 1/2 the possesions upice with speed and smarts not just speed,sorry Taylor it is what it is,I want Nuge pimping you and Ebbs both out, not the way it has been for 3 years now.I want NUGE to be the spear-tip pushing to score himself off the rush AND on the get-backs like he needs to until his protege returns…..thats right protege because Hall is not a 2-way mentor Nuge IS.

        I want Hall hot sweaty and nasty and hitting
        like he has been,forever.Screw the”C” for Hall I want him wearing “W”s on his chest and a smile on his face.

        If Mac-L simply looks at tapes he will see Nuge makes zone transitions much much more effectively using all of his teammates including d-men than Halls speed driven attack does at the NHL level….Nuge is UNDERAPPRECIATED and UNDERRATED because he has ALLOWED Halls speed to overshadow his hockey IQ and his own speed and voluntarily given Hallsy possesions by the bushel.

        If we let Nuge be himself he will toss the Team on his shoulders and get us 2 games over .500 before Conner returns in time for the playoff push.

        Just keep the MINDSET we have built….just insert Nuges offensive impacts full-bore like he has PROVEN HE CAN DO …DEMANDING HE BE GOAL-GREEDY EVERY POSSESION FORCING OPPONENTS TO OVERFOCUS ON HIM THE ENTIRE GAME….ADD dont subtract….and we will pull out of this tail-spin…if you let off of the power now we will crash and burn even if it feels like the right thing to do.We need to CLIMB out of this severe altitude loss,not stall and fall.

        Everyone make Nuge the puck magnet and GET INTO SHOOTING POSITIONS ASAP…bust into shooting spots as SOON AS THE PASS LEAVES YOUR STICK GET YOU HEAD AND FEET MOVING…no looking for easy peripheral or calm real estate to recieve a puck back again,pass to NUGE and GO FOR IT IMMEDIATLY WITH NO DELAYS OR RE-SETS because Nugey will be looking to BURY IT FIRST…and if he cant he will pass it lightening fast so you MUST be in position to score already thinking 100% shot with NO PAUSE.Nuge must be the Spear-Tip looking shot first but having EVERYONE busting to holes ASAP when they have released a pass to him….the trick is the speed created by the confidence you have in NUGE GETTING IT BACK TO YOU TO SCORE YOURSELF which lets you pass and immediatly think shot opportunity instead of stuctural position and defensive positioning ….one man wears the Ring and everyone follows.Because this is how it will be when Conner returns,we know what he is now,we are now building around only Conner.

        If Nuge is used properly like this he will need PROTECTION LIKE CONNER DID….so his is a good time to greenlight Nuge to play the predatory goal hungry catalyst with spooky endurance like Gretzky did which Nugey CAN DO and skid anyone who doesnt support him 100% with their hides…including Matt H. who is a darn nice guy who is tough….but wears the wrong colored white hat to many nights.When they target Nuge KNOWING he is our spear-tip…NUGE MUST BE DEFENDED AS IF HE WERE CONNER IN 12 WEEKS because we want McDavidsky picking up right where he left off…we know what we have now we need to build a cocoon for him…you dont fight and bite to protect the Spear-Tip then get your gear packed and bust a move.

        Nuge and Conner are interchangable 100% and IMHO Nugey is top dog…this is a blessing because it allows us to continue building in the right direction by just letting Nuge do what he has always done best…light opponents up offensively scoring at will and using his beanbag and teammates more than most do to git er done.

        As things stand now evidence shows Conner being manhandled and treated with no respect with little to no response.

        5-6 guys have to go and I want Butfuglin ..or whatever it is…ASAP….and am willing to PAY WITH OUR COMING 1st round DRAFT pick.

        We need a dirty nasty gritty fearsome group to support Conner…and the Core.Most NHL Teams need 1 or 2 of these guys but we need 5-6 because we are overloaded with skill players…no big deal but we DO NEED 5-6 tougher more simply mean players guys who live it not just give it.

        Nuge….2 games over .500 before the Cavalry arrives will do nicely….I want you loose and goal focused using every shot you have and every move you have freely,slapper,wristers,re-directs,bank-shots,one-timers we need to see the entire bag of tricks now Nuge and we havent asked for his in several years….respect Bossy and Gretzky and Anderson and Sellanne and Hull and BE GREEDY show us this dimension of your own game now with 110% clarity,treat every possesion as your own goal in progress,then let things shake out from there.Feed it to them man,look for between the arm and body for the elbow-bone glove side with your shots the chicken-wing Nuge ,everyone is using it now,drive it to the net like Conner was whenever you can ,be a net taker and heart-breaker,feed the trailers but push the river looking shot 1st to speed up the playactions increase urgency and get the support men where you need them.Time it so they are getting your rebound or pass at high speed off your shot/move/pass every time because everyone will be looking to shoot 1st on your back-pass….time everyhing coming in off your own shot 1st thinking actions and pressure.

        Go get em fellas.

      • paul wodehouse

        I also love Nuge. besides, my girlfriend seems to have lock in the Hall jersey. I will wear my McDavid jersey to the game and bring my blank orange one and get it turned into a Nuge one to put on. I also have Eberle and Yak with one more blank orange jersey left. The choices – Nurse, Klefbom or Draisaitl?

        • Canoe Ride 27.1

          Personally Id go Nurse on that jersey rookie year gives you a jersey from a guy with some nasty!

          I got Mcdavid with my blank orange season ticks Nurse will be next lol.

    • Canoe Ride 27.1

      Happy to see PC isn’t part of the trade Hall bunch we have seen on ON. To steal one from Marshawn Lynch, Hall is in beast mode.

      Man I’m excited to have Ebs back. Just disappointed we won’t get see him play to McDavids right for a while.

      Go Oil!

  • Shit bitch cunt fuck

    Taylor has been a real leader and is becoming a great player. He never once was bitter about Conner stealing his thunder he has been nothing short of real class. He bring me out of my seat just watching him and will be the reason the Oilers don’t fade into obscurity during McDavids absence. The haters can go and stew in their jealousy juices.

  • Rebuilding the Rebuild

    Great article. Hall gets so much hate, it’s baffling to me. I don’t understand how people don’t see the things he brings. He’s been dominant so far this season, hope he stays healthy!

  • Danglishish

    I’m inclined to believe that Hall’s production is, in fact, related to McD’s arrival in Edmonton, but for an entirely different reason.

    Recognizing what McDavid produces himself as a player and generates for his teammates in terms of points, I think the full “McDavid effect” is much bigger. He has – in the course of a dozen games – changed the mentality of this team. Other guys now believe they can win and want to be a part of something special. Hall, Yak, Pou, they all look so much more hungry than in previous years.

    McDavid is a special player, and as we keep reading from his teammates, coaches and family, an even more special human being. As Hendy said the other day “you just want to follow this kid because he is such a natural leader.” Crazy as it sounds, I think it’s safe to say that we all underestimated what this human being brings to the Oil. He truly is the McSaviour… I still pinch myself because I cannot believe how lucky we are to have him.

    • Rebuilding the Rebuild

      I totally agree with this and I would add that TMac and PC have also contributed to this new attitude the Oiler’s seem to have.

      I think the largest factor is MacDavid. I think the Oiler’s have the ability to compete. I just hope they can maintain the attitude over the next two or three months.

  • OtOil

    I live in BC, work at the local hospital. I went into work today and one of the guys came up to me and said “I am SO sorry about your boy, you must be devastated.” I felt sick, I thought perhaps my son was in ER, But no, when I asked what was going on he said “Connor” and that everyone was watching the game and thought of me. How about that, Vancouver Island, Canucks fans, but they all watched Connor and knew how much I love the Oilers. It was quite special. Speedy recovery Connor from here in Campbell River.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    I find it interesting that so many have taken CM injury as a pre-excuse for the Oilers to suck……..the narrative is false.

    The Oilers will be fine without CM for a while, and really rock when he comes back. I suspect that Hall, Eberle, and RNH are finding this media coverage a littl over the top………and I hope that they play with a chip on their shoulder.

    It’s all good !