THAT KICK IN THE ASS

McDavidWalk

Connor McDavid is all of 14 games into his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers and I can’t think of another player wearing the silks of this franchise who has been this good this young and electrified an entire fan base the way McDavid already has since, well, you know . . . 

I didn’t know what to expect from McDavid when he returned to the line-up after 13 weeks out of action with a busted collarbone against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place last night, but I damn sure didn’t expect that he’d score a goal that would have fans high-fiving all the way to the parking lot and add two assists in a 5-1 win.

After 37 games on the shelf, McDavid’s very presence had the building alive in a way it hadn’t been since he went out, and when he grabbed the puck at centre ice and waltzed through three Columbus defenders before tucking the rubber behind Joonas Korpisalo to make it 2-1, he provided the kind of jolt to the senses you just don’t forget. It was an absolute kick in the ass.

Even the most gifted sets of mitts in the NHL, let alone those belonging to a 19-year-old, aren’t supposed to work like that, producing a goal destined to make the Top-10 highlight reel at every media outlet in the country for 2015-16 after gathering rust for three months. I think “filthy” is the word kids use these days. Old farts like me just say, “Wow,” which I did. That doesn’t happen very often.

It’s no wonder, then, given the misery and ineptitude fans around here have endured for a decade since the last Stanley Cup run in 2006, that they are talking about McDavid taking a run at the Calder Trophy despite missing almost half a season. I chimed in on that last night.


WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT


What makes McDavid special from where I sit is his ability to produce moments like he did on that 2-1 goal. It’s not just the skill it takes to do it but the circumstances involved. It’s the flare for the dramatic, the lightning bolt out of the blue that yanks you out of your seat like you’ve got a booster rocket up your backside.

Rare moments like that used to turn heads in the press box, where cheering isn’t allowed, and set the tongues of seasoned and jaded hockey scribblers wagging and their pounding the keyboard. These days, it sets Twitter alight, as is did last night. As for fans, well that’s another level completely. Framed in years of failure, it’s long overdue.

It’s that kick in the ass I talk about that first got me into sports writing, even if the expectation was you’d leave fandom behind and mute any reaction to what you saw. Even now, years removed from the grind of the beat at the dailies and watching at arm’s length, the kick is there during rare moments like McDavid produced last night.

So much hockey coverage, be it MSM or in the blogging community, these days involves dry data and statistical analysis. What just happened? How did it happen? How likely is it to happen or not happen again? Who does what, and doesn’t, playing with whom? What’s sustainable and what’s not? That’s fine, it’s part of the evolution of how the game is covered.

Once in a blue moon, though, the kind of jolt, the kick in the ass, McDavid just delivered cuts through to the essence of why we care about the game of hockey in the first place. Why we play it. Why we watch it. Why we write about it. Why we talk about it on the radio. Why we debate it. Around here, that kick couldn’t come at a better time.

Fourteen games into his NHL career with the Oilers, McDavid is only now just starting to deliver moments like that. What we have here is a teenager turning this hockey-mad city on its ear, sending fans into the night absolutely amazed at what they just saw. It’s been a long, long time since that happened. There is more, much more, to come.

THE HIGHLIGHT REEL

McDavid’s goal certainly wasn’t the most meaningful or dramatic goal scored in the history of the Oilers at Rexall Place, but it’s certainly among the prettiest I can recollect. The other that stands out for me is this one by Doug Weight against the Calgary Flames in 1997.

Is there another that stands out for you?


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

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  • Gadgets

    McD’s goal was somewhat reminiscent of the 1984 Cup final game 3. Messier 1 on 2 vs Potvin and Diduck. Messier’s goal turned the series around and the OIl won the cup.

    I was also very impressed with McD’s effort on the Eberle goal. Last 6 minutes with a 3 goal lead battling of his knees to make a play. Greztky like desire to excel.

  • Oilersman

    Had to trash jafo’s post, or article, or essay, or whatever. Just get your point across, holy does anyone read those posts that are longer than the article itself?

  • Romanus

    Mcdavids dirty filthy stinking goal last night is the reason I love this great game! This game is a combination of grit and fitness seen by no other sport on earth. We are all fortunate to have this player in the team.

    Now can the oilers make a “filthy” push to get into the playoffs? I’m sure that’s what Connor wants.

  • hags437

    What sets McDavid apart is the effort in all areas of the ice. He’s relentless to score when he has the puck and he’s relentless without it to get it back. Some like Hall can push the river at times but this kid can part a sea. I believe that God had NHL 97 and he did what all of us did with an NHL video game. Created a player that maxed out on agility, deking, offensive awareness, puck control, passing, shooting accuracy. God named that character Connor McDavid

  • Romanus

    How about Ebs going through two Flames and roofing a backhand on the first game of the year? OR,… same game BIG MAC dropping that sack of potatoes in a red jersey.

  • O.C.

    At the game last night and well… ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??? That was insane!

    Too much made of just the goals. The no look pass from deep in the corner through three players to pick up (I can’t remember) in the high slot was simply astounding. (First Period).

    The “Seth, hold onto your jock for a bit, I’ve got this”, was hilarious!

    I’ve been in meetings all day today in Calgary.

    Explained how insane that goal was and I have to give props to everyone in the room who was from Calgary (everyone else)…

    …they agreed, that goal and this kid is special.

    We all agree that Vancouver and Toronto suck and the next ten years of Calgary and Edmonton will be the envy of the NHL.

    That goal was top 5 iconic goals in Oilers’ history to be sure. Calgary Game Two OT Shorthanded by Gretzky still holds number one for me. Weight / Eberle / McDavid tied for second.

  • .

    Hey it was a beautiful goal, but according to Jason Gregor today on the radio, McDavid returned at the best time against CBJ and OTT next. So let’s not think he’s that amazing but that CBJ is just crappy instead…BUZZKILL!!!

  • McDavid#97

    Hey Brownlee. I remebered watching that game on CBC. The goal that Weight scored was a thing of beauty. I think it was also the first minute of the game. I thought that happened in 2000 or 2001. 1997, what a year.