The Window Wants to Open

This is the dawn of something special in hockey. We are in the early days of what we will likely look back upon as the Connor McDavid era of the NHL. This 19-year-old centre, still less than 50 games into his NHL career, is in a league of his own.

The Oilers are 2-0 to start the year, defeating the rival Flames 7-4 and 5-3 Wednesday and Friday on the back of amazing performances by Connor McDavid. Others played their parts, but at the core of all this is the unbelievable play of Edmonton’s best player. Back to back three point efforts and in both nights he could have had more. It’s not as if he’s capitalizing on every chance though he does on a lot of them.

He’s faster than he was a year ago. He’s stronger than he was a year ago. He’s more assertive than he was a year ago. If he isn’t the best player in the world right now then the NHL is in a great place, because the person or persons who are superior to McDavid are super-human. We are witnessing greatness.

From the very first day, the Oilers were gifted Connor McDavid by virtue of that wonderful lottery, the urgency to get better was ramped up. The Edmonton Oilers had three other first overall picks of varied skill and effectiveness, but nobody had entered the league with as much ability as McDavid in a decade. Last year he was an uber-talented rookie still adjusting to life in the NHL. Now, even just one year more matured he is one of the most feared skaters in the league. Not feared because he’s going to send someone to the hospital. Feared because he can walk around anyone on the ice at any time, with the puck, and make something out of nothing.

He’s special.

He’s the kind of player that can make a bad team great, so long as he’s on the ice. But that’s where the effect he has on the game kind of ends. He can only reasonably play 22-23 minutes a night. There are another 38 minutes in the game. We are seeing today, right now, why urgency was preached with regards to the Oilers getting better. This kid is going to do everything imaginable (and some unimaginable) to make the team a winner.

The franchise has quality young players down the middle, headlined by McDavid. They have strength down the left wing, Jordan Eberle on the right. Klefbom and Larsson are going to play top minutes. Sekera and Russell will be there to handle second pair duties. And, Cam Talbot is stopping pucks in net. This team is not without hope. If things break right for them they could surprise a lot of clubs.

If they can find ways to upgrade some of the question marks on the 2nd and 3rd lines and strengthen the defense, then I believe the genius of McDavid could be great enough to propel the Oilers into the playoffs.

Is Kassian capable of playing on the 2nd or 3rd lines regularly and help them be effective?

Will Jesse Puljujarvi develop within a reasonable time-frame to be someone the coaching staff can trust with those minutes too?

Is the Sekera-Russell pairing going to continue their early success?

Can Darnell Nurse take the next step in his NHL career?

These are legitimate questions and the answer to all of them may very well be “Yes”. And, if that’s the case then the Oilers will do much better than pundits first anticipated. But, if the answer to any of them is “No” then we have a problem because the Connor McDavid we imagined when the Oilers won that lottery is here today. He’s leading the NHL in scoring after two games and he might never relinquish the hold he has on that race.

Somehow I think I’ve underestimated how good this generational talent is. He just might be able to almost single-handedly guide his team to a place in the standings that they have no business having based on last year’s performance. The McDavid era in the NHL is here. Today. The window of opportunity for the Edmonton Oilers is ready to be thrown wide open.

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    I had the same thought as Bowman. I haven’t seen a player who can accelerate away from NHL players like McD can since Orr. Another similarity between Orr and McD is the ability to make plays at top speed. Many people, including myself, would rate Orr as the best of all time (remember knee injuries cut his career short before most Dmen actually reach their prime). McD could be the forward version of Orr.

  • camdog

    The last 2 seasons Hall had been given prime minutes and come in about 80- 90th in the league in respect to ppg on the road. Three years ago he was close to the top 20 in ppg on the road. The other teams top defenceman have gotten the best of Hall over the last 2 years. We will see if this trend continues this season or if it doesn’t? The other teams defenceman know how to play Hall, he isn’t going to change his style, he’s predictable he beats you with speed and determination and tries the same moves game in game out. He still going to continue to be a great player, but not as good as some have advertised, unless his game adapts.

    • S cottV

      If Hall had made some adjustments to his game, he would probably still be an Oiler.

      The new boss – PC came aboard and made it clear that he wanted to see less dependence on rush and more o zone possession thru puck protection, cycling and use of the points.

      Hall’s game is take everything to the net – even with everything aligned against him. Mindless – its going toward the net. Net – net – net.

      More often than not – it’s going the other way.

      It’s like a football team that does nothing but pass the ball, or a basketball team that fast breaks everything – never making use of the shot clock.

      A football team that keeps it offensive unit on the field longer or a basketball team that has possession of the ball the longest, usually wins the game.

      Hockey is more free flowing but you can play the game in a manner that lessens free flow / increases forward possession and a team that is able to execute in this fashion – is very difficult to beat.

      I remember PC being interviewed one day last season – going on about how he would like to reduce dependence on rush hockey.

      The next day Hall was being interviewed and he went on at length about how him and Drai are rush hockey players. It was the next day.

      About that time – Purcell had been traded (rush guy) and Kassian (o zone possession guy) was gonna be tried with Hall and Drai. I remember saying to myself – I wonder if Hall will make adjustments to his game to take advantage of Kassian with a different skill set to Purcell.

      Well – I watched closely and Hall made not one adjustment for Kassian – and guess what it didn’t work.

      You would think that Hall would be smart enough to throw PC a bone or two, to try and fool him into believing that he was onside for PC’s new vision for the hockey club.

      So – out with Hall (rush only guy) in with Lucic (o zone possession guy)

      I like it.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        I also remember Kassian said something along the lines of “We can’t just walk into the zone and shoot it on net every time” after playing with Hall for a bit.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Great analysis.

        I think Hall is lucky that while he tries to play like Ovie, he is nowhere near the level of Ovie. When the time comes and he gets a little older I think Hall is going to have to reinvent himself and play to his strengths and take some of the immaturity out of the game.

        It might even happen sooner than later if this season isn’t a banner year for the Devils but the Oilers turn the corner.

  • Mitch92

    The Oil will fly past the dull blades of the Sabres this evening. I predict a 6-1 final with two points for CMD and Jesse Puljujarvi will enjoy his first multi point game of his young NHL career. Draisaitl will continue to produce and Lucic will fill out Zack Bogosian’s dance card.

  • Mitch92

    The visit by the Sabres could go a long way to solidifying the right side of our d-corp. With the Sabres down an Eichel and a Kane, Chiarelli should be doing everything in his power to pry away one of their righties on defense, my vote going to Cody Franson who by all reports has returned to form and then some following a freak injury that affected his inner ear and vision. I would be willing to offer RNH with some retained salary($2.0 million) for Franson, a prospect AND a second round pick. My reasoning for being willing to move RNH is that I believe there will be other centres available who can adequately play the third line checking role without costing us $6.0 million a year and Leon Draisaitl can seamlessly slide into the middle of line two.

        • I am Batman

          A Nuge, pick and retaining salary for Franson only is too much…

          Franson was a free agent that had a tough time finding a team not that long ago.

          I’d like Franson in our team but not at that price.

          I get that we can get a more “3rd line center” type guy than Nuge, but Nuge should bring back a better asset.

          Since we are spitballing here: Nuge for lindholm and a center from Ana?

    • 3 Little Birds

      No, no and no.

      We spent how much of the last decade begging for depth at center?? Everyday, if I recall correctly.

      Yes we need a RHD who can headman the PP, but it should be done from an area of strength…..LHD.

      JMO, but we are one injury away from average depth at center and we all know how that story ends.

      • Oilers-Entourage

        Agreed, Nugy boy here to stay a while. I know you have to give up talent to get talent but i think chia didnt make another move due to protection on expantion draft.

  • Blackgold

    The test tonight is that the Oilers should win this game. In past years they didn’t always do that. We will see if the Oil can bury a team they are supposed to and win. If they do, then they have turned the corner. If not then it is going to be a long year.

  • Jakethesnail

    I love how McDavid has taken the bull by the horns and willed this team to two wins. However, he played 22 minutes and there are 28 other minutes where others have stepped up.
    Draisaitl, Lucic,Eberle,Klefbom,Larsson,Russell. They are all pulling their weight!

  • Oilers-Entourage

    Also another thing. I hope Mcdavid takes a home town discount on first contract to keep a winning team, like 8 mill per for 4 or 5 years then take that 10 plus mill per year contract. Plus all other endorsements he makes will be hype.