So, what if Connor McDavid wins the NHL scoring title, finishes with 100 points, claims the Hart Trophy as MVP and leads the Edmonton Oilers, say, two rounds deep in the 2017 playoffs? Or, if all that’s too optimistic, what if McDavid accomplishes two or three of the above?
Those aren’t questions I even contemplated at the start of this season, let alone back in August of 2015 when we announced I’d be compiling a list of the Top 100 Oilers of all-time that we’d run four-per-month until the list was done. They damn sure aren’t questions I imagined would come into play now – the Oilers are one win from clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2006 and I have the kid somewhere in the top 24 just two seasons into his NHL career.
In fact, in the item I wrote setting up the series, I said: “And, no, I won’t be putting Connor McDavid on the list before he’s played a single game with the Oilers. I might, however, be forced to reconsider if he belongs after this season and if Hall, RNH and Eberle deserve to be moved up or down.”
Suffice to say, the point at which I was forced to reconsider came and went long ago. McDavid proved last season, despite missing much of it with that busted clavicle, he belongs. The question this season became, “How high up?” I still don’t have the answer, but with 24 names remaining he’s going to be in there somewhere. The bottom line with a moving target like McDavid is we’re looking at 101 names, not 100.
The reason for that is I can’t (or won’t) just bump somebody out of the group that remains. Dropping somebody I had ranked in the 60s or 70s off the list is relatively easy. One of the players remaining in the top 24? No chance. “Hey, Brownlee, are you trying to say Dave Lumley/Ales Hemsky/Jason Smith/Craig Simpson – pick a name that belongs but hasn’t appeared yet — aren’t on the Top 100 list?” You get my drift.
So here we are. We’ll see what plays out for McDavid and the Oilers between now and whenever Edmonton’s last game of this season is played. We’ll have four more names to run between now and the end of April. Might he fit in that four? Sure. Might he go even higher if the Oilers go on a run in the playoffs? Would that put him in the top 20? Maybe you already have him there.
Nineteen of the remaining 24 players on the list won Stanley Cups with the Oilers. Most of those 19 players won multiple Cups during the Boys on the Bus era. The five who didn’t and are on the list are, in no particular order, Ryan Smyth, Chris Pronger, Ales Hemsky, Doug Weight and Smith. Any one in that group of five who doesn’t belong? I’m guessing some might say Pronger, but the Oilers get no sniff in 2006 without the Human Rake. He stays in. No Gator? You tell him.
I said right off the top before the series began that, for me, many of the guys who sipped champagne here are going to be hard to keep off the list. Even the lesser lights who, it could be argued, aren’t as good individually as players I ranked below them. You might not agree, but Cup rings play into it heavily for me.
“As I’m compiling my list, I’m weighting certain things more heavily than others. Notably, the first guys on my list are those who contributed to all those Stanley Cup parades on Jasper Ave. For me, a player who was a member of multiple Stanley Cup winners, even as a role player, is going to make that list of 100, likely in the top-25.”
So, while I’m not going to take anybody who remains off the list for McDavid, somebody is going to have to share a slot with him. Maybe it’s 20A and 20B, 16A and 16B. Higher right now? Back to the first paragraph, is there a scenario that would put McDavid in your top-10 by the end of this season? How high will McDavid rank 10 years from now? I’ll tackle that one down the road. Right now, we’ve got a scoring race and a return to the playoffs to contemplate.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- The player getting the pipe in this format, at least the way I’ve handled it as the season has unfolded, is Leon Draisaitl. With seven regular season games remaining, a second-half surge has Draisaitl sitting with 70 points this season and 130 points in 184 games with the Oilers.
I didn’t want to bury Draisaitl too low by slotting him in early this season. Now, it’s obvious I’ve waited too long – I’d rank him above several players in the bottom 50, but don’t think he’s done enough to crack the group that remains like McDavid, so he ends up without a spot on the list. So, Justin Schultz makes it and Draisaitl doesn’t. Derrrrrr.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.