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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

76 Down and 25 to Go

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.

MCDAVID 101

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.

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    • Can't Fix Stupid

      McDavid has lived up to his prodigious billing so far but he still hasn’t accomplished what the likes of Kurri, Coffee, Fuhr, Lowe (as a player and not management), have done. Top 10 I would agree at this point. Top 3 however I would say he needs a little more hardware to climb past those fellas.

        • Ronr68

          Remember that the Oilers got in on game 81 that year? Or that the top 4 teams in the west got eliminated in the 1st round? That year was serendipity, not great management. Remember when he wanted to trade for Heatly? Or Vanek? Lowe was an unmitigated disaster as were his two successors (which he hired). As important as McDavid is to the Oilers, hiring TMac and Chiarelli have been just as important. I guess that can be credited to McDavid as well. It was the impetus to give Lowe and MacT a box of Legos and put them in a room away from the grown-ups and Katz’ billion dollar draft pick.

      • Ronr68

        So after he wins the Art Ross, the Hart and the Ted Lindsay this year after taking a 29th place team to the top of their division, does he merit a higher ranking than a #3 defenseman? Don’t get confused, you are looking at the greatest talent you’ll see for the rest of your life. He’s a 20yr old who has, comparitively speaking, eclipsed Gretzky at that age.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    For sure. Top 25 (26?) is the right place for McDavid at this point in his career and it’s a hell of a statement about the character of the kid to put him there. At this point the trophy shelf still needs content – but you’d be hard-pressed to identify any more than a dozen or so players that have had as big n impact on the team as Connor has had only two short seasons.

    So yeah – I don’t think it’s a slight to McDavid to place him in the ten to range of Oilers best… That being said, when we look back at this list in however many years there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have moved up to sitting in the top three – right beside Gretz and Moose.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Not trying to overly complain here – but that edit button feature can’t come fast enough. My fingers are too fat for my phone keyboard and I’m too damn lazy to proof-read…. *sigh*

  • OilCan2

    McDavid, Draisaitl and other current members will carve out their niche in history. At four profiles per month you have opened a shooting range with moving targets. Hindsight being 20 – 20 you could have started with the WHA crowd and moved forward through the decades and left no specific number for the final tally. Are you saying Reggie is off the list. Last week alone would qualify him.

  • tileguy

    Lets see, if Taylor Hall was at 28, and Adam Larson was traded straight up for Hall, and the “general” consensus is that we are a better team now, where are you slotting Larson?

  • paul wodehouse

    …thing of it is Robin …you KNEW he was phenomenal BEFORE you started the list … the whole mcJesus / Savior / Connor Take the Wheel BS that this now young fan base trotted out without even knowing what the glory years were about has askewed your list … who cares if 99 is #1 with an * beside it and 97 gets his proper place with or without ‘hardware’…it’s not like he’s going to crap out like some OTHER number ones’ overall… so make it so number one … McDavid in the top FIVE …period!

    • I know where you’re coming from, Paul, but I can’t get Connor where you have him. When I count the number of Cups and remarkable seasons in Edmonton put together by those in the top five, Connor won’t have had time to match that by the time this list is done. Can’t put him there based on what he’s going to do over the next 10 years but hasn’t done yet.

  • Randaman

    Hardware or not, McDavid is a better player than Coffey was or Anderson was or Tik or Weight. You can’t deny that. He just hasn’t had time to prove me and a lot of others right. I say 3 or 4 depending if you have Kurri ranked 3. I say 4 if that’s the case. Gator better? Not a chance

    • It’s not a list of the best players and, even if it was, better than Coffey? Now? After two seasons? No. Prove you and a lot of others right? I can’t wait to see what McDavid does in the next decade. I have little doubt he’ll be the best player in the NHL for the next 10 years. Thing is, as I said from the time this series started, what he might do down the road doesn’t factor in. And who said Jason Smith was better?

  • judgedrude

    I suggest no A/B on the ranking…give him a half rank as you cannot rank him equal to the other play. Connor gets a X.5, above HOF1 but below HOF2. When you are done, you could also revisit Dr. Drai in the same way.

  • 813.52

    I am generally against awarding players huge contracts and accolades based on “what they are capable of in the future.”

    In Connor McDavid’s case, I make an exception.
    C’mon, Brownlee. 1A and 1B. You know what you have to do.

    Better to beg forgiveness if you are wrong, than to ask for permission as your article appears to do . . .

  • Hrkac Circus

    You can’t have Connor ranked in the top 5, he’s only played a season and a half and hasn’t won a playoff game yet. Do I think he’ll be top 5 if Robin revises the list in 2025, I sure as hell do, but you can’t project the future for the kid.

    If the list was done June 30th 2006, these same commenters would’ve wanted Pronger ahead of Coffey. The point is, it’s only fair to rank based on their accomplishments to date.

    Because of that, I’d rank him wherever Robin has the Human Rake. Both spectacularly impactful players for a very short time with the team.

  • ntrprtr

    Gretzky and Messier are clearly two of the top players in the history of the NHL, and obviously the Oilers as well, but when all is said and done I think there will be a new number 2 behind Gretzky, and his name is Connor McDavid. There’s no point putting off the inevitable, so you can slot him in a number 2 right now.

    • Ronr68

      No, Gretzky, McDavid, Messier, Coffee and Kurri are now the top five. Saw all the great players when they played here, and only Gretzky is in Connor’s league.

  • gshok

    Now the thing to contemplate is rewind 25 years when Gretzky or Lemieux were in their second year of the NHL… where would you have ranked such player at that time?

  • Anton CP

    A simple solution, considering that we know who is the best ever then you can just put Gretzky on “The Greatest”, his greatness shouldn’t be ranked or no ranking can compare to his greatness.

  • Ronr68

    So…Ryan Smyth never won a cup, with anyone. And, bite my tongue, Connor might not either. This isn’t the 80’s anymore, it would be impossible to keep a team like that together in the cap era. What would Gretzky get in free agency now? When Gretzky said Connor was the best 19yr old he’d ever seen, I assume he was putting himself in that group. Don’t bring up stats either. If Connor played in 1985 when the goalie was the smallest guy on the ice, and not the biggest​, how many points would he have? (According to the ratio of goals scored league wide, Connor would have 132pts. THIS YEAR. IN 75 GAMES!) What do your eyes tell you? Could anyone skate with him? Could ANYONE in the history of the game stick-handle with him? Barring catastrophic injury, you’re looking at the greatest player your EVER likely to see again in your lifetime. Pay respect to the new King In the North.

  • Armchair genius

    I take this list with a grain of salt, so to speak. I watched the Oilers lose in their first attempt at the cup, only to return and win 4 over the next 5 years in the Gretzky era, and then watch Mess and the boy’s return to glory a few years later. That being said, Connor McDavid is a great player and I haven’t seen someone like him dominate the way he does, since Gretz. Does he deserve to be in the top 25, top10, hell, probably top 2, but time will tell where he fits on the list, and if he progress’ the way he already has he’ll end up in the top 2 eventually. But for now, because of the fact he’s only played a season and a half it would be hard to place him above a lot of LONG time Oiler greats. Just my 2 cents. GOG, CLINCH TONIGHT BABY!!!