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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid can get faster, so says his skating coach

Over at the Hockey News, Ken Campbell spoke to Connor McDavid’s skating coach, Joe Quinn, who’s been working with Connor since he was in the sixth grade. In the interview, Quinn talks about McDavid being able to get even faster than he already is and having “lots of room to improve.” Let’s break it down.

If there’s one thing we know about Connor McDavid it’s that he’s lightning on ice, and the idea of him actually getting faster is almost mindblowing to wrap our heads around. According to Quinn, McDavid’s skating and skills coach since he was 11-years-old, there is still room to improve there. In Quinn’s mind, Connor is in a league of his own and only going to get faster.

“I mean, you see guys every year at the skills competition where they have speed, but I don’t think anyone is going to be able to handle the puck and make plays at the speed he can.”

I agree with you there, Joe, but not many players can do most things that Connor can do. Do you think he can actually get faster? Would the laws of physics allow for such a thing? Would there be liftoff? Frankly, talking about Connor getting faster is giving me a little bit of liftoff of my own. Please continue.

“Yeah, I think he can add more speed. How much more? Can he get to 42 or 43 kilometres per hour? I think he can.”

Whoa mama that’ll be good living if we can get Connor up to horse-like speeds as he gallops through the neutral zone, creating panic amongst those tasked with defending him. The guy will be like an alpha-predator and the only thing that will stop him is either staying on the bench or getting the hell out of his way. I like it! I like it a lot. But what makes him so special?

“With a lot of guys, if the feet are doing something, the hands aren’t. If the hands are trying to beat the opponent, the feet are in the glide position. They lose their speed and have to recreate energy. Connor doesn’t have to do that because with the overloading he’s had and his nervous system, he’s a major, major multi-tasker.”

A multi-tasker! Now, I get it. Connor playing hockey is like when I’m blogging, tweeting, making nachos, AND drinking beer all at the same time. Same same, right? Multi-tasking… of course! But it can’t just be that, though. There’s something special about the way he skates. There’s something different there. No one moves like Connor. Not Jagger, not Crosby, not nobody.

“I’ve seen times where he’ll run his route back to his zone and he’ll explode up the ice and he’ll go 120 feet of zero strides, 100 percent crossovers. It’s one thing to have speed, it’s easy to see it, but he does things at full speed that are hard to defend against.”

Hell yeah, he’s tough to defend. The way I look at it, trying to stop Connor McDavid at full flight is similar to jumping on a bullet train. To put it another way, imagine standing on the side of the highway and trying to jump into the box of a truck that’s flying past you at 110km/hr. It’s possible but unlikely. Chances are, you’re probably going to end up hurting yourself and looking dumb in the process so why try? You get it.

Anyway… back to Connor.

“The defender has to match his crossover. If he’s cutting to the right, you’re cutting with him and you have to maintain that speed and you’ve also got to maintain the false information he’s giving the defender. That defender has to counter back and that’s where the problem is. They can’t counter back because they’re not sure which way he’s going to go and if they do bite, the puck goes one way and his body goes the other.”

That, right there, is the adult way of saying “Connor’s out there breaking ankles.” Coach Quinn may be too much of a gentleman to say it, but I’m not. If you get into a footrace with Connor McDavid the reality is that you’re probably going to look stupid, slow, out of shape or any combination of those things. All the opposition can really hope to do is contain him before he gets going.

“You’ll see a lot of defensemen get into a frozen mode where, ‘I’m going to stay here and I don’t know which way he’s going to go, left or right.’ And they’re in a worse position.”

In the industry, we call this the “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” moment that appears on the faces of any defender that gets caught flat-footed against him. But, as we’ve seen over the past few games, limiting Connor’s ability to get up to speed is the best way to keep him off the scoreboard and it’s something he’ll need to work on. Is there a way for him to improve on that as well?

“With Connor, we have to take the space away from him. So when we start with him, let’s say we have eight to 12 feet between units. Now he’s down to three or four. We have to keep taking that away and having him have more speed, gaining more speed, take that space away, incorporate a give-and-go, put a bit of pressure on him. Some guys might not do that because they’re going to struggle just with the speed and the space taken away. But we’ll have him have to move pucks, to challenge him at different levels.”

Personally, I like seeing that they’re already working on having Connor pick up speed when he’s being bumped and pressured. As an Oilers fan, I like knowing that any weaknesses that live within Connor’s game are being recognized and worked on.

“He’s still young, he’s only 20 years old and he’s going to get better. He still has a lot of room to get better.”

Lots of room to get better? Mmmmmmm. Baggo likey. Now, any chance we can make this happen before Tuesday? Dare to dream? We wait.