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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Year in Review: Connor McDavid was the league’s most valuable player last season

This is one part of a player-by-player Year in Review series we’ll be doing over the next couple months as we look back on the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers season. 

2017-18 Edmonton Oilers No. 97: Connor McDavid

GP: 82, G: 41, A: 67, PTS: 108

He didn’t win the Hart Trophy as the “player judged most valuable to his team,” but Connor McDavid was the league’s most valuable player in 2017-18.

I don’t want to dive too deep into the debate because we’ve been there and it’s been beaten to death. Ultimately, the voters determined that Edmonton’s implosion cost McDavid, who won the Art Ross Trophy by six points, couldn’t be handed the MVP because the team missed the playoffs. It ended up being a toss-up between Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon, who led their respective mediocre teams to playoff appearances, won by the former.

I don’t care all too much about these awards. I feel like the MVP is a trophy that the voters like to spread around and hand to a player for a different reason than the most valuable player. You see this in the NBA all the time. James Harden won MVP this year though there isn’t a prayer he would have carried the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers like LeBron James did. Same goes for Russell Westbrook the year before. The MVP is almost a memento, a thing given to the most memorable or interesting player of the season, as voters look to avoid simply handing it year after year to the same superstar. Right or wrong, whatever, that’s how it is.

Regardless, it doesn’t take much digging to realize how ridiculously good McDavid was last season. Watching him night in, night out, then looking into his numbers, it’s very obvious he was the league’s Most Valuable Player.

McDavid improved on his 100-point 2016-17 season with a 108-point season in 2017-18. This is especially impressive given the fact Edmonton’s had the league’s worst power play, operating at a 14.76 percent efficiency rate. McDavid scored just 20 points on the power play as opposed to the 27 power play points he had last season.

Where McDavid’s obscene amount of value becomes evident is when you look at what players, and the team as a whole, accomplished with him on the ice and what they didn’t accomplish with him on the bench.

Leon Draisaitl played 498 even strength minutes with Connor McDavid. Together the duo had 54.4 percent of shot attempts and 57.4 percent of the goals scored. In the 780 even strength minutes, Draisaitl was away from McDavid, Draisaitl’s shot attempt differential dropped to 50.4 percent and his goals for percentage dropped to 42.4 percent. Among forwards who played at least 100 minutes with McDavid at even strength, nobody had a better shot attempt differential without McDavid than they did with him. Only one forward had a better goals for percentage without McDavid, and he was dealt to New Jersey at the trade deadline.

I think the eye test would certainly back up what the numbers are suggesting. Without McDavid on the ice, the Oilers simply weren’t threatening offensively most nights. Whenever anybody jumped on his wing — Draisaitl, Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — they became a better player. Beyond that, no matter who jumped on McDavid’s wing, he was still dangerous.

What more can you say about this guy? At 21 years of age, he won the Art Ross Trophy with 108 points on a team devoid of good wingers with a defunct power play. He also did that despite grinding through strep throat and the flu for a month at the beginning of the season. While McDavid technically played a fully healthy 82-game season, it really wasn’t actually fully healthy. Jason Gregor wrote last year that we could see McDavid hit 120 points at his peak. Given what he accomplished in 2017-18 with all the negative circumstances, illness and a poor team that mailed it in before the All-Star break, Gregor’s 120-point prediction might be on the conservative side.

While the team does have its flaws, it becomes easy to believe in the future when you remember that Connor McDavid is on the team.

  • OilersBro

    Random funny thing related to the league’s MVP:
    So I’m a huge Oilers fan (obvs) living in Toronto. Yesterday I was walking in a park and I see this guy smiling and chuckling at me. He looks super familiar from afar so I give him a “Hey, bro!”
    As I get closer, I realize he’s smiling at the Oilers hat I’m wearing – and the reason why he looks so familiar is that it was Taylor Hall 😂😂

  • OilersBro

    McDavid was a point per game player in November despite dropping 15 pounds due to the bubonic plague and having no powerplay. That’s more than just valuable as a player, that’s value as a leader.

    • TruthHurts98

      He could, but he would need to dynamic wingers that could finish and hit the net and be ready for the impossible passes like Kurri was. And we would need coaches that knew how to run an efficient PP. If we could have drafted Laine… But I’m predicting that Connor wins the Rocket Richard trophy next year. Whether the PP is fixed or not. He’s so competitive and not winning the Hart trophy will probably motivate him even more.

    • Daryl Katz

      McDavid could get 150 points, sure, but if the Oilers still don’t make the playoffs, he still won’t be the MVP, Eastern voters will make sure of that !

  • puckle-head

    This is a little off topic, but that footage of McDavid’s 4 goal night reminded me of something. The first shift of that game was like a microcosm of a larger problem with the league. I remember the announcer talking about the highly anticipated contest between two of the league’s biggest stars, and the camera panning to them… on the bench. A game that featured some of the NHL’s most exciting and marketable star power in McDavid, Kucherov, Stamkos, and you could even throw Draisitl in there, saw all 4 of those players starting the game on the bench. For what, strategy? Is leaving your greatest offensive threats off the ice to start going to improve your chances of victory all that much (or at all)?

    Jon Cooper is so boring. He has one of the most skilled rosters in the league and he coaches like has a team of 4th line grinders. After he got coached into the ice by Trotz with a considerably better roster I had hoped the Lightening would move on from him.

  • Bond

    I think a season with Nuge on his wing will bump both of their point totals significantly. Nuge is skilled enough to complement Connor and there could definitely be some magic in the making.

    • Hockeysense9393

      So Nug and McDavid have been in the same team for what…3 years now? What gives anybody the thinking that suddenly next year is gonna turn into a miracle on ice?

  • ubermiguel

    I’m so over this discussion. We know he’s the best, his peers know he’s the best, hockey writers know he’s the best. Being the MVP on a garbage team will simply never be as valuable as being the MVP on a good team. Being the most outstanding player (per the Lindsay criteria) is a different story.

    • Hockeysense9393

      I agree Uber!! Who freakn cares!! Win some games already. Lead already!! I’m old enough to remember the days when Yzerman was doing the same…constantly on a losing team. It’s when he learned how to lead properly that the team started winning. Quit cherry picking and watch your zone some. Lead by example of the “whole” game system; not just how many points you can rack up. Team game remember? Not just the best player and then the rest.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Draisaitl already drives offence away from McDavid – he was over 2P/60 away from McDavid which is first line production. He also did this with a revolving door of middling/boat anchor/tweener wingers.

    The issue with Drai on the ice away from McDavid was not scoring but was the other end of the rink – his line simply gave up too much.

    I think a large part of this was also his linemates, again. For example, almost 200 of his non-McDavid minutes had Caggulia on his wing – that will hamper his offence and his defence.

    If Puljijarvi is able to solidify himself as Leon’s right winger – we will have two plus lines.

  • CMG30

    Iwould wager that McDavid was knocked back for half the season. The first month due to illness and the next few months because of the after effects and general deterioration of being sick for that long. The NHL season is a grind that wears the best and gives no time to recover. If he’s healthy watch out for a 130 point season!

  • Flint

    “I don’t want to dive too deep into the debate because we’ve been there and it’s been beaten to death”

    Then proceeds to right a whole article about it.

    I think a good charateristic of contributors is to at the very least try to be able to see the other side of the conversation even if you’ll refuse to accept what you see.

    McDavid won the most outstanding player award, as he should of, and no one is arguing that. Don’t worry, he will deservingly win more MVP awards in the future, when he has another season as the leagues most valuable player.

  • Hockeysense9393

    You all here loooove to talk about the Championship days here right (cuz these days it’s pretty dreary)? These days it’s all about how good McDavid is being on such a bad team. Well…do any of you know why the Oilers were so good back then? I’ll give you a hint….it wasn’t because you only had Gretzky.