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.