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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid brings generational dominance back to the NHL

I want to talk about McDavid’s greatness for a moment, if I may. As we prepare for Connor’s 4th season in the league and the buzz around camp indicates that he may have somehow gotten even faster, I think we need to acknowledge that last year he accomplished something that hasn’t been done in 17 years – he repeated as the Art Ross Trophy winner. For all the great players who have been a part of or joined the league since 2001, nobody won the scoring race in back-to-back years since then until our boy Connor did it. Today, we all expect him to make it a three-peat and we should note how incredible that is in the modern era.

From about 1950 onwards, the history of the Art Ross trophy is about its repeat winners. These are snapshots in time for the dominance of a select few superstars. Gordie Howe won it four times in a row in the 50’s. Stan Mikita won it back-to-back times twice in the 60’s. Phil Esposito took it four times in a row to start the 70’s. Guy LaFleur took it three times in a row to close the 70’s.

In the 80’s the game was changed when Wayne Gretzky rewrote the record books and won it seven times in a row. Only Mario Lemieux stopped his streak with his own back-to-back wins. Over the course of Super Mario’s career, he would win the award in consecutive seasons on three different occasions.

During the 90’s the Art Ross trophy was essentially warehoused in Pittsburgh as Jaromir Jagr took the baton from Lemieux and closed out the decade to open the new millennium with his own four consecutive wins, culminating in the 2000-2001 season. The tradition of a select few megastars owning the award lasted roughly 50 years.

And then it stopped.

Apr 5, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcom Subban (30) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

In my head, the year 2001 isn’t that long ago. God, how could it be? That’s the year I graduated from high school! I’m not that old, am I? Perhaps that’s why it didn’t dawn on me how special McDavid’s accomplishments were before now. 17 years is an eternity in professional sports. 17 years is how long it took for another player to win the scoring race in consecutive years in the NHL.

We have had some incredible players in the league since 2001. Sid the Kid, the Great Eight, Thornton, Malkin, and exactly none of them won the award back-to-back. Hell, the only two-time winners -period- who are still in the league are Crosby, Malkin, and McDavid. The NHL ceased to be dominated by a select few superstars…until 97 was drafted.

The fact that we expect Connor McDavid to continue this trend and lay waste to the scoring race again is a massive change in hockey. The term “Generational” is used almost every year on Draft Day, but the truth is that only McDavid has managed to do something nobody else has in a generation.

And he’s getting faster.

That Connor McDavid won the scoring race at all last year is something of a modern miracle. He was deathly ill for six weeks, behind in the race for a significant portion of the season, and was playing on a team with the 31st ranked Power Play in the league. It quite literally was the worst ever since nobody had ever been 31st before. McDavid himself had just 20 Power Play points last year. That’s less than half what the PP leader (Kessel) had. Sam Reinhart had more PP points.

McDavid had to will himself to 84 even strength points, almost 20 more than Giroux had in second place. You actually have to go back to the early to mid-90’s in order to find players who had more even strength points than McDavid scored in 2017-2018. So, with the beast unleashed and a revamped coaching staff designed to breathe life into a dead power play, the expectations for McDavid have never been higher.

He is the fastest player I have ever seen in every sense of the word. With the puck, without, processing the game, his hands, his feet, his mind – he has all the tools. Preparing myself for another season of McDavid in his prime is unreasonably exciting. The “reasonable expectations” are already unreasonable. We all believe he should be able to three-peat as the NHL’s scoring champion. That this goes unquestioned in the modern era speaks to his already widely accepted greatness.

McDavid by all accounts is faster. After scoring 41 goals a year ago, he worked on his shot because he thought it was weak. He is entering the year knowing who his linemates are going to be and they appear to complement him very well. The cerebral and responsible Nugent-Hopkins and the apparently resurgent Rattie know their roles and seem suited to playing them.

Do not take what McDavid is doing and has already done for granted. We have already witnessed truly generational accomplishments. Just buckle up and try not to blink, because he can change the game faster than anyone we’ve seen in nearly two decades.

  • the dope $teez

    That goal he scored vs. Winnipeg was a perfect example. Harmless looking play, but in literally a nanosecond he deked into a shooting position and lasered a perfectly placed shot, like it was nothing.

    I’ve got a feeling there’s a lot more where that came from… the Richard trophy is within reach.

  • Spydyr

    The people of a certain age here in Edmonton that have had the privilege watching Gretzky and now McDavid play in Edmonton know that it will not last forever and to enjoy every moment of the ride.

  • Elgando

    I grew up watching the great one and he’s the best ever. But this guy… Put Connor on skates in the NHL in 1983-88 and he would have demolished the league. No one thinks and moves this good.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        To your point though, the Oilers cannot waste what we have in Connor McDavid. What I mean is, we need multiple cups here, while he is on the pay-roll… It’s ludicrous to think that might not happen??? I can’t fathom it not happening… The Oilers must take atvantage of having the best player in the world (as well as many other great players) and do something with that… It only comes around once (realistically) in a fans lifetime… Edmonton’s lucky, we have had it twice… Make the most of it… “Bare-down & get ‘er done”

  • Serious Gord

    So mr. Henderson clearly is talking of generational dominance of one nhl statistic. Espo and Makita were not dominant in any other aspect.

    And I think it quite likely that this dominance is an aided statistic. Without solid line mates for an extended period and health it is impossible.

    And I think the Toronto maple leafs will have something to say about who dominates the art Ross for the next few years (and perhaps Winnipeg?)

    • Bigdaddypuck

      Glass half empty again Gord it’s a shame you have such a pessimistic viewpoint on every post. It doesn’t matter what this organization does you’ll say the opposite. Espo was the goal leader of his generation till Gretzky beat him. Your right gord he wasn’t dominant in any facet of the game.

      • Serious Gord

        Nothing pessimistic about it. We may be seeing the dawning of three of the greatest lines of the era ALL on Canadian teams. And where point getting leadership will continue to be contested.

        And look at who was feeding espo for those years and the lack of rival lines on other teams. And we are talking here about one stat – points.

        I think the lack of streaks the last 20 years is a symptom of parity and now the salary cap. And it’s a good thing.

    • Leichs

      HA, what are you trying to say? That Matthews and Scheifele might have something to say? Talk to me when Matthews hits 70 points for the FIRST time, let alone 80, 90 or 100 lool. Matthews is a goal scorer. He has never had more than 29 assists in a season. You are never going to break 100 points and dethrone Connor scoring more goals than assists. He will ever lead the league in points because hes not a distributor like a Crosby or Connor. Dude can score a goal like no other, I’ll give him that.

      • Serious Gord

        And I would pick Marner over Matthews to be the point leader on the team – teamed with nylander and Tavares.

        And note as I stated from the beginning – we are talking just one stat field – not who is the best player. God the blinders some commenters have on this site…

    • ed from edmonton

      McD has already shown he doesn’t need anything more than average line mates to win the Ross. He basically salvaged Maroon’s career when many thought Maroon was done as a NHL player. Injuries can derail anybody, let’s just hope there isn’t a “crime against hockey humanity” and McD is felled with something serious.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Why would you think Leafs? You do know that Draisaitl has outscored Matthews the last 3 years right?
      or has the “Toronto Borg” gotten to you as well…

    • Serious Gord

      There are three on the leafs – Matthews, Marner or Tavares. I think Marner has the best chance. The team has arguably the top #1 line And the top #2 line. And those of us familiar with the glory days should know what that can mean for points.

      As for the jets – wheeler laine schaifle and Ehlers are potential candidates…

      • Bills Bills

        None of them have ever come close to 100 points and Connors done it twice by the time he turned 21. Which he still is BTW. Yet you think Tavares can can suddenly score 30 or so more points than his best ever year? Which BTW would allow him just to keep pace with CMD.

        Personally I think you’re delusional

          • Bills Bills

            McKinnon was a perennial 50+ point player that had a break out year. Yes he averaged about the same 1.3 ppg as Connor. Let’s see him do it again. Personally I see a one hit wonder who had a career year. CMD hasn’t averaged less than a point per game average since he stepped on NHL ice. That is generational.

  • OilCan2

    Ahhhh. The future is so bright I need to put my sunglasses on. Fans of the rest of the teams in the league will be using rose coloured ones but here in the Big E we will need industrial strength welding glass.

  • ed from edmonton

    Agree that we have not seen “peak McD” yet. Some dimwit over at the Athletic, used from geek heavy extrapolation analysis to predict a 109 point season for McD. As pointed out be Hendo if McD isn’t sick for a month and the power play is something better than awful McD will put up scoring numbers we haven’t seen since Lemieux in his prime.

  • Abagofpucks

    Now IF only somebody from this site could figure out how to stop the top page ad banner from constantly playing, and how the site keeps endlessly loading it would be cool.

  • JimmyV1965

    Injury to Mcdavid is absolutely frightening. I wonder if we should move RNH to the second line with Drai and put JJ on the first line. Mcdavid made Trouba look like a pylon last game. I’m worried that someone like him takes a cheap shot at Mcdavid. It would be nice to have some protection out there.

  • Redbird62

    Sidney Crosby would have probably at least 3 more Art Ross Trophies if not for his injuries. He had a 10 point lead over Stamkos at the half way mark of the 10-11 season. He was just hitting his peak then so may have been able to put a string together. Once over the concussions after over a year, he had a huge lead in the strike season, but had his jaw broken by a slap shot, and missed 12 games. He was only 5 points from the Art Ross despite that. Lemieux probably would have put together a few more had he been healthier as well. The point is health plays a big part in the records. Crosby kind of falls in the middle from a health perspective. Lemieux and Orr, lots of injury issues even during their prime; Gretzky and Howe, only a few. We’ll never know if guys like Lindros, Kariya, Lafontaine and Bossy would have vaulted up that all time list with better health luck (not Top 5 – but possibly in the conversation for the next tier with long healthy careers). McDavid has the talent to dominate for a good stretch, let’s just hope he has the good fortune as well.