I didn’t have the first clue who Warren Foegele was before I looked him up last night and likely neither did you — unless you happen to be related to the 22-year-old forward from Markham or are a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Most of us were introduced to Foegele when 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer Tweeted out his name in the wake of the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. It was a game, in the opinion of many, in which Connor McDavid had to fight through more than the usual amount of hooking, holding and interference and wasn’t very successful at it, prompting much consternation.
The NHL is a League where Warren Foegele (17) has drawn more penalties then Connor McDavid (16). https://t.co/Aw4NA77vuv
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 17, 2018
Having looked it up, Stauffer is absolutely right. Foegele certainly has had the keen eyes of NHL officials upon him. While Foegele has played just under 14 minutes a night over 32 games for Carolina this season, he’s drawn 17 penalties – tied for fourth in the league – one more than Edmonton’s two-time and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner.
That fact, on top of what a functioning set of eyeballs have told anybody paying attention, is much to the chagrin of Oilers’ fans. As it should be. We’ve seen this movie before.
WHAT THEY SAY
Asked about it post-game, Oilers’ coach Ken Hitchcock, now 14 games into getting a first-hand look at McDavid, said: “I’m not going to comment on the penalties, but the stuff that really bothers me is what is happening to Connor, and that really bothers me because we’re a league that is supposed to showcase our top players, and you don’t want to give them all the freedom, but the tug of war on him was absolutely ridiculous today.
“And that’s a little bit discouraging to be honest with you. Because I can see the whackin’ and hackin’ going on when he’s got the puck but to me it’s all the stuff behind that doesn’t allow him to showcase his speed. And if that’s what we want, well, that’s fine. But I think it’s a real disservice to a player like him.
“He’s not allowed to play give-and-go. It’s give-and-hold. So we’re going to have to figure out a way to fight through it. We’ll just play toughness with him and figure it out from there.”
Hitchcock tip-toed pretty well along the line that separates fair comment from getting fined by the NHL’s head office, but his frustration was obvious. Likewise, so is that of fans who are of the mind that McDavid isn’t being given a fair chance to showcase his considerable skills by a league that’s selling entertainment. So, is this just sour grapes after a loss? Does the perception of Oilers’ fans and observers in general have anything to do with reality?
BY THE NUMBERS
My eyes tell me that McDavid, like too many of the NHL’s most talented players, has to fight through far too much riding and roping on a game-by-game basis. It doesn’t make sense to me that a player who spends as much time on the ice as McDavid does, has the puck as much as he does and produces as many points as he does has drawn one less penalty than a guy like Foegele.
In what’s far from an all-encompassing breakdown, I took a look at the top-10 scorers in the NHL this season, their time on ice (TOI) in all situations and where it ranks in that top-10, plus how many penalties they’ve drawn (PD) and where that ranks overall through Sunday’s games. Here’s what that looks like.
Here are the most penalties drawn overall:
Aleksander Barkov – 23
Nate MacKinnon – 20
David Pastrnak – 18
Pierre-Luc Dubois – 18
Johnny Gaudreau – 17
Warren Foegele – 17
Connor McDavid – 16
Brad Marchand – 16
Mathew Barzal – 16
Nikolej Ehlers – 16
Nico Hischier – 16
THE BOTTOM LINE
In a league that’s supposedly selling entertainment to the people who buy tickets, where goals create excitement, it’s stunning to me that so many players in the top-10 of scoring rank as low as they do in penalties drawn, especially when you look at Ovechkin, Wheeler and Rantanen. They’re producing despite the calls they aren’t getting. So is McDavid, who plays the second most minutes of anybody in the top-10.
I’m not of the mind there’s some kind of conspiracy by any of the officials to screw over the Oilers and McDavid, but I am of the opinion the NHL isn’t doing nearly enough to free-up the players at the top of the marquee, who sell the tickets, and McDavid sits at the top of that list. The stuff he puts up with away from the puck, when he’s trying to give and go or break free, is ridiculous.
I still don’t know who Warren Foegele is, outside of what the numbers tell me, but I damn sure know he doesn’t belong with the company he’s keeping in terms of penalties drawn. I don’t want to see games slowed to a crawl and turned into special teams events by parades to the penalty box. That said, I don’t want the players who lift fans out of their seats, like McDavid, ridden like rented mules either, as is too often the case right now.
There’s got to be a reasonable middle ground, no?