What can you possibly get for a young man who already has everything – health, wealth and fame – for his birthday? When it comes to Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, I can think of a couple things right off the top of my head, and I bet you can too. How about a better supporting roster and the chance to win or, failing that, a new general manager capable of delivering one?
While McDavid, who marks his 22nd birthday today, has far too much class to ever publicly say it, that shouldn’t be too much to ask. But through his first four seasons with the Oilers, that hasn’t been the case when he’s blown out the candles on the cake. For everything McDavid’s has as he enters the prime years of his NHL career, Chiarelli hasn’t yet put a bow on that for him during his time in Edmonton.
Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place on the eve of his birthday, dropping the Oilers to 3-9 in their last dozen games, once again shone a spotlight on that uncomfortable reality. In all four of McDavid’s seasons here, the Oilers have played on Jan. 12, the eve of his birthday. Here’s how the team has stacked up on Jan. 13 in those seasons:
2019 – Lost 3-2 to Arizona, 21-21-3, 45 points
2018 – Won 4-2 over Arizona, 20-23-3, 43 points
2017 – Won 3-2 over New Jersey, 22-5-7, 51 points
2016 – Lost 4-3 to Arizona, 17-23-4, 38 points
Overall, if that’s not the equivalent of getting an eight-pack of AAA batteries from the local corner store or a $10 gift card from Sears, I don’t know what is. Except for 2016, when he was out of action with a busted collarbone, McDavid has shown up ready for the party – he has 1-4-5 in three games – without getting what I’m guessing he wants more than anything.
TIME TICKS ON
Four years and two consecutive scoring titles into his time in Edmonton, McDavid is no closer to getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup than the day he arrived. The reasons we know – not enough scoring up front, not enough proven depth on the blueline, too much talent being sent away for lesser players. As constructed, this team relies on too few for too much, with the gloriously talented McDavid being Exhibit A.
Like I said off the top, McDavid, who opened the scoring against the Coyotes, would never complain about what’s obvious to those looking on publicly, at least he’s resisted the urge to this point. On the other hand, coach Ken Hitchcock, at least the way I read it, has nibbled around the issue more than once without spelling it out in block letters for Chiarelli. He did so again Saturday.
“I’ve said this to you before,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to find more people to do more. Now, whether it’s the group that’s here or the group that’s somewhere, I don’t know, but we’ve got to find more people to do more if we expect to get a different result. We cannot continue to ask for perfection from top people every night and expect to win hockey games . . .
“I just know that we’re trying to get more and more from people and sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. I just know what it takes to get in and, at the present level, if this is the level that we’re going to play at, it’s not good enough. So, we’re going to have to find a way to get more from this group and that’s on us to try to see what we can squeeze more out of.” The entire interview is here.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As usual, McDavid said all the right things in the post-game scrum on a night the Oilers got a big break with the teams they’re battling with for a wildcard berth with also losing. But, if all Chiarelli is going to offer up is sixth and seventh defencemen and wingers who can’t score to get McDavid the help this team so obviously needs and push the Oilers into contention, I wonder how long that lasts?
At 22, McDavid is still a young man with, you’d think, at least six or seven prime years ahead of him. Had the Oilers managed to take steps forward from 2016-17 and the team’s first post-season berth in a decade, we might be talking about a legit Cup contender today with McDavid leading the way. Another birthday in, McDavid is doing his part but the Oilers aren’t even close. Time ticks on.
Happy birthday, kid.