They say it’s your birthday

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

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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.


Dec 13, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) look on during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

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 . . .

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“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.


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.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • RJ

    Thanks for the article. It’s right on the money.

    But the three ways to get a player are draft, trade and free agency. The draft won’t fix anything until years from now unless they luck into a Petterson in the draft they aren’t providing help that way. This current GM has shown an inability to win a trade. The free agent route is tough with the current cap, and it’s been hit and miss with mostly misses.

    I hope the next GM can show some better skill at drafting and trading.

    • ifiwasgm

      The current GM has not shown the ability to “not” horribly LOSE a trade, you don’t have to necessarily “win” a trade but getting made a fool of is the real problem.

  • KootenayDan

    Well said I think a lot of us feel the exact same way. It is so obvious what ails this team to the fans, media and all the hockey world in general and only one person can fix it that is the problem. I think he is backed in a corner with no way out.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    The sooner the Oilers find a good GM and start replacing all the
    big/slow/ heavy forwards that Chia brought in.
    The sooner we will stop Wasting Connor McDavids prime years.

  • slats-west

    To me this management has taken risks on certain trades but they’ve consistently taken the wrong risks. They’ve consistently traded for high promise upside for those players that have never produced Vs High upside for players who HAVE delivered but are currently slumping (and not do to age declines). Strome and Spooner are perfect examples of the former.

    It’s not easy to fix. The only way to a quick fix – and this was the hope in 2016 and 2017 was to get an RFA or UFA at a discount because we were closer to contention Or they got to play with McDavid and perhaps their value may be increased. Those players are no where as this team is not even close to contention as we suck.

    And so we wait ….

  • Gary

    If you were an 18 year and eligible for the NHL draft. Which team/organization would you be the most excited to play for ?
    And which team/organization would you just dread to be playing for ?
    Right. See the problem.

  • Stickhandler

    Was naming a socially awkward introvert the captain so young the way to go?
    With the oil still or even worse than 3 years ago, is MCD overrated and not quite the leader y’all thought he was? He doesn’t seem to elevate those around him at all, in fact quite the opposite. Long ways to go be considered elite IMO., and with this club, maybe never?

    • DraiCup

      in terms of lockerroom-leadership cut the dude some slack. he is 22 years young with hardly any playoff experience. Talentwise he definately is making the players around him better, no question about it imo

    • Total Points

      You go to be kidding. McDavid has nothing to do with the quality of people on this team. You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.

      This is one of the worst comments that I have ever seen on this site.

    • rnj

      Back to back Art Ross winner while on a bad team, not elite? Articulate and well mannered, socially awkward? Always has his teammates back and never says a bad word, not the leader with thought? Literally everyone has better numbers playing with him than without him, but he makes people worse?

      I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone so wrong on absolutely every point. Take a time out and get yourself together

    • Ratt McNuge

      Mario Lemieux played on some awful Penguins squads for the first 6 years of his career. He obviously wasn’t a good leader or elevated players around him. *eye-roll*

    • This mickey mouse organization is in total chaos and has iced half an AHL roster yet is still 3 points within a playoff spot. That awkward introvert is the only reason we’re not picking 1st overall again.

    • Stickhandler, Hockeyfan, whatever you’re calling yourself these days. Given your comment history here, which is basically a myriad of Grade 2-level playground taunting, I strongly suggest you avoid making assertions about the character or make-up of somebody like Connor McDavid. You don”t know him. You’ve never talked to him. Calling McDavid, who is as thoughtful and mature a young man as you will ever meet, “a socially awkward introvert” is a cheapshot, and a cowardly one at that. Avoid doing so. Revamp your act to something, anything, more thoughtful than “Oilers suck, HAHAHA” or the comment button stops working for you.

  • Dark Knight Returns

    All we can wish for McDavid is that he finds his way out of this mess and gets to play for -any- team other than this dumpster fire.
    Just for fun: name 3 teams that wouldn’t be playoff teams without McDavid. Without subtracting anyone, cause: we got him as a gift we didn’t trade for him.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    I would never ever blame him for demanding a trade, If is could as a fan and demand I be traded I would as well. Hang in there Connor , something will give in here, only because Edmonton Oiler fans will demand it. you are not going to rot here.

    Happy birthday .

  • Ratt McNuge

    I don’t know how to fix this, but that’s why I’m not an NHL GM. Time for the Oilers to clean house and find somebody who can. Time’s up Chiarelli. The Oilers are not even close to being contenders. Let’s find someone who has a plan to try and get McDavid a cup before his contract is up…

  • TDM

    Congrats Connor, another year closer to getting the hell out of Edmonton. If Chiarelli is gone by end of the week we’ll know what you wished for while blowing out candles

  • Hitch is the probably the one non-player in the entire organization that actually gives a damn. He hasn’t held back when talking about the roster and I feel like it won’t be long before he starts taking shots at management. He’s actually here to try to change the culture(you don’t come out of retirement for nothing) and the POHO/GM, CEO, owner, and entire FO has left him hanging cause they’re too busy having lunchtime together. Hitch is an experienced coach who has won at almost every stop, he’s not going to “walk on eggshells for certain people in OEG” and most certainly not Chiarelli. This mickey mouse organization puts their friends ahead of the product on the ice, it’s pathetic.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      His comments remind me of what Claude Julien said shortly before he got fired out of Boston. That they didn’t have the talent level to allow guys to “take the night off”

  • Serious Gord

    Mcdavid will likely be in the other side of 25 before he sees the second round of the playoffs again.

    If he’s lucky, cause I don’t see how the oil get that good that fast from where they are now.

    So many holes to fill – so little depth to fill them with.


    Happy birthday CM!! You’re a beauty and I hope you can hang around because it’s just a matter of time till Chia is fired and things will be better!!

  • Oiler Al

    With all the garbage floating around this organization, its no wonder there is also a lot of garbage on the ice! Katz will never dispose of his live hockey cards, but The Burger King and Pistol Pete must go..if there is to be a vitalization of this team.Not sure who would want to walk into this Heap at this stage. ?

  • ifiwasgm

    The current GM has not shown the ability to “not” horribly LOSE a trade, you don’t have to necessarily “win” a trade but getting made a fool of is the real problem.

  • J-Dub

    Poor kid. Carrying the team on his back with a limited supporting cast. McDavid was a blessing and curse for the team. When we won the golden ticket, the city erupted at the prospect of the next Oilers dynasty with the next generational talent. At this moment, the organization decided to bring in some new faces like Sideshow Bob, Chiapet, TMac to run this organization. Chia was a trojan horse. He has decimated this team and made a seasoned and capable coach like TMac seem clueless on the bench. Chia believed in our NHL, all we needed on the team was McDavid. He gave up on that ever so deep 2015 draft. When I heard what we had given up for Reinhart – I knew we were in trouble going forward as long as Chia was at the helm. With our other first, we could have had Barzal, Connor, Chabot, Boeser. With our second rounder, we could have drafted Aho (the missing puzzle piece for Puljujarvi). Language and chemistry is a must for Jesse to transition. We then decided we no longer needed secondary scoring – and gave away Hall and Eberle for cents on the dollar. While it’s always nicest to have the “best player” currently in the league, you can’t help but wonder how our roster might have looked like it was built around a player like Eichel. Perhaps the team wouldn’t have hired the management upgrade/downgrade. Perhaps the team wouldn’t have dropped the ball on such a deep draft. Black Mirror Bandersnatch :). Well for now, I will continue to pray for an Oilers miracle. Hope we can get a win streak going.

  • The Off Ice

    Connor will go down in history as one of, if not, the best hockey players in history. He’s absolutely electrifying. He’s like a ‘cheat code’ in a video game. I just hope the Oilers can find him some support. It’s almost tragic how he’s been twisting in the wind thus far.

  • Towers-of-dub

    how is it that all those guys Chiarelli traded for were even in the NHL anyway. After what we’ve seen in Spooner, and Manning in particular, how is it possible that any NHL GM signed either of them. They aren’t capable of playing hockey at this level, and even before they arrived in Edmonton, someone decided they were worth paying over $2MM/yr! Do teams just stockpile bad players in order to fleece Chiarelli?