The most impressive thing about Connor McDavid at the NHL all-star game wasn’t that he won the fastest skater competition for the third straight time. It’s how he handled all the questions thrown at him about his future with the Edmonton Oilers, even though he was obviously less than thrilled about the grilling he got.
Given the firing of Peter Chiarelli as Oilers’ GM on the eve of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl jetting into San Jose, I understand why media types pursued the angle about his happiness or lack of same in Edmonton – many fans didn’t appreciate it – and why they pressed him. I thought he handled it just about as well as anybody possibly could, and in no uncertain terms.
McDavid’s hot-seat session came framed by an amusing bit of click-bait by Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur in which he opined: “Connor McDavid doesn’t deserve this. He shouldn’t be trapped in hockey hell . . .” Arthur concluded: “Nobody can break Connor McDavid out except Connor McDavid, and he has never shown the slightest inclination . . .” For full context, the item is here.
There’s no debating the Oilers were mostly a mess on Chiarelli’s watch since McDavid arrived and that this edition of the team has plenty of work to do to turn that around between now and the end of the season and beyond. McDavid, however, didn’t once waiver when pressed about his status when the microphones and notepads converged in San Jose. I didn’t expect he would.
TELLING IT STRAIGHT
“What I look forward to coming out of the break is trying our best to prove everyone wrong,” McDavid said. “We have an opportunity here where. Everyone seems pretty down us. There’s a sense of negativity from the media and everyone around the team.
“We get to prove everyone wrong. We get to decide how we’re going to finish the second half. You have to believe. You have to believe we’re going to turn it around it around. If you don’t, you don’t have to be around here.” You can watch and read the full interview here.
While there can’t be any doubt McDavid isn’t happy with the way things have gone for the majority of his time in Edmonton, it’s a quantum leap at this point to suggest that equals a desire to ply his trade elsewhere, despite a chorus of eastern wags suggesting that could or should be the case. I’d suggest that if or when McDavid feels the need to voice any concerns, he’ll do so in the dressing room. Or, if need be, in the presence of owner Daryl Katz or Bob Nicholson before he goes public.
McDavid’s message to this point is about as straightforward as it gets – get with the program and do what you can to turn things around or get out. That’s leadership, and that’s exactly what I expect we’ll see from McDavid over the next 32 games in trying to drag a team this flawed into the playoffs. That’s more than enough to put on the shoulders of No. 97 with the mess Chiarelli has left this team in.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- The Oilers will get back into action Saturday in Philadelphia and we’ll know later this week whether Oscar Klefbom will be ready to go after missing 19 games with a broken finger and having surgery to repair the damage. While Klefbom has been working out and skating, that’s not the same as playing. To state the obvious, any playoff push by the Oilers depends directly on how quickly Klefbom gets up to speed.
- I think the Oilers need a minimum of 40 points from their final 32 games to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Most years, of course, it takes 90-plus, but with Dallas and Colorado just three points up in the wildcard, neither is out of reach points-wise. The bigger concern is all the traffic in front of the Oilers.
- Late to it, but a tip of the cap to Kendall Coyne-Schofield, who finished seventh in a field of eight in the fastest skater competition at the all-star game in 14.346, a heartbeat behind McDavid at 13.378. That was fun. Count me among those who’d like to see more of the top women’s players at the all-star game.