Photo Credit: © Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(FE): If you were Connor McDavid

With the season winding to an end and the Oilers sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in, the Oilers have ultimately wasted three of the first four years of Connor McDavid’s NHL career.

You can give them a pass on the first one, given the fact he was a fresh rookie who missed half of the season due to an injury, but these last two seasons after the team’s supposed breakout year in 2016-17 have been incredibly frustrating. And that frustration isn’t just felt by the fanbase. It’s felt, most of all, by the captain himself.

The Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoffs after Tuesday night’s loss in Vegas. We knew long before that night the team wasn’t going to defy the odds and go on a run, but the official elimination from playoff contention is always a gut punch. McDavid clearly felt it that night.

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“It’s really high. It’s really, really high. It’s frustrating. We want to play in the playoffs as a team. I personally want to play in the playoffs. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be a long summer.”

This was probably the most frustrated we’ve seen the soft-spoken captain in an interview before and his words carried loudly around the league. Many have spouted off about the possibility (or inevitability) of McDavid demanding out. I don’t really put much weight on those opinions as most don’t actually have any insight into the situation and many actively looking to stir things up. This is the hyper-analysis of his draft lottery body language all over again.

That said, when Elliotte Freidman chimes in on the situation, you can’t help but pay attention. Friedman said on his 31 Thoughts podcast that he believes the Oilers have one or two more years before McDavid requests to be let out of this situation. While many will say McDavid should or will demand a trade simply to start controversy, I don’t believe Friedman is that type. He’s very well-connected and puts a lot of thought into the things he says.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. If you were in Connor McDavid’s shoes, how would you handle the future? Would you commit to the organization no matter what? Would you flex some influence and demand a certain coach or general manager is brought in? Or would you be looking to get your way out as soon as possible?

Oilersnation Pre Game Podcast – Game 5 at Toronto

It’s very obvious McDavid’s career has been wasted up to this point. No matter how much of an optimist you are, there’s no way around that. Nobody expected for the Oilers to be on the outside looking in after his fourth season, not even this organization’s biggest critics.

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There really aren’t many instances in the NHL in which a player of McDavid’s calibre has been in a situation so bad. Mario Lemieux would probably be the best comparable, as the Penguins didn’t manage to make the playoffs in his first four seasons in the league. Other first overall pick comparables who saw virtually zero success with their first franchise are John Tavares, who made the playoffs in just three of nine seasons with the Islanders before leaving the team as a free agent, and Rick Nash, who made the playoffs once in nine seasons with the Blue Jackets before requesting a trade.

Even if we take a look outside the NHL to the NBA, you don’t see a superstar player jump ship that quickly. The Cleveland Cavaliers massively flopped having LeBron James in his first go-around. He carried a team bogged down with marginal players to five playoff appearances in seven seasons and one trip to the Final before leaving to sign with the Miami Heat. Even Kevin Durant, who infamously ditched the OKC Thunder for easy championships in Golden State, stuck with the Thunder for nine seasons. Anthony Davis, whose career has been completely wasted in New Orleans, finally requested a trade this year, which is his seventh in the league. Also wasted in New Orleans, Chris Paul played six seasons before asking for a trade.

Oilers bottom-six forwards are getting crushed, what now?

So, really, McDavid asking for a trade after four seasons would be pretty unprecedented for a player of his calibre in recent history. It’s a sticky situation because while McDavid is obviously a tremendously competitive person who desperately wants to have a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup, he also isn’t a quitter. If he was quieter, he wouldn’t be this good at hockey.

There’s no doubt that leaving puts a damper on a player’s legacy. I’m not just saying this as an Oilers fan who would be sad if Connor McDavid left. It’s just a reality. When LeBron left Cleveland, his two championships in Miami were met with a shrug. Four years after The Decision, LeBron returned to Cleveland and his 2016 championship is viewed as a bigger accomplishment than the other two combined. Then there’s Kevin Durant, whose two rings with Golden State are scoffed at because he just latched onto an already great team.

Still, a player can only put up with so much. As Friedman said, there’s reason to believe he can only take another couple years of incompetent management here before he decides to move on. If you’re Connor McDavid, and the organization doesn’t get it right, how long can you stick it out?  

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  • camdog

    Somebody needs to write about about the few times both coach and GM were fired mid season, might have to transfer the boundaries of sport to write this blog.

    Whatever’s going on at the “Red Wine Summits” it’s not normal in professional sports.

  • Hemmercules

    I wonder when and which media guy is going to ask him if he’s thinking about a trade soon. Mcd will probably brush it off like he usually does but some idiot is going to throw out that question in a scrum sometime soon I bet.

  • Randaman

    I see Connor playing somewhere else in three years. The media will fuel the fire and help it happen. All Connor has to do is look like the innocent victim (which he is) and the fans will continue to love him. Legacy ruined my a$$. What a stupid article and by the way Durant was the play off MVP so there’s that.

  • hagar

    If the management is the same next year as the last 14 that means nothing is changing, so he might as well get out a few years early for his sake.
    He would have to be as dumb as all of us fans to stick around for his entire contract if Katz tells him everyone is staying.
    If I was connor, i would fly down to Katz’s pimp house in la, sit down face to face, and ask what his plans are for the team. I wish I could do it, but he should be able to pull it off.

    • BobbyCanuck

      No, Connor has more power than that, he would call Katz, and tell him to be at the family cottage on August 25th, 2PM sharp, and tell me why I should NOT ask for a trade.

  • camdog

    The question isn’t whether Connor asks for a trade. The question is when well the current Oilers Executive start to think trading Connor is the solution to their problems? This group thinks everybody is trade able. The narrative here is backwards.

  • hammer313

    It won’t be presented that it was a trade request, it will be spun as, better for the team. Total garbage, and with any sort of description could mean a death march for the franchise. Trade the best player in hockey history and then possibly the next one, fans could possibly rip down Rogers with their bare hands. Hope it doesn’t happen, but the two trains seem to be chugging hard towards each other.

    • hagar

      That is an interesting point. With the huberous of this management, and their refusal to accept any blame, they probably would spin it as their idea, and pull the trigger at first sign of connor wanting out.

      Everything thing in the entire world is second place to their egos… No way they would treat connor any different.

  • FutureGM

    If this organization doesn’t show significant competence over the next two years I will personally start a free Connor campaign and let this mess burn to the ground!!

  • Serious Gord

    Connor doesn’t strike me as a very sophisticated communicator or deep thinker in things related to the management of a Hockey organization. Not that that is surprising – he’s barely 22.

    But he is as we all know a very unique and important character in hockey history ALREADY.

    – he’s the first superstar who will play in a league that has been in the Cap Era for an appreciable length of Time. Ovi and Crosby both came in at the very dawn of the Cap and many old pre-cap players and contracts and teams were still in the league.

    – He is a member of Gen Z. This generation is far less prone to narcissism and feels far less entitled than the Gen X or millenials. They are less selfish as well BUT also much less willing to leave their fates to others.

    – and it’s this last aspect that is most notable.

    I think Connor did a lot of growing up this season. I think he’s a lot less idealistic and a lot less trusting of the Oilers management cabal now than he was at the start of this season.

    And I think he will in the next couple of years become much more assertive (dare I say “demanding”?) about what happens in the management of this team – not unlike several superstars before him – lebron, lemieux and Gretz come to mind.

    So what would I do if I were Connor? I would spend the off-season talking to lots and lots of people in Hockey and, if possible, other pro-sports. From agents to players to management types. I bet almost everyone of them would pick up the phone if he called. He needs to do a deep learning dive to understand how pro sports and entertainment works and where things look to be headed. Like Gretz he needs to be meticulous in Curating his public image as that ultimately will have a huge impact on how much he will earn for the next 40 years. But he also needs to learn how he can be a force for change in the league and in pro sports overall.

    And then after doing that research he needs to demand a meeting with Oilers management (piss on waiting for them to call – that’s not the Gen Z way…) and grill them on what their plans are and determine what their level of commitment is to winning (for example: will they fire anyone that is weakening that commitment) Because he is such a generational player who is enormously important to the league he has the power to ask for such things. Based in that interview and the actions taken by OEG I would make the decision to stay or go (or something in between?).

    It is ‘criminal’ that the best young player gets stuck on one of the worst teams in the league – that they really have no choice. and because he’s the best he’s being punished by being stuck on the worst NHL team of the past 25 years. Choices he makes in the next 24 months will impact not just him but thousands of other hockey players and others for years to come.

    I wish him well.

    • The Dave

      “Connor doesn’t strike me as a very sophisticated communicator or deep thinker in things related to the management of a Hockey organization.”
      You lost me on the first sentence, Gord. Connor is very obviously a guy who thinks a lot more than he says, and is very careful in what he says – I’m sure there’s been a fair bit of media coaching for him since he was a kid. I’m also not going to say anything against the sophistication of his hockey thoughts. “I think I know a thing or two about winning”, “If you have to ask the question then you know the answer”, and “Something in the water” tell me plenty about the thinking related to the management of a hockey organization. It’s not deep, and it’s not good. I’ll take Connor’s brain over theirs any day. How could it possibly be worse?

  • Gary Chalmers

    This is a stupid and pointless column, I don’t expect McDavid to ask for a trade, this year went off the rails for a couple of reasons, mainly a GM overreacted at the Klefbom injury and mad bad trades, the team was 17-12-4 when Klefbom went out, his play over the games he missed, I believe would bring in 8-10 pts in the standings, especially if he maintains the pace he was on pre-injury. You cant compare McDavid to Lebron, Lebron has never been traded, he has had the clout in all his negotiations and could go where he wanted, he was a free agent because he signed short 1 or 2 year contracts, which McDavid isnt. McDavid has 7 years left, he’s good friends with Leon, his image will take a hit if he requests a trade, the rant about it being frustrating to miss the playoffs, was a split second, end of game reaction, don’t read to much into this. You’re a horrible blogger, and who cares what Friedman says, who controls McDavids rights for the next 7 years? The Oilers, this is no story but your worse than the trolls that we get from other sites for writting this crap.

    • IRONman

      TSN = Toronto sucks news. Have some respect for 97. He gives 100%. He has to put up with a lot of junk. Oilers will fix it with proven management or not. I believe McDavid is a solid guy that’s why he is Soo good. He will play his 8 years and then decide. 97 and 29 are top of the league. No one likes losing but getting paid over $100,000 a game must be nice

    • Serious Gord

      The discussion has merit. It isn’t as black and white as staying or demanding a trade. It is – as I tried to outline above much more complicated than that.

      The challenges for connor this year aren’t just on the ice. they are also maturation challenges – what kind sports figure is he going to become?

    • Cam Lewis

      Hi, this isn’t a column. This is a what would you do Wednesday. We ask a question to the readers every week based on trending topics to generate discussion among the community. I hope that helps and I’m sorry if you were confused!

      • Hi, again to whom are you responding? Gord,Me, IRONman? Also , you are editor for Flames Nation as well? Why is it half the time it wont even let me log in with a registered password? If i do manage to log in every single post, trash and or cheers is instantly removed, why is that?

  • Heschultzhescores

    Every great business owner knows its employees and it’s customers are its most valuable asset. There is no place for nepotism in a well run business. The number of mistakes these guys have made is hard to even fathom. If the OBC have copper and blue running through their veins, then they need to take one for the future team and step down. This is the solution, because Katz will not fire his bought buddies. A recluse dies not have a wide friend base. Our weirdo owner is probably the first thing we should replace. I am torn on Connor asking for a trade. Toronto sure wants him, to the point of daily discussions. They say their Matthews is as good or better than McD, but clearly they don’t believe it as they’d dump him in a heartbeat to get McD.

    • Hemmercules

      Step down. Hahah. Why on earth would these guys step down? They should, but they never would. It’s like free money. Their pay obviously isn’t performance based because they continue to flounder the team and they remain employed. If MacT, Lowe, Howsen, Greene, Keith G and Bobby all stepped down they would never find another job in the NHL. Who would hire them?

    • Don’t be fooled by the Oilers brass. When they got McDavid they were told point blank by the league and Bobby Orr to clean this mess up, enter Chia and T Mac, proven winners elsewhere, but suck when they are here(just like players), because of constant interference from supposed superiors(Barf) who have proven they are not qualified. We can debate all you like, but the Rienhart deal was ALL on the OBC, Chia did not even know who he was. #FIRETHEMALLTODAY

  • Flint

    I but myself another Lamborgigeeni and play my contract out, and irrespective of the next four years, the minute I was a free agent I’d have nothing to do with Edmonton ever again beyond when I was the visiting team.

    I don’t think Connor demands out, but the clock is ticking to when he’s a UFA. Edmonton could offer him double the money of the next team (or the max allowable anyway) and he ain’t going back.

  • Spiel

    If I was Connor, I would get out whatever lucky charm I have, pray to whatever deity I believe in, and hope that the Oilers win the draft lottery so the team has a high enough pick that it can’t be screwed up. Going to need a replacement for Nuge when he leaves the season after next.

  • VK63

    Of note, Marc Savard had offered the “one more year” take during a Sportsnet broadcast earlier in the week.
    Is it inconceivable that Elliott was just echoing the idle thoughts of a colleague?

  • Munson

    Connor is barely on the pain train. Poor Nuge probably doesn’t even know you can still play in May. Also I’d expect a Leon trade request before a Connor one. What a twist!

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    If I’m Connor, I would give it 1-2 years…. if absolutely nothing changes, I ask for my trade (and essentially destroy the oiler organization in the process)…. I think he’s classy enough to give these nimrods a chance to try and fix Chia’s fiasco, but another 2 years of the same old, would make anyone snap ( and I don’t think anyone would blame him).

    On a side note, considering the amount of garbage coming from the Toronto based media (and they wonder why the rest of Canada can’t stand them) about McDavid, why don’t they talk about their “best player in the league” Matthews only signing for 5 years instead of the max, at 11+ mil (as a 70-80 point player) since he’s obviously wants out of TO.

  • Mitch64

    The only factor that gives me sleepless nights is the future going forward in goal. Koskinen is a goalie that shooters feast on, all goaltenders let goals in it happens but koskinen has shooters sniping spots cause they know they can score and that is a death certificate for any nhl tender. Is starlet a 1a or even starter by next year? Is any prospect trending to be a elite goaltender soon? If not then the oilers need to acquire a young starter calibre tender that will be cheap enough cap wize that we can get to the end of all these ugly contracts

  • OilersBro

    Connor isn’t going to leave. Imagine the question of his character if he asked for a trade with 7 seasons left on a contract. Tavares is a completely different situation. He played hard for NYI, had his contract expire, and then left. If the Oilers are like this in 7 years and Connor leaves, I’ll wish him all the best. Lebron left in free agency too. Requesting a trade like Karlsson was him doing the Senators a courtesy by saying he wouldn’t re sign in a year – Connor doesn’t have that leverage with 7 left.

  • Gravis82

    Take this article down. Garbage. Do I need to remind you that you are not in toronto and this is an Edmonton Oilers fan blog written for fans by fans? Are you a fan of the edmonton oilers? Because I dont think that any real fan would write this article.

    • The voice of reason

      Wait, so you rather leave this discussion to those with a clear agenda ? Smart thinking.
      No, we clearly as a fan base need to be aware of this because a player of Connor‘s quality cannot allow an organisation to waste full 8 years of what should be an exceptional career, and what this organisation is jeopardizing. If you believe that we should pretend this will not be an issue for him, you are actively contributing to letting it materialize. Sticking the head in the sand is NOT the solution. I am fully aware that it will attract the Leafs fans but we will have to deal with them and not let them take over the discussion. But this discussion is emerging not due to envious fans of other teams but because of missing the playoffs in 3 of 4 years.

  • Datsyukian

    Besides all the moral/ethical aspects, quitting also carries a risk. Even if he goes to a star-studded team, he is not (no one is) guaranteed to win a Cup. And it just might be that the Oilers win a Cup after he is traded (I am not saying it’s likely but who would have thought Vegas – a club with zero stars would reach the finals?). How would he feel then?

  • Derkus the circus

    Toronto is one of the richest teams and the fact they couldnt win in an almost 40 yr span without a salary cap is embarrassing. Hell…even the new york oilers eventually bought their way out of a long drought in 1994. All the tools out east would love to see Mcdavid leave. It isnt happening. It took Ovechkin 13yrs to win. Im not saying i want to wait that long but jeez a little more patience people…lets pray the next regime of mngmnt arent idiots

  • Datsyukian

    To answer the question in the article, I think yes, McDavid should flex his influence and demand changes (not publicly, of course). I’m curious to see how many folks here trash this, but I actually think that it would help, not hurt the team, if your superstar player was a bit of a rabble-rouser and a “jerk” – both with the management and the lazy-bum players. Being nice, politically correct and “leading by example” rather than word, only gets you so far. And in Connor’s case, because of his unique talent, nobody in the organization, including Katz, has any power to challenge or do anything to him. He has the power to change coaches, POHO, GMs, anyone. So he should use some of that power.

    • Stallions #35

      I agree with that… if you have the influence, you should use it positively. Tell them what is and isn’t working ( behind closed doors) if there are steps taken to fix it great, if it falls on deaf ears then that basically tells him what the management and owner’s priorities are. Going back to the season ticket holder Gregor spoke with…just seems like Management doesn’t care about the product on the ice.

      Taking it a little further, we kind of need to know what are McDavid’s immediate expectations? Would playoff next year make everything okay even if its a first round exit? Is he expecting to have a cup contending team in 2 years? Is making the playoffs next year then missing again the year after acceptable? These are all things management needs to know from him… sad to see the first four years of his career where it is, but its not the end.

  • You just got LITT up!

    I think McDavid has one (1) year left. I don’t imagine he would stick around for a multi-year rebuild (based off his comments the other night), and as much as ON might not want to admit it, another re-build is exactly what the Oilers are being forced into. The current cap structure dictates that changes cannot (easily) be made and therefore, we will ice essentially the same team next year. The Oilers suck now and our “core” players all had career years, one thing goes wrong next year and we might be worse than this year FML!!!!

  • Svart kaffe

    He should at least give the next GM a reasonable chance. It’s not an overnight process and next season will be re-tooling, everybody knows that. So 2-3 seasons more before it’s even an issue.

    But what Connor really could do is convince free agents or players with NTC-clauses to go to Edmonton. Imagine getting a phone call from Connor telling you what could be accomplished if you took the deal the Oilers offers?

    Also, I don’t necessarily think a frustrated Connor McDavid is a bad thing. Maybe he’ll get angry enough to put some demands on the guys in the locker room as well? Maybe the whole team is frustrated enough to feel like enough is enough?

    Also, why is there no talk about other players wanting out? RNH? Nurse? Klefbom? Nobody spins a story about how Draisaitl just want to call it quits and leave this sad organisation behind. Also, Hall didn’t want out. Eberle didn’t want out. I think these guys are more stubborn than most journalists who conjure these stories are. Quitters would rarely be in a position to go #1 in the draft. Had McDavid been a whiny quitter maybe he would be writing for Sportsnet instead of being the best player in the NHL?

    • Dark Knight Returns

      – hello, Connor here!
      – hey ! What’s up buddy?
      – you should come to play with the Oilers, we can’t pay you a lot cause if the salary cap, the city is cold most of the time,there’s not a thing to do, but the festivals are bananas. And you know what???? Imagine the great things we are up to.
      – like what?
      – well, Leon scored 50 and nuge 30. We are still 25th place on the league but…
      – …
      – hello?

  • toprightcorner

    1) I am committed to win a cup with the Oilers but management has to do their part to improve the team because me and Leon can’t do it ourselves

    2) Management needs to start winning trades so do whatever it takes to bring in people that can do that. Every trade that has been made has made it worse

    3)They need to add skill and people who play hard every game. then I would tell him the people that don’t work hard or hurts the team in the room

    4) Quit telling people that we have the players to win, because we don’t. This is not on the players, it is managements fault so start telling people management had not been good enough and you will fix it. We do not have good enough players to succeed.

    5) The next time you fire a coach or the GM, then it is time to trade me.

    6) If you are loyal to me by continuing to improve the team around me, then I will be loyal to you. If the players get worse, then you are failing.

    7) One last thing, if I roll my eyes when they announce the new GM, then you better fire Bobby and pray that the GM doesn’t screw it up, because the GM will dictate whether I stay or go.

  • Billsbills

    Cam, do better. This post is garbage designed to get emotional responses. Well here’s mine, you can go the way of Archeology guy. He was always irrelevant.

  • Spiel

    McDavid and Draisaitl have not missed many games the last two years, and the team has missed the playoffs badly. Think what will happen when the injury bug inevitably bites.
    If I was McDavid I would be personally calling free agents to try and get them to play on my team. Without some more help and depth, it is dark days ahead.

  • Heschultzhescores

    The Toronto media is stirring the pot and we are dumb enough to bite. Ignore them and their 50 years of losing. Hilarious hearing the 50 year losers tell everyone McD need to leave. With their history, nobody shouid sign there.