It’s obvious to anybody who has paid even casual attention to the Edmonton Oilers these past four seasons that Connor McDavid is a special player. This much we already know.
As has come to be expected, the 22-year-old Oilers’ captain keeps finding new ways to prove it, like his hell-bent charge to the net in a meaningless game against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome Saturday night. And with the matter-of-fact comments he made Sunday about the play that saw him slam into the goalpost left knee-first, stay down, then limp to the dressing room.
It’s a play that had Oilers fans rightfully crapping their pants as McDavid was hauled down by Mark Giordano four minutes into the second period of what would be a 3-1 win in Edmonton’s season finale. While X-rays taken in Calgary showed no broken bones, McDavid isn’t in the clear yet – the team is awaiting the results of an MRI on a knee that was heavily braced as he faced reporters at Rogers Place this morning.
You’d think in a game without playoff implications, McDavid, already in the books with a career-high 116 points, might ease up just a little. I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t done enough, taking turns with Leon Draisaitl carrying the team on his shoulders this season. Well, think again. For better or worse, depending on the result of that MRI, that’s just not how McDavid is put together.
WORTH EVERY DIME
When Mark Spector of Sportsnet asked McDavid about his daring dash to the net before Giordano tripped him up – and if that’s an aspect of his game that might be throttled back a hair in Game 82 with the Oilers closing out another disappointing season – we got an insight into the competitive fire that burns in his gut and what makes him tick.
“They pay me $100 million to play my game, and part of my game is beating guys wide and going to the net,” McDavid said straight-faced. “I’ll have to give my money back if I stop doing that. I’m not doing that, so…” McDavid’s full media availability is here.
The other part of McDavid’s availability that stuck with me was when he re-visited the frustration he voiced after a 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on the night the Oilers were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Some Toronto-area wags, as they seem prone to do, speculated again that McDavid’s frustration translated to him wanting out of Edmonton.
“This year is frustrating,” he said. “A lot has already been made about what I said in Vegas, but I’d be a complete loser if I wasn’t frustrated. You know, it’s frustrating personally. It’s frustrating as a group. You want to be in the playoffs. You want to be competing late in the season, but that’s not where we’re at, so we’ve got some stuff to figure out, like I said.
“We’re going to get it right. I know Bob (Nicholson) is on a mission to right the ship here and I’m confident he will. I want to be here. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t have signed an eight-year deal. I love the guys and the city. There’s obviously going to be changes both on and off the ice. That’s just the facts of it. I’m here to be part of the solution. That’s that.”
THE WAY I SEE IT
Call me crazy, but I’m willing to take McDavid at his word on that one even if I’m not so sure about Nicholson, who will meet with the media Monday. I don’t know how many more kicks at the can that Nicholson and whoever he brings in to replace Peter Chiarelli and clean up hockey ops are going to get, but I wouldn’t press it. For now, though, McDavid is all-in.
That should provide Oilers’ fans with some small measure of solace as they spend yet another off-season wondering what went wrong and who is going to fix things. I’d hope as well that what McDavid said today might stick a sock in it for those Hogtown-area gasbags who can’t believe he actually wants to stay here and win here, but I doubt they’ll shut it.
For now, fingers crossed on that knee and the vision and due diligence Nicholson spells out for the masses on Monday.