With another disappointing Oilers season in the rear-view mirror, Oilers fans try to keep their heads up and look towards a brighter future. Without a doubt, no matter how bleak it may seem, the Oilers still boast one of the greatest players in the world on their roster, so the dim light of optimism can never truly be smothered.
Connor the Conquerer
But how many more ways are there to quantify the supremacy of Connor McDavid? Though a disappointing season as a team, with the Oilers missing the playoffs for the 12th time in thirteen seasons, McDavid continued his domination of the NHL in his fourth full campaign, tying his career high in goals (41) and setting a new career high in points (116), earning his second Hart Trophy nomination and the opportunity to earn his third consecutive Ted Lindsay Award (recognized as the best player in the league by his peers).
Though the 2018-19 NHL season was the Year of Nikita Kucherov, with the Lightning superstar dominating the league in most statistical categories, McDavid kept pace as well as he could, without playing on a historical mighty team that were the ’18-’19 Lightning.
McDavid’s 81 total even-strength points were actually ahead of Kucherov’s 80, while also finishing 3rd overall in 5v5 points with 64 (Kucherov was first with 69, and the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane second with 66). McDavid also finished 4th in primary assists with 28, just ahead of Kucherov’s 26 (both finished behind the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner with 36, the Penguin’s Sidney Crosby with 31, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin with 29).
Individually, McDavid had another sterling season, nearly keeping pace with Kucherov while the former’s team struggled through a season of turmoil and the latter’s nearly set historical records. Because of the standard that players don’t win unless their team makes the playoffs (even though both Kucherov and Crosby earned only four extra games each), McDavid will likely be denied a second Hart trophy, but a nomination alone shows the respect that the Oilers captain had earned around the league as one of the very best.
Captain Connor and his ‘Mates
So how did McDavid’s incredible season translate to his teammates? Here’s a look at how McDavid performed with some of his regular linemates. (all numbers are at even-strength)
w/ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Even-Strength TOI 351.46
CF% 49.29 GF% 45.71 SCF% 48.33 HDCF% 48.34 HDGF% 38.10 Off.Zone FO% 53.81 SH% 8.00
McDavid and RNH didn’t actually play as well together as some may have thought with Nuge on Connor’s wing. They didn’t push the the pace in a positive factor, with a relatively low shooting conversion and not generating enough offensive opportunities to sustain a potent offense.
w/ Leon Draisaitl
Even Strength TOI 821.15
CF% 51.01 GF% 57.14 SCF% 51.29 HDCF% 47.58 HDGF% 54.84 Off.Zone FO% 57.22 SH% 14.41
With no surprise to anyone, Connor and Leon played the most together, and dominated while they were together, controlling the play and vastly outscoring the opposition when together. They allowed more High Danger chances (though that could be attributed to the instability on the blueline behind them), but converted more efficiently on them than opponents.
So how did Draisaitl and McDavid fair with the cast of players who rode shotgun on their right-wing?
w/ Leon and Zack Kassian
Even Strength TOI 290.25
CF% 51.13 GF% 55.10 SCF% 51.03 HDCF% 44.78 HDGF% 62.50 Off.Zone FO% 60.83 SH% 17.09
Without a doubt, the most successful lineman to play with Connor and Leon. Kassian’s speed has allowed him to keep up and generate a greater amount of chances towards the opponent’s net. The most impressive stat to me is the conversion of High Danger chances, even though the Oilers were grossly out-chanced against.
w/ Leon and Ty Rattie
Even Strength TOI 73:52
CF% 45.95 GF% 44.44 SCF% 49.32 HDCF% 38.89 HDGF% 42.86 Off.Zone FO% 54.35 SH% 10.00
2018-19 was hoped to be the Year of the Ratt by many Oilers fans after finishing the ’17-’18 season strong on the top line, but injuries robbed Rattie of his place on the top line, but even in the small amount of time he saw back there was not incredibly productive (or at least as much as many hoped).
w/ Leon and Drake Caggulia
Even Strength TOI 77.19
CF% 57.82 GF% 50.00 SCF% 62.67 HDCF% 60.61 HDGF% 50.00 Off.Zone FO% 59.68 SH% 12.50
Though he’s long-gone, shipped off to the Blackhawks for (potential buy-out candidate?) Brandon Manning, it’s interesting to see how The Drake played on the top line when he was healthy. It actually be more frustrating to see how well the three played in their short-time together. Again, small sample size, but it’s quite remarkable to see the stark difference from Rattie to Caggulia on the top line with relatively the same amount of even-strength time.
Heading into next season, it seems that the most sensible play would be to keep the Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian trio together to see if they can continue to play well together. But with a new coach, a new system, and potentially some new players coming in either through free agency or the farm, this all might be irrelevant come the fall. But the chemistry between Connor and Leon is undeniable, and despite the instance by some that Draisaitl needs to run is own line in order to realize his full potential (both in terms of talent and salary cap potential), but there’s no reason to break up a duo how can combine for over 200 points and nearly a hundred goals.
And when the Oilers make the 2019-20 playoffs, McDavid will capture the Hart Trophy again.
Traditional stats courtesy of nhl.com, Advanced stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com