Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Lay off it, son

As Toronto area writers seem prone to do at least once every off-season, Globe and Mail columnist Cathal Kelly delivered his version of hanging cheese — a slow curveball without enough bend in it — Monday when he suggested that Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid just doesn’t look happy in his work. Oh my.

The temptation, if you haven’t seen the pitch before, is to get all jacked up and hack away mightily. Partly because the comment stings a bit with as lousy as the Oilers have been for too long, and partly because it comes from a writer in a city where the NHL team hasn’t won squat since 1967.

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I’m not going to do that — beyond this mention and without foaming at the mouth — and neither should you. The best thing to do with a lazy bender, and lazy sports writing, like Kelly’s latest McDavid ditty is to leave the bat on your shoulder, back out of the box and take the pitch because, like I said, we’ve seen it before. Kelly offered up much the same hanging cheese in January of this year, lamenting McDavid wasting away as an Oiler. 

As a follow up Monday, Kelly took some comments made by McDavid during his availability at a camp put on by BioSteel, who is one of his sponsors, and put a familiar spin on them – he suggested McDavid doesn’t look happy with his lot in life with the Oilers and implied that it might be better if he was somewhere other than Edmonton. Sound familiar?


Kelly wrote: “Four years into the Connor McDavid era, McDavid kept getting better and the Edmonton Oilers kept getting worse. No one seemed more confused by this turn of events than the man at the middle of it. A general conversation began to emerge in the NHL – does McDavid need rescuing? Is there something the army can do? Doesn’t it have helicopters and experience with human extraction?”

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A general conversation? Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is fantasy, pure and simple. Unless I’ve missed it, this conversation has pretty much been limited to the GTA and it’s one hatched by writers in Hogtown tired of waiting for the Maple Leafs to win something. You know, Connor wants to play here, and it would be better for everybody involved, notably the NHL, if he did. Sure.

Even when McDavid talks about his happiness, or lack of same, in Edmonton – and let’s face it, it hasn’t been a barrel of laughs — as he reluctantly does from time to time, it seems that there is more imaginative reading between the lines than there is attention paid to what he actually says. More of the same from Kelly, with Oilers fans already fussing about the state of McDavid’s knee.

Wrote Kelly, referring to questions posed at the end of last season: “McDavid – the companiest company man in the NHL – laughed off those questions, too. “I want to be here,” he said. “If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t have signed an eight-year deal.” Kelly added: “It sounded believable. Almost. Now that he’s had the summer to think about it, McDavid doesn’t sound any more sure about things.” On and on. For context, the item is here.


Until the Oilers’ medical staff or McDavid himself lets us know that he isn’t going to be ready for the start of the regular season, I’m not going to waste even a second worrying about the state of his healing posterior-cruciate ligament or spend time losing sleep or sweating over speculation about it. What’s the point?

As for the state of McDavid’s head and his heart when it comes to toiling for the Oilers, I’m going to take him at his word, allowing, of course, for the fact everyone will be much happier when the team at long last extricates itself from the ditch. Until McDavid comes clean about his secret desire to play for the Maple Leafs or in another city more beneficial to the greater good, I’ll leave reading between the lines to Kelly and the other deep thinkers fixated on what’s best for him.

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Bryn Griffiths and I spent 30 minutes or so Monday talking with Theoren Fleury about his compelling journey from sexual abuse and addiction to becoming an advocate for people struggling with the same issues as part of our second podcast for The Outsiders. Theo has never been better. You can take a listen here.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Schmidt Head

    Honestly, if you pay the least bit of attention to anything the Toronto media has to say or worse still; spend any amount of time obsessing over it, you’ve handed them the very thing they’re seeking which is attention and recognition.

    All this stuff is designed to do is create content and draw eyes, clicks and traffic to websites and sell newspapers. It’s the oldest trick in the book; when there’s no news, create some.

    It’s exactly why the entire industry is in such a state of disrepute today. My brother in law lives in Toronto and is surrounded by this garbage 24/7 and he just rolls his eyes when you mention it.

    • Agree completely. Not to show my age too much, but there was a time when an editor would have thrown this back at the writer and asked, “What kind of crap is this?” There has always been the need for filler, even before the days of the internet, but throwing out this kind of thing, “click bait,” is far more common now. The fall back for content used to be puff piece sidebars. Now, it’s this kind of stuff.

  • Rob...

    Factual reporting is dead, replaced by editorialized click-bait that keeps writers employed. It’s becoming a chore to dig the facts out of an article from even a formerly reputable service.

  • Hemmercules

    Mcdavid is generally pretty emotionless in his interviews with the media. I get the feeling he doesn’t enjoy it all that much. Cameras and microphones in your face, stupid questions. I don’t blame him one bit. I don’t doubt there’s a guy or two that would like to be traded away from Edmonton but I dont think McD is one of them (not including JP but thats pretty obvious). This time of year hockey writers need clicks and this is nothing more than that. Until Marner signs a deal the TO media has nothing to talk about.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Toronto media you say.

    Are those the same ones that thought the Blue Jays would be competitive for a few years? Maybe win a World Series? Or that Kawhi would re-sign with the Raptors? Or that the Leafs would win more than zero playoff rounds the last 15 years? Maybe close out a series against the Bruins one of these years?

    Clean up your own house before you judge ours thank you very much.

    • Pritchard

      The article is absolutely ridiculous. Suggesting that Connor was giving the WRONG answers to questions. E.g…On the Lucic trade , when McDavid was asked for his take , he mentioned how Lucic will be missed bla bla. When the writer suggests that the first thing to come out of Mcdavids mouth SHOULD have been how pumped he is about James Neal joining the team. Which McDavid did go on to say ( But those comments were conviently not mentioned in the article ). Get over it Toronto . They are still sucked up that they didn’t win the draft lottery in 2015 .

  • billsbills

    That interview was McDavid being McDavid.

    Besides all I remember from the 80’s and 90’s was Toronto media saying how bad Gretzky wanted to be a Maple Leaf. 😂😂😂😂😂

  • Intercourse the Penguins

    Free McDavid…’s knee! By that I mean that I hope he heals perfectly and can continue to be unbelievably good. I also think you should trade him for a boatload of good players but logic does not rule the heart.

  • Alberta Ice

    The Oilers/Flames Soap Opera 2019-20 year is up and running. Hard to believe the NHL’s best player McD gets injured in a meaningless year end game. Watching that injury clip is immeasurably painful to watch. Watch how McD not only hits the post but accidentally takes out the goalie Smith- who is now a stopper for the Oilers. Lucic, his good buddy, now gets to try to stop him if and when he gets back from his injury. Maybe Neal can fill the missing gap if McD is out too long? If there is one thing that plays a wild card to a team’s having success, injuries must be it. (Good thing the Oilers aren’t like the NFL Colts who literally for this year have run out of Luck.)

  • Ken McTippett

    And of course McDavid is not happy!! He wants to win!! The fans are not happy either! McDavid wants to prove he can turn this franchise around. Asking to leave means that he is a quitter. McDavey is not a quitter! He’s an intense, thoughtful guy. God, I hope the Oilers make the playoffs this year. Shut these Toronto morons up.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    The thing is, Kelly’s a columnist, and a damn good one. He doesn’t write because he wants us to agree with him – he writes to provoke thought and, of course, clicks, ad-reads or (pardon for being old-fashioned), purchases of the hard-copy version of the newsstand. I like his writing and if I see he’s got something posted on the G+M site, I’ll usually give it a go first.

    That said…

    We should all try to find someone in our lives with the same kind of connection to our hearts and minds as the media in the 416 area code has with the heart and mind of Connor McDavid.

    Toronto’s obsession with Connor’s time in Edmonton is becoming a bit … creepy? I mean, c’mon. The Leafs aren’t bad – they’ve got Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and a decent defenceman in Rielly. You’d think they’d have enough to be happy. But they look west to the Prodigal Son, with longing, envy and a lot of jealousy.

    It’s odd behaviour for a Centre of the Universe. Almost provincial, actually. Part of being a centre-of-the-universe in something is not only not giving a (hoot) about what the rest of the world thinks about it, but also not giving a (hoot) about the what’s going on in the rest of the world. Toronto needs to follow New York’s example and not give a care about the goings-on elsewhere in the NHL and whether or not its home-grown products should be playing there.

    Honestly – we didn’t care when Jarome Iginla played in Calgary, of all places. There were no attempts to lure him home. Instead, we applauded his career and, when the time came, renamed an arena in St. Albert in his honour. No envy, no longing, no jealousy.

    One wonders … do the Toronto media pine for a return to the Original Six era where Ontario players (with a few exceptions) played for Toronto, the Quebec players played for Montreal and the other four teams fought for everyone else from the Prairies, with varying degrees of success? Kelly’s attempt to read the soul of Connor McDavid certainly suggests that may be the motivation.

    Oh well. I suppose we should all feel fortunate, not only that we have McDavid for them to pine over … but also that there wasn’t any social media back when Gretz was here.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Gotta give it to Kelly, though, he may be a ridiculous fantasist on most things but he’s got one of the best used thesauri amongst sports scribes out there. Which is to say, the man can polish a turd with the best of them.

  • Derzie

    Disdain for Toronto media aside, there is nothing material to say dispute the claim. McDavid has been flat in many interviews (probably who he is) and miserable in others (hating to lose, frustrated with the reasons why).

    A perfectly reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that he is not ‘enjoying his work’. Anyone doubting this is ignoring information. None of us know the man and what he thinks but we work with info we have. I’d rather read a piece that looks at the half empty version than the half full of kool aid version. Results in more realistic expectations.

  • I'm too tall for this @#$%

    If I was McDavid I know I would hate talking to the media. They’re constantly trying to generate drama around him in order to sell ads. They generate revenue from making his life more difficult. They often see no consequences from this business model, but he does. It’s exploitative.