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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: About Connor

Like many of you, I consider Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid the best player on the planet. For me, it’s not even close. Like many of you, I had absolutely no idea how serious the injury he suffered to his left knee in the final game of last season was until word began to trickle out about it this week.

For all the speculation generated last off-season after McDavid lost his balance on a check by Mark Giordano and slammed into that goalpost beside Mike Smith against [email protected] Calgary Flames, we had no idea how bad it was as we looked at every clip and read every item about the rehab he was going through.

McDavid’s posterior cruciate ligament was torn right through. He had a cracked tibia. McDavid faced surgery that would have meant a 10-month recovery. He opted instead to go the non-surgical route and do whatever it took to get back on his skates by training camp. We’ll get the details when Sportsnet airs a documentary, Whatever It Takes, Friday. Two segments from the clip released this week stand out for me.

The first, from McDavid, recalling the incident: “I thought my leg was in two pieces,” he said. “I held it together until we got through the tunnel. I was a mess.” The second: “Connor McDavid made the decision,” said trainer Gary Roberts, who oversaw the rehab. “He wanted to rehab this. No one has done what Connor has done to rehabilitate himself back from a serious knee injury in that period of time.” The trailer for the upcoming documentary, is here.

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NO HERO PIECE

So, here we are. As we ease into the NHL All-Star break, McDavid hasn’t missed a beat. He hasn’t missed a game. He leads the league in scoring. He hasn’t lost a step. He hasn’t stopped charging the net at warp speed. All that is amazing coming off a knee injury without us even knowing how severe it was. Now, with the documentary about to air, agent Jeff Jackson quotes McDavid as saying, “He told me, ‘I don’t want it to be a hero piece.’” You can read more about that here.

It took all kinds of people – doctors, chiropractors and trainers to name a few — to put McDavid back together over the summer. I’ve seen a lot of wicked rehabs in my years around the game, with Ryan Smyth’s return from a badly broken ankle to play at the 2002 Olympics near the top of the list, but this bit by McDavid might take the cake, even with all the details yet to come.

McDavid didn’t want a hero piece, so I’m not going to write one here. What stands out for me, though, is that McDavid is not only a player who obviously possesses generational skills that make him the best we’ve seen in a very long time, he’s also one of those guys who is driven and motivated from within beyond the norm to excel and succeed. That combination is truly something special.

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Just when you think McDavid couldn’t be any more special, we find out he’s been sitting silently on a summer rehab that was far more significant than any of us knew, with all the details to come Friday. Blessed are Oilers’ fans to have this young man wearing Edmonton silks.

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT

I think we can all agree the racial slur uttered by Brandon Manning of the Bakersfield Condors toward Bokondji Imama of the Ontario Reign in a game this week is unacceptable and repulsive on every level. There is no circumstance, be it during a game, in a dressing room, on the street or anywhere else when it’s OK.

The question becomes what should be done about it? In the case that came to light in November involving coach Bill Peters and Akim Aliu from years ago, Peters ended up resigning from the Calgary Flames. In the case of Manning, he’s been suspended by the AHL for five games. I heard some fans, on this website and on radio shows yesterday, suggest the Oilers should seek to terminate Manning’s contract. He should be gone. Out.

If termination of contracts, being fired or being forced to resign is where you set the bar for those who direct racial slurs at somebody, I’m completely good with it. There’s no place for racism. No excuse for it. That said, if you set the bar there, that standard must apply to all players — not just to a fringe guy like Manning out of convenience to dump a player who isn’t in the plans.