What’s the story? As one of the instructors in my college journalism program told me back in the era of carbon paper and typewriters, if you can make a habit of coming up with the answer to that, you’re on your way as a writer. Seems simple enough. It’s not rocket surgery.
Through the first 19 games of this season for the Edmonton Oilers, the story for me and the vast majority of you has been the play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. More of the same last night as they each picked up two goals and four points in a 5-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They’ve been producing at an outrageous rate, even for them, this season.
The truth is, McDavid and Draisaitl have been hogging the storylines for years. Wednesday was more of the same. They were the story, although to hear some people on social media tell it, coach Dave Tippett giving Zack Kassian the opportunity to play with them was at least a sidebar, but not for the reasons you’d think.
The goal and two assists Kassian chipped in? Whatever. You see, Kassian didn’t deserve the chance ahead of, say, Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi. The bottom line, even though the line juggling by Tippett unquestionably paid off at least for one game, is they have no time for Kassian when he isn’t producing and it’s the same even when he is. Moaning and groaning about the move after a win like last night tells me so.
I’ll stick with McDavid, who became the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 400 assists (426 games) on the 3-1 goal by Kassian, and Draisaitl who leads the league in scoring with 20-20-40 in 19 games – he’s just the second player to hit 40 points before the 20-game point of a season. Wayne Gretzky is the other. At this rate, even though Draisaitl laughs off the suggestion, he’s on pace to score 50 goals in 50 games. Ridiculous.
WHAT THEY SAY
“I think it’s a little crazy to think I’m going to score 50 goals in 50 games,” Draisaitl said matter-of-factly during his post-game availability. “Right now, pucks are going in for me, but this is a tough league to score in. I don’t expect to hit that stat at all.
“We’ve got a great group and it’s about winning, and obviously that’s my way of helping the team. Without linemates or especially Connor, this is impossible. We’re looking to keep going on and these stats, at the end of the day, don’t really matter.”
With the Oilers beaten 4-1 in Dallas Tuesday on a night his team didn’t generate much of anything resembling an attack, Tippett went back to playing Draisaitl with McDavid, as he tends to do whenever he’s looking for a boost. Tippett made Kassian the third wheel, but his place that high in the line-up is written in pencil, not ink.
“We need that,” Tippett said. “Last night (Tuesday), we weren’t very good, and both those guys included in that. We didn’t have a very good team effort. Tonight, we wanted a better team effort. Those guys do what they do, but I thought the rest of our group was pretty solid too.”
Or course, the bigger picture and bigger story – contending for a Stanley Cup — is front of mind for everybody who has spent years watching this team with McDavid and Draisaitl driving the bus since they arrived. That’s not lost on Tippett.
“They’re really good players,” said Tippett. “They want to play to their strengths, but we have to continue to build our team around them. They do what they do, but we need to make sure we’re playing the right way with everybody around them to give us the chance to win every night.”
On to Las Vegas.
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Previously by Robin Brownlee
- The DeVito
- Off the Top of My Head
- About Stuart Skinner
- Don’t Lose the Plot
- Off the Top of My Head
- Different This Time