McDavid and Nurse: A Lot to Unpack

Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
11 months ago
There was no shortage of storylines from the Oilers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues. It was a highly entertaining hockey game, and for long stretches, the Oilers played really well, but a few plays significantly impacted the game.
Leon Draisaitl scored in overtime, but Toronto (situation room) called a challenge for offside, and the officials ruled Connor McDavid didn’t have control of the puck when he entered the zone ahead of the puck, so the goal was called off.
McDavid felt he was in control of the puck. Being in control of the puck doesn’t always mean it has to be on your stick. Players can move pucks ahead or behind them and still be in control. I understand McDavid’s frustration.
“Since I was a kid, I thought if you have possession of the puck (going over the blue line) that’s onside. If I had possession or not, I guess that’s the judgment call,” McDavid said.
His final words are bang on. Former NHL referee Dave Jackson said exactly that on Twitter last night. “Control will be subjective,” and he is correct.
Some, including McDavid, mentioned the Cale Makar goal from the playoffs, but I don’t see that as a fair comparison. That was a tag up play. The true comparison is this goal.
Kuznetsov did touch the puck with on his backhand a few feet inside the line. Likely why it counted. Here is the replay of the McDavid play at full speed. He never touched the puck again until he was close to the top of the circles. That amount of time without the puck on his stick is why they ruled he didn’t have control.
“The league’s got to clarify some of these rules. What’s a kick? What’s offside? What’s goalie interference? It kind of depends on the night, I guess. It’s disappointing. Obviously, we should never have even let it get to that point,” said McDavid.
McDavid is not someone who complains about officiating. He’s had many games where he could have and had valid reasons to question why there weren’t more penalties called on him. Last night was one of the rare times he’s ever questioned the league. When the face of your league speaks up, the league should at least listen and have a conversation. McDavid even mentioned the Calgary goal in last year’s playoffs that was called back. That benefitted McDavid, yet he still mentioned it.
Are offside reviews, that need to be replayed in slow motion, really necessary? If the officials can watch in real time and notice an obvious offside, sure, but if you can’t see it in real time, is it needed? If McDavid is asking for clarity the league should listen.
The challenge is that on some of the calls, kicks, offsides etc., there will always be a grey area. I’m not sure how they can make it black and white. After watching the replay numerous times, I can see why they ruled no goal. By the rule it makes sense, but is the rule necessary? It is a fair question.


While some will debate if McDavid had control or not, I don’t think there is any debate the game shouldn’t have gone to overtime. Darnell Nurse’s giveaway in the final 20 seconds that led to the Blues tying the game simply can’t happen.
“That’s unacceptable on my part,” Nurse said. “I let my teammates down. We shouldn’t be in that position to be in OT like that. I play in too many important minutes and situations to be making plays like that. That’s on me. We had a power play and the lead with 18 seconds left. That isn’t on anyone else. That’s on me.”
Nurse faced the music and admitted he erred. He also could have made a better play on the Blues’ first goal as well. It was not a great night for Nurse. He does many things well, but lately he’s made some glaring giveaways/turnovers and he needs to limit them.
After Nurse said he didn’t like the play, I asked him what he’d do different.
“I wouldn’t turn the puck over. Simple as that.” Would you go up the wall?
“I have to watch the play over again. It is just unacceptable on my part. There is no excuse in that situation. There are enough plays (options) out of it,” said Nurse.
Nurse felt the same as everyone watching. It was a bad play at the worst possible time of the game. Timing in the game is a major factor. I’d argue his play on the Blues’ first goal was more frustrating, because the Blues didn’t have to make a great play to get the puck. Vladimir Tarasenko made a great play to knock Nurse’s pass down on the game tying goal. Nurse still needs to make a better play, but the first goal the Blues didn’t do anything highly skilled to get the puck. But because it happened in the first period, you have time to recover, and the Oilers did. They led 3-1 and 3-2 with 30 seconds remaining. Nurse’s late-game gaffe hurts more, because there was less time remaining in the game.
Nurse can play better. He needs to find the stability and consistency he had last season, especially in the second half when he was excellent down the stretch. Nurse will always have turnovers, because he plays a lot, but he needs to limit the 9 and 10-bell errors.  Mistakes happen, they are part of the game, but you hope that on the scale of 1-10 the errors are more fours and fives, not nines and tens.


Jun 2, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) reacts to missing a shot on the Colorado Avalanche in the second period of game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
It is very fair to point out Nurse’s errors yesterday. He didn’t deflect from his mistakes. He owned them. Critique the play. Be frustrated by it. That is valid and makes sense, but the error has zero to do with his contract. If Nurse made $6m or $7m or $8m the error still cost them the game. I keep seeing how Nurse is overpaid. He wasn’t worth his salary. So, let’s look at that rationally.
First off, if you keep repeating Cale Makar as a comparison you look foolish. He was an RFA when he signed. Compare Nurse to other UFAs. It is easy to find comparables, because they all signed two weeks before Nurse signed his extension on August 6th, 2021.
Seth Jones signed an eight-year, $9.5m AAV on July 23rd, 2021. It began this season. He was acquired by Chicago and signed the extension.
Dougie Hamilton signed a seven-year, $9m AAV on July 28th with New Jersey. He was a UFA and only allowed to sign for seven years.
Zach Werenski signed an eight-year, $9.538m AAV on July 29th to remain in Columbus. It began this season.
Nurse signed an eight-year, $9.25m AAV on August 6th to remain with Edmonton. This is the first year of the deal.
Many have said, repeatedly, the Oilers should have waited until this past summer to sign him. It would have been cheaper, they reason, because he wasn’t as productive in 2022 as he was in 2021. The theory, however, doesn’t match reality.
Here are their point totals from last season:
Nurse had slightly higher P/GP than Hamilton and lower than Jones and Werenski. Now look at the previous two seasons, which is often used in negotiations.
Nurse had the most 5×5 points. He doesn’t play as much on the PP as the others, yet their P/GP were all very similar. Nurse has the most goals and goals do carry more weight than assists.
But let’s look at their other statistics. Here are some possession numbers for them last season.
*Ranks is where they ranked in 5×5 TOI among D-men. Missed games are a factor of course.
*OZS is for Offensive Zone starts, N is for Neutral and D is for Dzone.
130 Hamilton621050:2251.7751.8951.2146.0351.8253.0218358.033354.17149230137
Which of these numbers suggest Nurse’s camp would not have been able to ask for similar salary to Jones, Werenski or Hamilton this past summer?
Let’s go a step further and look at quality of competition last season courtesy of PuckIQ.com.
This breaks down how many minutes they played v. Elite forwards and what % of their total 5×5 play was v. Elite. Their GF-GA and then their dangerous Fenwick.
PlayerTOI v. Elite (%)GF-GADFF%
Nurse583 (41.7%)16-1354.4% (54.9 overall)
Jones514 (34.3%)13-1547.8% (46.8 overall)
Hamilton382 (36.6%)17-1949.1% (52.9 overall)
Werenski386 (29.3%)12-2245.4% (45.6 overall)
Nurse played the most minutes and the highest % of his TOI v. Elite and had the best GA/60 and best DFF%. New Jersey, Chicago and Columbus were not blessed with stellar defense cores that allowed Jones, Hamilton and Werenski to play fewer minutes v. Elites.
You can keep yelling and complaining about Nurse’s contract, but there is no data that suggests the Oilers would have been in position to sign him to a significantly lower deal this past off-season. The market was set by Jones, Werenski and Hamilton. If you believe Nurse should have taken less because it improves Oilers chance to win, that is a different conversation, but I see no reason why he would have taken a massive discount. Maybe he signs for $8.25m.
Even if he did, the errors last night would still have cost the Oilers the game. Nurse’s contract would have changed nothing.
He needs to play more consistently. He needs to find the level of play he had last season, especially in the second half when he played 50.7% of his TOI v. Elite players and only allowed three goals against. His salary was earned based on his play the past two seasons in comparison to other pending unrestricted free agents who signed similar deals.
Wanting Nurse to reduce the glaring errors like last night is valid. He is capable of playing better and needs to limit the 10-bell giveaways. That should be the focus.


Thanks to Trevor for his great bid of $3500 on the dinner at Chop Steakhouse yesterday.
DAY 12: Pyramid of Giving
We will build a pyramid of giving to help Adopt-A-Teen. It is a simple donation.
We will have 15 people donate $100.
Ten people will donate $200.
Four people will donate $500
And two people, or companies, will donate $1000.
And we will raise $7,500 for Adopt-A-Teen. (Tax receipt included).

It goes from 2-6 p.m. on TSN 1260. You can text the show between 2-6 p.m. at 101260 and include your name and donation amount. Lisa and her team from Adopt-A-Teen will call you to get your information.
Thanks in advance.

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