Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
8 months ago
If you’re talking about anybody other than Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid when the question is raised about who the best player in the NHL is right now, you can’t possibly be doing it with a straight face. That’s true even if you’re a fanboy of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews is your cousin.
McDavid sparked more discussion when he reached 60 goals for the first time by scoring twice in Wednesday’s 4-3 OT win over the Arizona Coyotes. With another Art Ross Trophy in the bag as the NHL’s scoring leader – he had 60-78-138 going into Saturday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Vegas Golden Knights – is there any compelling argument that McDavid isn’t the best player in the game today, and by a lot?
I think not. For me, we’re well past the point of arguing about the best and most impactful player in the league here and now. When it comes to McDavid, I’m trying to figure out where he fits on the list of all-time greats now and where he might sit all-time when he’s done. For a lot of people, that’ll probably depend on whether McDavid can win a Stanley Cup or two before he’s finished. That’s fair.
Strictly by the numbers, McDavid has been the most productive player in the NHL offensively since he entered in the league to start the 2015-16 season. In 559 regular season games, McDavid had compiled 229-536-835 going into Saturday. With 296-421-717 in 591 games, Draisaitl is a distant second and Patrick Kane sat in third spot with 244-431-675 in 595 games. You can find other top producers courtesy of statmuse.
THE EYEBALL TEST
Mar 22, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) scores the overtime winning goal, his 60th goal of the season against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram (39) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
As we’ve heard plenty since Wednesday, McDavid became just the 22nd player in NHL history to reach 60 goals. Only four players on that list are active – McDavid, Matthews, Steven Stamkos, and Alex Ovechkin. Being old as dirt, I’ve seen every player on that list play dating back to Phil Esposito in 1970-71. Until McDavid came along, Pavel Bure and Guy Lafleur were the most dynamic players for me. I thought Mike Bossy was the purest shooter. Mario Lemieux was the most remarkable combination of size and talent. Wayne Gretzky was, well, a lot smarter than everybody else.
It’ll likely take another 500 games or more to figure out where McDavid fits all-time, but I thought James Duthie of TSN put things very well Thursday afternoon when he was asked by host Dave Jamieson if there is anybody in the league who can give him a run as the NHL’s best player over the course of these last four or five years?
“It’s the greatest single thing. It’s the greatest show in hockey,” Duthie said. “I don’t care who you root for, it’s the most must-see TV thing in hockey. I don’t know how anyone, unless there’s Oiler haters out there like in Calgary and other places, if they’re not your favorite team, I don’t know how you can’t root for them to go deep in the playoffs just to watch that show.
“Is Cale Makar the best player in the league right now? Yeah, maybe for a span of last year you could make that argument. You can make that argument with Auston Matthews. But, you have to take a few steps back and look at the big picture and there’s nobody in the realm of Connor McDavid right now.
“Yeah, guys go on tears where they look like the best player in the world. There’s a lot of really great players in the NHL, but there’s no one who can have that argument with me with a straight face right now that there’s anybody in the conversation with Connor.”
The Oilers celebrated Pride Night Saturday. In warm-ups, players didn’t wear Pride jerseys – they instead used Pride Tape on their sticks as they have here since 2016. The sticks will be auctioned off with proceeds going to support MacEwan University’s Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, which will also benefit from the 50-50 raffle.
I thought Zach Hyman captured the essence of the event in an interview he did with Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Athletic leading into Saturday.
Said Hyman: “For us as hockey players, it’s important to show that it doesn’t matter what your gender is, what your ethnicity is, what your race is or what your sexual orientation is. You’re welcome in the hockey world. A good gesture like that can show that we care.”
At the bottom line, whether we’re talking teams wearing Pride jerseys, using Pride tape as a public gesture to promote inclusivity or taking part in an event away from the rink, I see participation as a decision everybody has to make for themselves. Whatever you choose to do, you don’t owe anybody an explanation. Live and let live.
AND . . .
A big tip of the cap to John Garrett, who went from patrolling the goal crease in the WHA and NHL for 530 games to working the microphone and entertaining Vancouver Canucks fans for decades with his work for Sportsnet.
Garrett, 71, has traveled the media road since the 1990s and he went through a lot of bucket food and hair dye along the way. He’s one of the best guys I ever met. As another reminder of how time flies, I still have a black and white photo I took of Garrett playing for the Canucks at Pacific Coliseum during the 1982-83 season as part of a journalism school assignment.
The Mc60 Tee!
Oilersnation and Nation Gear are celebrating the Mc60-goal mark by dropping this exclusive design. Get it now while supplies last!
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