Hockey Headlines

Friday, 3 July 2015

Give It A Rest, Edmonton

Edmonton's orientation camp for rookies has started, and there's a different feeling in the air, reportedly, about this camp. As we all know, Connor McDavid is in town, and a source has made it very clear that the citizens of Edmonton have already elevated him to Gretzky-like status despite him not having played a single second of NHL hockey yet. While my source's position on the matter is more of a wait-and-see perspective, the oohs and ahhs that were heard when McDavid did anything - stretched, scored on an empty net in the warmup skate, took a drink, inhaled, exhaled, and more - tells me that Oilers fans might be expecting a lot from the teenager. While no one is doubting his talent, an Art Ross in his first full NHL season seems a little unlikely.

Oilers fans have every right to be excited as McDavid appears to one of those talents that comes along once every five or six years that has the ability to step into a lineup and have his addition pay dividends. He's done some rather remarkable things in his OHL career, but the slate is wiped clean when we're talking about a jump to the NHL. Many "can't miss" talents have followed the same route, and many have found that the path is a lot harder to walk than they may have thought.

Again, that's not to say that this will happen to McDavid. He's got an ability few have in terms of his scoring talents, but the NHL has defencemen - particularly in the Western Conference - that can erase undersized players in a heartbeat. McDavid's going to have to overcome the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Alex Pietrangelo, and Ryan Suter when playing the Western Conference's best teams. These defencemen have size, strength, and experience to use against McDavid at this point, so it will be interesting to see if he can overcome these disadvantages.

As the Oshawa Generals proved this past season, stopping McDavid is possible. You have to believe a lot of NHL scouts and GMs got their hands on that footage for the upcoming season because Oshawa stopped McDavid more often than the rest of the OHL combined. McDavid and the Erie Otters didn't overcome it in the OHL final, and they went home after five games of Oshawa dominance. McDavid can be stopped, as seen in the OHL, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that he can and will be stopped until he can learn the pro game. He'll get his points because he's a natural scorer, but if people think he's an 80-point man in his first season I'll happily take that bet.

Let me make one thing clear: McDavid is going to score points. A lot of them. There's no doubt about that. However, when the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski writes, "They cheered when he shot pucks into empty nets during warmup, they ooohed and aaahed when he ran through basic, boring hockey drills and they lost their minds whenever he did something even slightly impressive," I have to wonder if Oilers fans are setting themselves up for another season of high hopes and prolonged disappointment.

This is a team with a backup goalie for a starter. This is a team with Andrej Sekera as its top defenceman, and we saw how well that worked out for Carolina with him in that role. This is a team that has Justin Schultz coming off a disastrous season on the blue line, and the other five defencemen who played behind him were just as bad in terms of their defensive play.

Or maybe this early outpouring of support for McDavid is Oilers fans' ways of cheering him on before the rain of boos starts up this season. While I'm certainly not endorsing the jersey-throwing incidents seen last year, the Oilers are still in a bad place defensively and appear to be on their way to struggling through another 82 games. Maybe this is the point in the season where the fans can be wowed by McDavid's brilliance against players near his own age before they see the Oilers get worn down by bigger, more skillful teams.

Be excited for McDavid, Edmonton. But let's stop cheering the mundane like he's the second coming, alright?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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