The Alberta squad’s playoff hopes were tenuous at best coming into the season, but with the boy wonder sidelined long-term, it’s a virtual lock not to happen now. On top of that, don’t expect McDavid to win the Calder Trophy either, despite the great start he had this season.
Let’s get down to brass tacks here, people: Edmonton’s season is finished. With rookie center Connor McDavid fracturing his clavicle, whatever small margin of error the Oilers possessed in chasing a playoff spot is now flushed down the toilet.
Too soon? Nope. Let’s look at the brutal facts.
McDavid was one of Edmonton’s best players, second on the team in scoring and by all accounts already taking on a leadership role in the dressing room. Crucially, he was also a scoring line center on a team that needed balance, since No. 1 option Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t in the same echelon as some of the West’s other top pivots. With McDavid out, opponents can focus their best checkers on ‘The Nuge’ and if history is any indicator, containing him is possible (is it a coincidence that Nugent-Hopkins is putting up points at the best rate of his NHL career this season, after McDavid arrived?).
Not only that, but McDavid unlocked Nail Yakupov’s fantastic potential. What will the fall-out be for the enthusiastic Russian without his fave playmaker?
If Edmonton was going to make hay this season, the Oilers were going to do it with offense. They can score, they just can’t keep the puck out of their own net – or even their own zone, for that matter. Edmonton is a bottom-third possession team in the NHL and McDavid was a positive possession player. So things aren’t getting better – maybe they level off when Jordan Eberle returns from his own injury, but that’s your best hope.
Unless Cam Talbot all of a sudden goes on a hot streak, the Oilers essentially replaced Ben Scrivens with a slightly taller Ben Scrivens. The defense has not gotten any better, even with Andrej Sekera in the fold.
But the biggest barrier standing between Edmonton and playoff hockey is time. The Oilers stand at 5-8-0 right now – good for fourth-last in the West. They would have to jump three teams just to get up to the bottom Wild Card slot and that discounts Anaheim, a franchise that could easily wake up from its goal-starved slumber and make a racket.
If you don’t want to bury the Oilers just yet, perhaps wait a week after their next three games: Edmonton has Pittsburgh, Chicago and the desperate Ducks on the docket. While Ottawa proved that anything is possible last season, odds are the Oilers aren’t going on some sort of 20-game winning streak in the West, even with McDavid back in the lineup. This isn’t an underachieving team; it’s a team that needed every break in order to have a chance. Things just went the opposite way.
Another shame in all of this is that McDavid obviously had a great shot at the Calder Trophy and that is pretty much pooched now. Simply put, there are too many other good rookies out there and raw output usually determines the winner. Max Domi and Artemi Panarin now head the pack without McDavid.
Of course, if McDavid returns and scores two points a game for say, 30 games, then yeah, he gets it. But that car wreck against Philadelphia last night sure had a lot of reverberations.
Corrected to reflect that McDavid is second on team in scoring, not first