Barring an unforeseen incident in the coming days, one that somehow costs him the remainder of the regular season, Connor McDavid is a virtual lock to hit two milestones this season. In fact, with the way his numbers have lined up this season, he could hit both major individual markers at the exact same time if the next time he lands on a scoresheet he does so by finding twine. You see, his next goal would be his 40th, marking the first 40-goal campaign of his career, and, following a three-point night to conclude the weekend, McDavid sits one point shy of hitting 100 for the second season in a row.
That McDavid could reach either milestone is, in a word, stunning. At the midpoint of his campaign, the Oilers phenom had 14 goals and 46 points, sat 11 points back of the league scoring lead and a second straight Art Ross Trophy and wasn’t even a fringe contender for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Across the second half of the season, however, McDavid has been a one-man wrecking crew. In 35 games, he’s scored 25 goals and 53 points, streaking his way to the top of the scoring race and slinking within striking distance of the league’s goal-scoring lead.
McDavid’s play has sparked a lot of conversation, too. Beyond his entrance into the Art Ross and Rocket races, that he’s played the role of Atlas and put the Oilers’ offense on his back for the better part of the campaign, all the while making what is undoubtedly an embarrassing season for the organization slightly less so, has earned McDavid a place in the Hart Trophy discussion. The points, the goals, the heavy lifting on a nightly basis are all reasons why McDavid’s case is strong in spite of Edmonton’s overall spot in the standings.
In playing this well in a season in which the Oilers are destined to miss the post-season, though, McDavid has put himself in another category of player altogether. As he approaches both the 40-goal and 100-point plateaus, he gets set to take his place among the collection of players who have seen superb seasons squandered by the incompetence that surrounds them. And with Edmonton mathematically eliminated from the post-season, McDavid’s next goal and point will see him join an exclusive post-lockout club.
In the post-lockout era, there are 17 instances of a player reaching 40 goals and 100 points in a campaign, and by the time the current season ends that group could grow by as many as four with McDavid (39 goals, 99 points), Nikita Kucherov (38 goals, 95 points), Evgeni Malkin (42 goals, 92 points) and Nathan MacKinnon (38 goals, 92 points) inching closer as we enter the final two weeks of the campaign.
What’s different about McDavid, though, is that while Kucherov, Malkin and MacKinnon all belong to teams that are, at the very least, holding down a wild-card spot, the Oilers and McDavid won’t be heading to the post-season. As such, McDavid stands to become the second player in the post-lockout era to score 40 goals, register 100 points and end his season at Game 82. The only other player to suffer that fate is Alex Ovechkin. Back in 2005-06, Ovechkin, then a rookie, blasted home 52 goals and 106 points for the Capitals, but Washington, try as they might, finished with the third-worst point total in the NHL. And when even the Marian Hossa-led Atlanta Thrashers were able to make the 2006-07 playoffs, it’s fairly evident how rare it is for an individual to have a season this good go to waste on a non-playoff team.
However, if that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture, try this on for size: when expanding the scope to include every campaign in the post-expansion NHL, there are only 20 instances of teams boasting a 40-goal, 100-point player and missing the post-season.
Two of those seasons came in 1968-69, as Bobby Hull’s Chicago Blackhawks and Gordie Howe’s Detroit Red Wings fell short of making the playoffs out of the all-Original Six division. The next occurrence came in 1974-75 when Marcel Dionne — who had another 40-goal, 100-point season that was all for naught with the Los Angeles Kings in 1982-83 — was unable to propel Detroit to the dance. After that, it was Mike Rogers’ stellar season that was wasted by the Hartford Whalers in 1980-81, and Capitals did the same with Dennis Maruk’s big year the following campaign. Then came Mario Lemieux, who produced 40 goals and 100 points in 1984-85, 1985-86, 1986-87, 1987-88 and 1989-90 only to have the Pittsburgh Penguins miss the post-season. In the midst of those seasons, the 1987-88 Quebec Nordiques fumbled away twin 40-100 seasons by Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet and the Red Wings failed to make good on Steve Yzerman’s brilliant 1989-90 campaign. And, since then, the 1990-91 Nordiques, 1992-93 and 1993-94 Philadelphia Flyers and 1995-96 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made nothing of big years from Joe Sakic, Mark Recchi and Paul Kariya, respectively.
But that Ovechkin has been the only player in more than two decades to see a sublime statistical season go up in smoke speaks volumes about the level of ineptitude a team has to display in order to fritter away in the modern NHL. It speaks volumes, too, about how poor this season has been for the Oilers and how greatly they’ve wasted what looks as though it will be McDavid’s career-best campaign.
So, while we’re not surprised to see McDavid’s single season performance earn him mention among the likes of Ovechkin, Lemieux, Sakic or Yzerman, few would have imagined this is the way it would have happened. And you can rest assured McDavid will be none too pleased that a playoff-less end to an otherwise brilliant campaign is one of the ways in which a connection can be drawn between he and some Hall of Fame-caliber talent.
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