We’ve all been there.
Having to take orders from someone significantly younger than you is a difficult reality to come to grips with. However, that is how the normal work world operates. Professional sports operates in a different realm.
When it comes to the Edmonton Oilers, fans would rather spend their time talking about what was and not what is, and for good reason. Some of the greatest players to ever put on a pair of skates have played for them at one point or another. A fact even more mind boggling when you consider their inception was the 1979-80 season.
In the shadow of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals loss, the Oilers vowed to remain competitive in the ever changing landscape that is the NHL. Thus far, that promise has fallen through, with no lack of effort.
2010 marked a ‘revitalization’ of sorts for the Oilers with Taylor Hall being selected first overall. But it wasn’t until the man pictured above came to town that the fans truly bought in.
Connor McDavid goes by many nick names like McJesus or McDaddy. High praise for a kid who just turned 19 years old. Just ask Wayne Gretzky how easy it is being the face of a franchise, the answer may be a startling one considering how well he ended up handling it.
At 19 years and 266 days old, Connor McDavid has officially become the second youngest awarded captain in NHL history. Only Brian Bellows beat him out at 19 years and 131 days. Gabriel Landeskog was 19 years 286 days and Sidney Crosby was 19 years 297 days to fill out the latter.
What happens next is still a mystery.
McDavid is a fantastic hockey player, with more skill in his finger nails than most of us have in general. Every team hes ever played on share distinct similarities, they win. To be frank this was common place before he made his NHL debut. While the skill may be ever present, the leadership ability leaves something to be desired.
Gretzky was able to handle the pressures of leading a team in a hockey crazy city while being the best in the game. Similarly, Crosby went on to be the youngest captain to ever lift the Stanley Cup. Some years later Colorado tried to mimic this by appointing Landeskog as their youngest captain and to be blunt, it hasn’t worked at all.
Edmonton has a long wish list with stability in net and the desperate need for an all-purpose three zone defender in the forefront. While McDavid adds an instant injection of adrenaline. It be ludicrous to expect him to play goalie, defense and score at the same. This has been Edmonton’s Achilles heel for nearly a decade.
For this very reason, I potentially fear for McDavid’s future in Edmonton. The blame game begins quickly when you don’t win.
While Edmonton may be anything but prepared to compete for a championship, they have made a bold move. Placing their eggs in McDavid’s basket may be dangerous waters to venture through. Nobody said he was going it alone though. Stanley Cup champion Milan Lucic is a major presence down the wing and Adam Larson is a coming of age defender. The Oilers just hope Larson will grow into his body and be able to lug Shea Weber or Ryan Suter minutes on the ice.
The province of Alberta is starving for hockey superiority to return to its roots. While Calgary appears to have discovered a formula that works, Edmonton is still looking to pick up the pieces.
McDavid could head down the path of Landeskog, or he could impersonate Sidney Crosby. I have a feeling Edmonton hopes its the latter.
Bottom line is simple, being absent from the playoff since 2007 is anything but self motivating. Perhaps a bold transition in leadership and a brand new arena can be enough for the roster to follow suit.
One thing that certainly wont help the situation is the absence of Taylor Hall in the lineup. The near point per game player in his career as an Oiler was swapped straight up for the previously stated Adam Larson.
Considering players like Yakupov and Eberle have been frequent flyers on the trade rumor plane. Hall being dealt to New Jersey came as a major shock.
Did management believe McDavid could come into the lineup to replace those numbers in his sophomore year? Or was there a fear of Hall and McDavid not gelling well because of the expectations surrounding Connor being the new face of the franchise? Don’t forget Taylor Hall was billed as just that when the Oilers selected him first overall in 2010.
Whatever the reasoning, Edmonton had a whirlwind off-season.
Drastic change has been the trend for a half decade, but the payoff hasn’t come for a team chasing some stability. With McDavid being the new captain, Lucic under a big deal and Larson being the go to guy on defense, perhaps we will begin to see what was always promised…
Winning. Don’t hold your breath.