Connor McDavid is not Wayne Gretzky. He’s Connor McDavid

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard by now that young phenom Connor McDavid finally scored his first NHL goal. (I use the term “finally” very loosely because he’s only played three games). The milestone marker was a tip-in, nothing like the highlight reel goals we saw from his counterpart Jack Eichel. But, nevertheless, the great McDavid is on the board. (Oilers management and fans alike are hoping that the floodgates will open for Connor, considering the team is still win less).


Obviously, you would have also heard that McDavid isn’t the only highly-touted player to notch his first goal in his third game. Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky did the same. McDavid had already been drawing comparisons to these players, and his goal just amplified it. Comparisons are made in every sport. There are debates over which quarterback is the best of all time. People sit around and argue over whether LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan. That’s the nature of sports. There is so much airtime to fill, and so much content to create, that comparisons to past greats will always be a reality. But in the case of McDavid, the Gretzky parallels aren’t realistic at all.

If you’re old enough to remember Wayne Gretzky in his prime, you’ll also remember that the goalies in that era were not much more than pylons wearing jerseys. You’ll also remember that Wayne was free to skate wherever he wanted, unfettered by clutching and grabbing. He didn’t have to put up with much hitting either, because he had bodyguards on every side. (He skated really fast too, so that helped). But the point is, Wayne Gretzky dominated the league in a time that is so far removed from our present time, that it’s almost a completely different game. Connor McDavid is entering the NHL in a time where goalies are the most talented they’ve ever been (and the biggest they’ve ever been). He must put up with the opposition trying to take his head off every shift, and interference that should be illegal but isn’t. Jamie Benn won the scoring title with 87 points last season. We aren’t in an offensive league. Can that change? Perhaps with another lockout. In other words, we have to gauge our expectations based not on what Gretzky did, but rather on what’s possible in this day and age.

I can live with the Sidney Crosby comparisons. He dominated the league for a few years. He isn’t the best player in the world anymore but he certainly was for a stretch of time. McDavid may end up with better numbers and more trophies than Crosby. That is very possible. But it really doesn’t matter what Wayne Gretzky did, or when he scored his first goal. It’s irrelevant. For some, however, it apparently matters a lot. Here’s the bottom line: the hockey world wants another Wayne Gretzky. They are starving for a generational talent to blow up the league.

But the rules as they stand won’t allow for it. Sidney Crosby’s prime years were taken from him on a hit that wasn’t even a penalty at the time. Alex Ovechkin is the only player who seems to be able to score 50 goals in a season on a consistent basis. Little rule changes like smaller nets or less goalie equipment hasn’t increased scoring. We are in an era where defence and shot-blocking reign supreme, and super-talents like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel must fight through it.

So do the kid a favor. Stop calling him the next Gretzky. He won’t be. No one can be. He’s the present Connor McDavid. He is going to make his own legacy. He may very well become the best player of this current generation. If he can put up monster points in his career in this era of the NHL, well then he could be called the greatest of all time. Let’s wait and see.