After years of successfully putting together rosters that were bad enough to ensure they would be near or at the very top of every NHL Entry Draft since 2010, the Edmonton Oilers hit the jackpot this summer in having Connor McDavid fall into their lap. While the other 29 organizations in the league and their collective fanbases were understandably disgusted with the outcome of last April’s Draft Lottery, no hockey fan is happy with how thing played out during last night’s 4-2 Oilers victory over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers at Rexall Place.
Only thing more depressing than Connor McDavid’s injury: the idea that, if it’s serious, it could net the Oilers ANOTHER No. 1 overall pick.
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) November 4, 2015
Injuries are part of the game and while every team has to deal with them, no one likes to see the most talented players in the league miss extended periods of time. After watching McDavid pick himself up off the ice after crashing behind the Flyers net following an ugly collision with defencemen Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning late in the second period, the writing was on the wall.
While there are those who will try and argue it was a dirty play, it was nothing of the sort. Yes, there was contact on the play but that is part of the game. Add to that the fact McDavid was absolutely flying down the wing and appeared to catch a rut in the ice just as Manning made contact with him and there was simply no way to avoid a major crash into the end boards. It was brutal to watch and seeing the kid skate off the ice while favouring his collarbone and not moving his arm at all…told us exactly where this was headed.
Life Without No. 97 Won’t Be Easy
To his credit, head coach Todd McLellan did not mince words during his post-game interview when asked about the status of his young phenom. “He’s got an upper-body injury that is going to keep him out long-term and he is being evaluated right now by the doctors.” Cut and dry and to the point. While the Oilers may have been able to come back and eek out another win, thanks in large part to another three-point effort from the suddenly red-hot Taylor Hall, it certainly did not feel like a night for celebration across Oilers Nation.
Be it a string of bad luck or perhaps karma for having so many No. 1 picks, it does seem a little ridiculous that almost every one of Edmonton’s skilled youngsters have suffered major setbacks at one point or another since entering the league. While Nail Yakupov has been able to stay away from the injury bug, the trio of Jordan Eberle, Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have not been so fortunate. Like McDavid, all three have dealt with massive setbacks and at times, it does feel like an endless carousel with this group.
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While the chances of Eberle returning to the lineup in the near future are good, possibly even in time for the Oilers next game on Friday night against Sidney Crosby and friends, the loss of McDavid creates a massive hole on this roster. Outside of Nugent-Hopkins, this team has nothing resembling a first or second line centre they can slide in McDavid’s place and it will make life quite difficult on this group. And no…using Leon Draisaitl in said role would not be a good idea.
Terrible Timing for the NHL
There is no question that Edmonton will have their work cut out for them with their “prized-pupil” unable to suit-up for the foreseeable future but, this injury could not have come at a worse possible moment for the NHL. While having McDavid end up in the Alberta capital may not have been the league’s preferred destination, he is still a “generational talent” and future face of the league. The months of November and December were supposed to be his time to shine in the States, but that will no longer be the case. Safe to say Gary Bettman and company are not happy campers this morning
Over the next six weeks, the Edmonton Oilers will be paying visits to the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks (twice), Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals. As if that wasn’t already bad enough, McDavid will also miss a November 30th date against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Can you say opportunity missed?
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.