Connor McDavid Likely to Be Suspended, Now What?

On Thursday night, during the Edmonton Oilers overtime victory over the New York Islanders, Connor McDavid was the game’s hero for the Oilers. To the department of NHL Player Safety, he might also be seen as a villain. McDavid will have a hearing today for an illegal check to the head on Islanders’ defenseman Nick Leddy.

The hit itself was questionable as to whether or not it was deserving of more than a two-minute penalty (which is what McDavid received on the play) and while Leddy wanted to stay and play, his coach, Barry Trotz pulled him from the game to get a second look and make sure his guy was ok.

Certainly not known as a dirty player, the hit McDavid delivered was ugly. Many Oilers fans may argue no more ugly than hits delivered by Evgeni Malkin or Brad Marchand this season, but ugly nonetheless. When I saw it, I said to myself, ‘this is certainly going to get a look by the league.’

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Is McDavid’s Hit Worthy of a Suspension?

If we remove the fact this is McDavid and his history in the NHL is as a clean, by-the-book player (by the way, NHL Player Safety will factor that in), one has to admit, the optics don’t look good. It appears McDavid did not elevate his body or leave his feet and it could be that his intention was to aim for the shoulder; but, he got the head as the initial point of contact, he didn’t change his body position to avoid the hit and these are the types of things Player Safety will look at when trying to determine a suspension.

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McDavid has been on the receiving end of so many dirty plays and penalties that aren’t called, fans in Edmonton are going to be unhappy with whatever decision comes down. They’ll also argue the idea of a “Jordan rule” — treating the most marketable of players a bit differently than others — but, none of that matters. Player Safety does not look at things that might have happened to the aggressor in unrelated games (at least they shouldn’t). One or two games here should not surprise anyone.

Looking at the hit alone, this is a textbook open and shut hearing in most cases as to what the NHL deems suspendable. The referees even acknowledged during the game that the penalty was given for a hit to the head. It’s simply going to be a matter of how long McDavid gets.

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So What Now for the Oilers?

Thursday’s win was one the Oilers absolutely needed. If they had any hopes of staying in the race for a wild-card position in the Western Conference, the Oilers needed to beat the Islanders and go on a run. It will be extremely hard to do that without McDavid.

Edmonton Oilers Alex Chiasson Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers right wing Alex Chiasson and Connor McDavid (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports),

So too, the timing of this hearing couldn’t be worse. While McDavid might only get one game, this one game comes at a time where the Oilers have to make some serious decisions as it pertains to the rest of the season. One more loss means they are all but officially out of the playoffs; whereas, another win or two might have told the team that prior to Monday’s trade deadline, they’d better not move out all their valuable assets.

On the other hand, if McDavid misses the next two games, the Oilers are done for. The chances of them making it were slim to none anyway and perhaps this is the forced sign the Oilers needed to make the right decisions heading into the NHL trade deadline.

Move Alex Chiasson for a second-round draft pick, shed Zack Kassian’s salary if you can and trade off some other pieces while you think about next season. There’s an argument that could be made this was the right course of action anyway and this predictable suspension just helps hammer that point home.