Connor McDavid is certainly a leader on the ice, but there are some fans who wonder where his leadership skills start and end when it comes to speaking up in the locker room or during media conferences and interviews where he doesn’t always appear comfortable.
Perhaps that’s a fair question.
Part of the answer could be because he’s naturally a leader with his play. How can you not view what he does and not be motivated to be better, try harder and give it everything you’ve got? The other part could be that it’s difficult when you’re the captain of a team that seems to be consistently struggling, it’s much less fun answering questions about your club’s failures.
On Monday, McDavid finally spoke. When he did, he didn’t hold back.
Why McDavid Spoke
Monday hit the Oilers like a mack truck. With a lousy weekend and two losses that put the Oilers clearly outside the Wild Card picture in the Western Conference, Tuesday’s upcoming game versus the Detroit Red Wings became incredibly important. The Oilers didn’t just lose on Sunday versus the Hurricanes, they got spanked in a game that didn’t see them get a shot on net for half of the first period and by the time Carolina had marked the scoresheet three times, the Oilers had only placed three shots on the Hurricanes’ netminder.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 21, 2019
On Monday morning the team announced they had placed forwards Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie on waivers and the team canceled a practice, choosing instead to hold a team meeting to reevaluate where they were at and they demoted prospect d-man Caleb Jones.
The media had questions, the fans are angry, there’s uncertainty as to the future of players in the locker room and whispers during Sunday’s game suggested the team might be willfully trying to force a change in management…
Someone needed to say something.
What McDavid Said
For a guy who doesn’t complain to officials about a lack of calls, nor does he call out his teammates when they have poor performances, McDavid didn’t mince words. “We hear the boos. We hear the stuff that’s going on. We understand the fans are frustrated. We expect better out of ourselves and they obviously expect better out of us,” he said as he attempted to explain what’s going on with the team.
Clearly frustrated with the poor performances and whatever was said during the team meeting that took place instead of the team practice, McDavid added, “The only people who seem to believe in us are the guys in the locker room. We need to rally behind that.”
When asked if part of the challenge was that perhaps not all 23 guys in the room believe everyone believes this team can turn things around, McDavid proclaimed, “Well, if there are guys that believe that, they should get the… they should get out of the room.” Just to be sure everyone heard him, he added, “If you don’t believe in this group and you’re in the locker room, you need to leave.”
What Do McDavid’s Comments Mean?
First, if we’re being realistic, what else was McDavid going to say? He could have done this interview and called people out, said “our team isn’t good enough the way it’s been built” or suggested they need to do something to improve this roster; that isn’t something McDavid would do.
Second, he’s clearly annoyed.
McDavid has a huge contract, but he took a discount to ensure the team had room to build a roster around him. He’s watched as a handful of his friends (many of whom were pretty darn good players) were traded away. He’s seen forwards leave for a defense that hasn’t shored up the troubles of the club and he’s watched a coach go, now probably realizing coaching is not to blame for the mess of the team.
What else is Edmonton to do? They have no cap space, few players other teams will want and contracts the team can’t move. There’s no easy fix on the horizon and this team is going to have to dig itself out of its own hole.
McDavid might not be one of those players who has no faith, but one has to wonder if his confidence is starting to waiver despite Monday’s comments.