It’s time to stop feeling bad for Connor McDavid. The worn-out and tired take that “McDavid isn’t going to put up with this” or “how long before he asks for a trade?” is obviously nowhere close to the reality of his situation when you hear the comments the Oilers’ captain made about Evander Kane and the team’s potential to sign the forward on Wednesday.
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While a good chunk of the hockey world seems to think they know what McDavid is thinking, it’s clear they really don’t. Outsiders, fans, and media have been quick to suggest McDavid might but upset about the idea of signing the controversial Kane, but McDavid seems to be leading the charge to do so. He’s acknowledged that his GM has consulted him, that’s they’ve had conversations about a potential signing and he noted during a presser, “I think Evander is a great player and can help us a lot on the ice and that’s first a foremost”.
McDavid added, “If fans don’t like it, or the media doesn’t like it, or whatever… it is what it is.” He added that there’s a lot of things that go on during a game or things that happen on the ice that fans wouldn’t like. Essentially, what McDavid is saying is that what the fans think is not what matters. What is important is that the Oilers give themselves the best chance to win hockey games and that might include adding a player like Kane, who has a history of off-ice issues.
The Optics Don’t Matter to McDavid
Saying, “I’m not really here to discuss optics issues”, perhaps it’s fair to suggest McDavid believes it’s up to Ken Holland to navigate the mess that will come with making the decision to bring Kane in. If that’s the case, McDavid seems to be hinting you can either lump him in with your vitriol for the GM or you can leave his name out of it. Either way, neither Holland nor McDavid care.
No doubt, the Oilers will lose some fans as a result of signing a player who seems to cause trouble everywhere he goes. But for No. 97, it’s not his responsibility to worry about that part of the process and he’s not upset, he’s not disappointed and he’s not going to ask for a trade if Kane is on this Oilers’ roster.
McDavid clearly cares that team does well and the city has a franchise they can cheer for, but his priority is to win. He just made it crystal clear, it’s to win at all costs. In other words, if you’re a fan that hates the idea of bringing Kane in, come to terms with it. Even though McDavid called it all speculation, it’s probably happening.
Don’t get it twisted, there are many fans who think like McDavid. While some suggest the Oilers need to have a better moral compass and others note that even inquiring about Kane shows this team lacks leadership, there’s a good chunk of the fan base who wants the player, believes he can help and doesn’t care that he’s got a checkered history. McDavid’s comments prove he clearly falls into the latter category.
Traditionally, McDavid has been hesitant to say too much in media scrums, often towing a line between being pro-organization, pro-NHL and showing his frustration at losing. His comments on Wednesday, and his feistiness towards the question about optics, suggest he’s tired of having to do and say the right thing just to make it so the fan base can sleep a little easier at night. Moreover, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to start winning. Whether fans like it or not, the Oilers have a better shot at earning two points on any given night with Evander Kane in the lineup. McDavid wants the wins, fans be damned.
Holland and His Stars Are Making This Decision
Some fans will remain bullish on the idea of Kane being an Oiler. Nothing is going to change that. Still, McDavid has essentially given the fans in Edmonton permission to relax. Instead of worrying that he’s going to want out because Kane might be coming in, or that McDavid will bail on the team if this plan backfires, McDavid is telling everyone he’s fully on board. His thinking aligns with his GM’s.
And, at the end of the day, Holland is not the GM because he’s been tasked with making moves the fans love. In fact, if he were to start listening to the fans and making his decisions based on their inexperienced and polarizing opinions, it’s fair to argue he should no longer be the GM. The same goes for McDavid and anyone suggesting he shouldn’t be the captain because there are fans who don’t like Kane as a person and his off-ice behavior.
McDavid’s job is not to worry about whether or not fans love that he’s in favor of adding Evander Kane. His job is to help the team win and get Kane to be a productive member of this team. If he feels he can do that and that the Oilers have a better chance to win with Kane than without him, so be it.
What’s ironic about all of this is that McDavid is actually doing the fans a favor. He’s made it clear that even if this thing with Kane doesn’t work out, he’s not going anywhere. It kind of sounds like he’s brushing everyone off, but in reality, McDavid is telling fans he’s doing everything in his power to improve the team’s record. This is about winning and winning is something the fans in Edmonton have wanted for a long, long time.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”