Connor McDavid wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on Monday evening after the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames in a pre-season bout 4-3. It wasn’t so much about the game itself, but what McDavid deemed a dangerous play when the Oilers scored their third goal of the night.
On the play, McDavid was driving wide around the defender and cutting towards the net. He wasn’t recklessly heading at the netminder, but by the time Chris Tanev had cut across to try and protect his net as the defender, then took out McDavid’s legs from underneath him, the dynamic center went crashing into goaltender Jacob Markstrom. The puck eventually went off McDavid and in, tieing the game after a video review.
McDavid noted, “When the stick kind of comes into the feet there like Tanev’s did, it’s a dangerous play for me and the goalie.” He added, “I don’t want to go flying in there, the goalie doesn’t want me flying in there, and the guy that’s left safe is the defenseman that was sloppy with his stick. I think you’d like to see that called a little bit more.”
This Response Is Out of the Ordinary For McDavid
A player who doesn’t typically call out officials or other players did both here. It’s about time. He’s one of the most interfered with stars in the NHL and a host of calls don’t get made against him. In this case, not only was a penalty not called, but the Flames went upstairs to review the goal and try and get it disallowed. McDavid wasn’t having it.
Related: Connor McDavid Calls Out Chris Tanev After Dangerous Trip [Video]
There’s a fine line between moaning and complaining and calling what you see as a player, especially when things need to change. The NHL is often widely viewed as a league that does the least to protect its stars. McDavid is arguably the most marketable among them. Here, this is as much about a needless play by a defenseman as it is about the play being on McDavid. He’s speaking, not just for himself, but for anyone in that situation. The Oilers captain would like to see such instances penalized or taken out of the game.
Expect More Opinions to Be Expressed This Year By McDavid
That he’s speaking up in a preseason game is a good sign. McDavid is setting the tone early that he’s not going to risk injury without making it known that something needs to be done. He noted he was fine, but he acknowledged that he needed to take a minute a do a little self-assessment to make sure he wasn’t hurt. It’s completely understandable considering he’s got an injury history that suggests he can never be too careful.
Players like McDavid need to take a firm stance in open interviews when there’s something going on in the game that needs to be looked at. The NHL has already come down hard on cross-checks in the preseason. McDavid seems to hint it might not be enough. Whether the Tanev play was intentional or not, McDavid believes it was careless. That should be enough that the NHL looks at it and takes a mental note.
If the list piles up, the NHL can’t ignore someone like McDavid forever. If stars like Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, Alex Ovechkin, Elias Pettersson, or others speak up when these mistakes get missed, things should change… eventually.
This Season is Too Important For the Oilers
Not only is McDavid likely worried about being seriously injured again — a similar play happened with Mark Giordano which threatened McDavid’s career — but if the officials and the league are aware that McDavid isn’t afraid to speak up, perhaps they’ll be on red alert.
While that’s personally good for McDavid and prolonging his career, it’s also good for the team he plays on. Considering how dangerous a weapon it is, McDavid knows it doesn’t hurt the Oilers to get another power play every once and a while. If you listened to Duncan Keith’s comments after the game, he noted that he’d played a long time in the NHL and never seen anything like it.
McDavid is probably putting out subtle hints that he’s expecting calls this year. He’s stayed quiet in the past and he won’t stay quiet any longer. As long as he’s professional in the way he calls out the officials, it will probably pay off and equate to more wins.