Connor McDavid Teaching Defensemen How to Play Their Position

When Connor McDavid picks up the puck, hits full speed, and flies down the wing, it’s thrilling; it’s poetry in motion. As McDavid enters his seventh season, it still never gets old watching him hit top speed and blow past NHL defenders.

McDavid has shown the ability to beat almost any NHL defenseman — wide — on any given night. To contain his explosive skating, defensemen must simply be better, whether that’s being better in defending him or being better by not risking dangerous plays against him when he’s on the brink of beating them.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120

As much as fans love watching him hit top flight and charge the puck towards the net, there are possible consequences that might make you concerned for his safety. We saw that on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.

Flames defenseman, Chris Tanev, tried to block the Oilers’ captain from getting to the net. He put his stick between McDavid’s legs, then stuck out his right leg, which resulted in McDavid colliding with goaltender Jacob Markstrom. To the captain’s credit, he was awarded a goal, but Tanev’s carelessness is worrisome.

Tanev’s Careless Plays

That is the second time within a year that Tanev has dangerously impeded McDavid on the rush. On Feb. 6, 2021, McDavid was driving the net in a similar play as Tanev attempted to poke at the puck that was followed by a careless stick between the skates, sending him crashing into the Flames’ goaltender.

On Tuesday, McDavid addressed the play in the postgame press conference. He’s becoming more candid about the dangerous plays committed on him:

“They have a right to defend their net and to defend me trying to get in there, but when the stick gets into the feet there, like Tanev’s did, it’s a dangerous play for me and the goalie. 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 defenceman who is sloppy with his stick.”

– Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

McDavid is No Stranger to Dangerous Plays

McDavid was clearly frustrated that there was no call on Tanev’s play, but he must be equally frustrated that this type of dangerous play continues to happen to him. The on-ice officials need to call a penalty, but at the same time, the defensemen need to be more responsible. Time and again, when McDavid is blazing down the ice, defensemen get a stick, a glove, or a jersey tug on him in a last-ditch effort to prevent a goal without taking into consideration McDavid or the goaltender’s safety.

Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

He has every right to be concerned. A careless stick has already caused a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tear, a cracked tibia, and torn meniscus. On April 6, 2019, Flames’ former captain Mark Giordano got his stick caught between McDavid’s skates when he was driving the net and sent him flying into the goal post. He had to undergo extensive physical rehabilitation.

It Won’t Stop McDavid

Even though McDavid has previously suffered a serious injury, he will continue to crash the net. It’s his killer instinct because he knows he can pull it off. He’s that good, and defensemen know it.

Related: Edmonton Oilers 2021-2022 Season Preview Section

However, from a defenseman’s perspective, who are paid to protect their net, their natural instinct will be to get their stick out and/or try to slow down a player in any capacity. But defensemen have to be better. They need to slow McDavid down without putting their fellow athletes in danger. They need to find the balance between, ‘I need to stop him any way possible; and ‘I could seriously injure him.’

McDavid may be one of the fastest skaters in NHL history. Yes, he’s a human highlight reel. He’s also an ambassador for the game and vital to the growth of the sport. To the NHL defensemen out there, if No. 97 has a step on you, and he beats you clean, accept it. Make a play for the puck, but don’t be careless with your stick and commit a dangerous play that risks the chance of ending his career or a goaltender’s. He is essential to the sport.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.