The easy thing to do after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets is for Edmonton Oilers fans to suggest the sky is falling. The overwhelming reaction will be to call for immediate changes. Some will emotionally write that the team is wasting McDavid’s best years and others will say it’s time to get rid of (insert players name here) and (insert another players name here.)
Many of these reactions will be expected after an unexpected series loss.
What’s important to note is that, while fans are clearly emotional, the players themselves are far more disappointed than fans could ever be. That doesn’t mean those same players are hooting and hollering for immediate changes, to tear it all down and to start over. In fact, as was evident from Connor McDavid’s comments after the loss on Monday evening, that’s not what these players are thinking at all.
There Are Bound to be Changes to the Oilers Roster
Win or lose, the Oilers were looking at changes to their current roster after this season. The team has a number of pending restricted and unrestricted free agents, GM Ken Holland finally has some salary cap money to spend and there’s always turnover in any given offseason.
The question now is, how many changes will be made as a result of a four-game sweep that literally no one expected? The bench was drastically shortened in overtime by coach Dave Tippett and it’s not clear if that’s an indication of the people he trusts and doesn’t trust being outed or if it was purely situational based on who had it going on Monday night and who didn’t.
Conversations will obviously revolve around those players who didn’t see the ice much and over the next couple of months management will decide whether or not those players are part of the Oilers long-term future.
Is McDavid Actually Unhappy?
A couple days ago, former Sportsnet personality Sid Seixeiro wrote, “Connor McDavid’s not going to put up with this much longer.” The tweet got a lot of reaction from Oilers fans and non-Oilers fans suggesting if the Oilers lost this series that McDavid might want out. When an emotional McDavid was seen yelling at Jesse Puljujarvi for an errant pass or shaking his head at an Ethan Bear turnover, more people than just Seixeiro spoke up.
But, in a post-game press conference, the closest McDavid actually got to suggesting he was unhappy with the situation was doing what any normal hockey player would do after a huge loss — suggest that it leaves a sour taste. No one likes to lose, certainly not McDavid, and certainly not the way the Oilers lost.
Sure, McDavid is unhappy. But is he unhappy with the way the Oilers roster is constructed or is he just unhappy the Oilers season is over?
Does McDavid Expect Big Changes?
What McDavid didn’t do was suggest or even remotely hint he wasn’t happy being an Oiler. He didn’t say something needed to be done about the team, he didn’t suggest he was upset with anyone, nor did he throw anyone under the bus. He could have said something to the effect, ‘This is unacceptable’ or ‘we need to figure out why we can’t get it done in crunch time’. He didn’t.
Instead, he noted he was “proud of everyone” and said they put everything they had into it. When another reporter tried to steer the conversation towards a talk about the future of the roster, the closest he got was saying “that’s not for tonight.”
What McDavid did say — and it was a sentiment echoed by Darnell Nurse — was that the Oilers didn’t need to re-right the whole ship. It was the little things that did the Oilers in and the insinuation seemed to be that those are lessons that can be learned without needing to shift course, send everyone out of town or rebuild the roster.
This Team Has a Solid Core
McDavid has to know the foundation of a good team is present. Leon Draisaitl is no joke. Darnell Nurse just played over 62 minutes in the second game of a back-to-back and looked like he could have gone 30 minutes more. There are young pieces on this team that will grow to become central pieces of a Stanley Cup contender.
At the same time, there are some key players up for contract extensions and many of the surrounding pieces aren’t in place. McDavid probably knows that too. No need to jump on it the night of an emotional series loss and no need to worry management doesn’t recognize the problem.
If those surrounding pieces aren’t added when the opportunity exists to do so, let’s re-ask the question about re-righting the ship at the end of July. Maybe McDavid’s answer is different, but there’s really not a reason to expect it will be.
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.”