The Edmonton Oilers are poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Their success this season could be attributed to coaching, trades and roster decisions, an improved defence and an overall team toughness. But there are perhaps two players who have played the biggest roles in the Oilers resurgence. Unless the teams’ MVP award can be shared, who deserves to take home the individual honor?
The Case for Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid has led the NHL in scoring for virtually the entire season, and has been racking up points at an astounding rate down the stretch. He leads the Oilers in assists and points, though he may not finish the season leading the team in goals. He’s got 26, with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl right behind him with 25 apiece. He doesn’t lead the team in powerplay points or goals, but he has taken the most shots on goal.
McDavid is the most explosive and dynamic skater in the history of hockey. That’s not a stretch at this point, I think it’s a fact.
— Patrick O’Sullivan (@realPOSULLIVAN) March 23, 2017
McDavid is far and away the Oilers best player. They have more possession, more goals for and less goals against when he’s on the ice. He’s tied with Mark Letestu for the most game-winning goals on the Oilers with six. His speed and awareness on the ice is mesmerizing, and he can break a game open all on his own. He’s probably going to win the Art Ross Trophy, and he’ll be a heavy favorite for both the Hart and Ted Lindsay awards.
How can McDavid be the MVP of the league if he’s not even the MVP of his own team? #oilers
— Jason Lee Norman (@bellyofawhale) March 23, 2017
McDavid plays an average of 21 minutes a night, which means for about 40 minutes, he’s on the bench. Hockey is the epitome of a team game. No position player can be on the ice for all 60 minutes. No one, that is, except for the goalie.
The Case for Cam Talbot
The Oilers have been looking for a true-blue number one goaltender for what seems like an eternity, and it appears as though they’ve found him. Cam Talbot has played in 66 games for the Oilers, most among all goalies in the league. He’s third in the NHL with 37 wins, and third in shut-outs with seven. To say he’s been the Oilers workhorse this season would be an understatement.
Talbot has bailed the Oilers out 10+ times this year. Time for the skaters to repay the favour.
— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) March 23, 2017
Talbot has stolen games for the Oilers, he’s kept them in games they have no business being in, and he’s provided them with the kind of stability in net that they’ve needed for a decade. Granted, the defence in front of him has been better than in years past, but there is no underselling Talbot for his performance this year. Where would the Oilers be without McDavid? Perhaps the better question is, where would they be without Talbot?
In the Oilers last game against the Ducks, McDavid was dominant with three points, while Talbot didn’t have his best night. They ended up losing the game. The team as a whole didn’t play great either, but does the result suggest that no matter what McDavid does, it begins and ends with Talbot? There will likely be quite a bit of debate on that one.
Both players have been so important in very different roles for the Oilers this season. McDavid is their best player, but is Talbot ultimately their most valuable? Have your say in the comments section below.