There is a lot of Connor McDavid trade talk out there in the hockey world post the Oilers elimination from the 2020-21 NHL playoffs. And, as much as we like to talk potential trades here at a site called NHL Trade Talk, our advice is not to believe the chatter.
In fact, if you see or hear someone suggest that McDavid is sitting around on Tuesday and feeling as though he needs to do whatever he can to get out of Edmonton and the Oilers organization, politely tell that person to go f— themselves.
TSN’s Ryan Rishaug alluded to the whispers on social media Tuesday and said, “Since there’s the usual McDavid trade stuff out there today, I’ll weigh in with this. My sense is McDavid is bought in on the direction of this team under Holland. He’ll be monumentally frustrated at this result, but will also take ownership as part of the group.” That’s a sentiment that seems to be echoed by many who are close to the Oilers organization and McDavid himself said in a post-game media conference Monday night that there’s no need to “re-right the whole ship here.”
Some fans are suggesting McDavid will be pissed that this is how the Oilers season ended; and pissed he should be. A four-game sweep to a team the Oilers handily beat in the regular season is not how this was supposed to go down for McDavid and his teammates. At the same time, No. 97 likely holds himself as accountable as anyone for the fact the Oilers are now on the outside looking in.
The Jets Were the Better Team
Credit where it’s due; the Jets were the superior overall team. There were moments where the Oilers outplayed their opposition — in fact, many moments — but Edmonton couldn’t solve a hot goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck, the Oilers big stars (including McDavid) didn’t show up until Game 3 and the team couldn’t get that much-needed goal in three consecutive overtimes when it mattered most. The Jets could.
McDavid started to come on in Games 3 and 4, but by that time, the Oilers had already dug themselves a pretty massive hole. He was responsible for one of the turnovers in Game 3 when the team let Winnipeg score three times in just over three minutes and a lazy dump in by McDavid caused the turnover in Game 4 that led to the Oilers overtime loss and elimination.
This is not to lay the blame at McDavid’s feet. This is only pointed out to suggest that McDavid likely knows he could have been better when it mattered most and despite the fact he was emotional and vocal on Monday night during the contest, he’ll likely be the first to say this isn’t on his teammates. In fact, McDavid said he was proud of his team and everyone battled as hard as they could.
The narrative that McDavid is fed up or thinks he’s doing it all by himself… it just isn’t true. Rishaug adds, “any suggestion that this will be the last straw for him I don’t believe is in sync with what’s happening. The path to improvement is right in front of them, they all see it, they just need to deliver in the board room first and then on the ice.”
It’s Disrespectful to Ignore What Other Oilers Did
Look at the Oilers roster and honestly ask yourself if this is a team that only accomplished what it did in the regular season thanks to one person. If you do so and still believe McDavid is on an island by himself, you either didn’t watch the Oilers play this season or you’re delusional.
Leon Draisaitl had another fantastic campaign and just one year removed from being the Hart Trophy Winner. Darnell Nurse should legitimately be in the Norris Trophy conversation and Mike Smith had a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. Tyson Barrie led the NHL in points from a defenseman and was also much better defensively than fair-weather fans or analytics gurus will ever give him credit for and Adam Larsson had a bounce-back season, while Jesse Puljujarvi came into his own and showed his potential is scary high.
And, even though some of these players might not be back next season, there are a number of teams in much worse shape than the Oilers. In fact, 80% of the teams in the NHL would likely love to have the core this team does and the building blocks in place the Oilers do.
The Oilers Knew This Might Not Be Their Year
As Rishaug also rightfully points out, “The organization decided not to push in too many chips this season. Conservative at the deadline, preserving picks and assets. While that makes sense on a lot of levels, the price for that decision is in the playoffs, when big moments arrive.” In other words, when Ken Holland said you can’t be all-in every year, he was hinting that this was not the season management believed the team was going to go all the way.
The emotionally draining part about long-term planning is that it often comes at the sacrifice of short-term success. Fans and Oilers players are feeling that the price today. It’s got to be crushing as the team is going home much sooner than expected.
That doesn’t mean McDavid, and others like Draisaitl or Nurse see being part of this team as a losing proposition.
No doubt, there are upgrades needed on this roster. That’s clear after the way this series went. But needed upgrades don’t equate to the best player in the world wanting to walk away from a team after a couple disappointing showings in a couple of limited postseason runs.
What the Oilers Do Next Matters a Great Deal
Ask McDavid how he feels before the 2021-22 season starts, then again in January or February of 2022 and we’ll get a much better idea of how he’s feeling about the future of this Oilers franchise. If Holland chooses not to do anything with the money he’ll have at his disposal and the Oilers don’t make improvements in areas that were uncovered during this series as weaknesses, then it’s much more logical to suggest McDavid may grow frustrated.
At the same time, the captain will need to look internally to see what else he can do. After the ungodly season he just had, it’s crazy to think he can do more, but that’s what makes great players great. Stars like McDavid are never satisfied and often the first to look in the mirror.
It will be the combination of McDavid’s self reflection, his role in making this team and winner when it matters and Holland’s gifts as a GM that tell the real story for next season.
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