Saying that Connor McDavid has been a bright spot for the Oilers this season would be true. And it would also be a massive understatement. Being Oilers fans we've grown accustomed to seeing first overall picks make their NHL debuts in an Oilers uniform. McDavid hasn't been just any first overall pick though.
We saw him play in the preseason and he looked great, and that just served to make the wait to see him in a game that meant something, against actual NHL players, a little bit worse, to the point where it was almost unbearable. But even as good as he looked, in the back of my head there was this nagging little voice that kept saying, "What if he's not as good as we hope?" I can't help myself, after the last nine years this is how my brain works now. After watching him for a month I can say that he wasn't as good as we'd hoped, he was better.
And now we wait for an injury update. We know that the injury is to his left shoulder and we know it's a long term injury, other than that we don't know anything. There are rumours that it's a broken clavicle (collar bone), but the Oilers will let us know for sure this morning when they address the media. Until then all we can do is sit and wait. And think about what the Oilers might look like without McDavid in the lineup.
While we're waiting on that update, which will be coming at 10:30 this morning, let's talk about the hit. For those of who who spent last night in solitary confinement and haven't yet seen it you can watch it below. For everyone else, if you want to watch it again you do so at your own risk.
I've watched it more times than I care to count and it seems pretty clear to me that it's just an unlucky outcome. Obviously McDavid goes hard into the end boards and at that speed something has to give, unfortunately that something was his shoulder, but there is no intent there on the part of Brandon Manning or Michael Del Zotto. They're trying to keep him from cutting to the net and McDavid ends up off balance and falls hard into the boards, and the end result sucks for Oilers fans.
It surprises me though how many felt that Luke Gazdic should have been sent out in the third period to exact revenge agains the Flyers for the play; Claude Giroux was the preferred target of most. After all if Gazdic isn't out there to protect players like McDavid, why is he out there at all.
I guess it's possible that you cold see intent in the play that lead to the injury, but even if you do, sending Gazdic out to pummel Giroux (which I'm not sure Gazdic would even do since I'm not sure that he's a sociopath) isn't going to prevent a similar play from happening in the future because defencemen around the league aren't simply going to let him cut to the net. If they did I don't think they would be in the league for very long.
And having Gazdic beat up a Flyer would do nothing to keep McDavid from being hit or finding himself on the receiving end of a cheap shot when he returns to the lineup either. Enforcers simply are not a deterrent. A fight last night wouldn't have done a damn thing other than maybe making you feel for a little bit better for the duration of the fight. If anything, going after on of the Flyers' stars could have had the exact opposite effect as now the Flyers would feel the need to seek revenge against Taylor Hall, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or Nail Yakupov. This is how it works, right?
This cannot be said often enough: Enforcers do not act as a deterrent in today's NHL. In a different era, perhaps the Luke Gazdics of the NHL were just that, but it's been a long time since that's was true.