Let’s just be happy, everyone. After a topsy-turvy week of some tough losses and a light sprinkle of drama, Oilers fan find themselves back in a familiarly dark place. It's not all doom and gloom, but let's turn the spotlight to some good news to end the week. Just like in Edmonton, the weather may be freaking cold but if the sun shines, everything is okay, right? I don't live there so I will just assume it is.
1. Brandon Davidson is almost back
After a sparkling rookie campaign, we were all so excited for Brandon Davidson's sophomore year.
With the highest CF% on the entire team in 5v5 situations last season and a team-leading +/- at +7, Davidson quietly established himself as a steady presence on the thirstiest blueline in the whole league, a small miracle and one of the only rays of sunshine to emerge last season.
Brandon Davidson is a guy we are all cheering for. No one expected him to make the NHL, and he beat the odds, cancer, and multiple injuries to finally sign a well deserved two-year extension at the end of last season. Sadly, an ill-mannered boy named Matthew Tkachuk decided to slewfoot Davidson, and he was out with an injury after just the first game of the regular season. Rude.
Luckily, just as the blueline is being hit hard with injuries to Darnell Nurse, Mark Fayne, and Eric Gryba, Davidson looks about ready to rejoin the team. He traveled with the team on their recent road trip, though he likely will not play according to Uncle Todd, but starting from the Sunday game against Winnipeg, it looks very promising. I had him tapped as a top player to choose as a favourite this season, and I'm ready to finally start cheering for Davey.
2. Connor McDavid leads the NHL in points, and the Pacific Division in All-Star Voting
Another day to be alive, another day to be thankful that this talented young man is an Edmonton Oiler. Maybe he would have gotten to the All-Star game last year had his season not been unceremoniously interrupted by a clavicle injury, but this year Connor is absolutely lighting up the league with 38 points, blowing past the competition with the next highest point total at 29 from Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov, and Tyler Seguin. He seems a lock to make his first All-Star game, currently leading the Pacific Division in fan votes, but if you want to do a thing and feel good, cast a vote for him here.
3. Adam Larsson is a beast who throws his big body around
When the Larsson trade happened, we thought we would be getting a Kygo lookalike who is a shutdown defenseman and very tough to play against. We didn't know we were getting a Swedish killing machine who currently ranks number four in the NHL for hits with 90 (Source: Sporting Charts), ahead of the likes of Leo Komarov, Dustin Byfuglien, and yes, even Milan Lucic. We should have known when he very casually broke this titanium golf club while trying it out at a Sportchek, but seeing him lay out check after check and bump opponents off the puck with his sheer brute strength has been immensely satisfying, especially on a team that's largely lacked this physical element over the years.
4. Matt Benning is the surprise of the year
Let's thank our lucky stars that Chiarelli picked up this gem of a defenseman, who's emerged as a solid NHL defenseman to the surprise of everyone. I shudder to imagine the blueline without this rookie's surprisingly stable play, who's played well since making his NHL debut on November 1. As an unsigned draft pick of the Bruins, the Oilers signed the homegrown Alberta boy to little fanfare on August 27, and he currently ranks first on the entire roster in 5v5 CF% (57.59%), and second only to Mark Fayne (who has settled into more of a repetitive cameo first period role) in High Danger CF% and fewest high danger shot attempts against. Not bad for a rookie, eh?
5. Connor McDavid is a real human being with emotions
The young man previously known as Saint Connor McDavid has decided that he has had enough of this wretched earth and its various antics. This week, we saw the inner Newmarket gangster in him emerge as not once, but twice, his comments caused quite a stir in the hockey world.
So far in his career, most of Connor McDavid's responses in interviews have been uttered in the monotone of a witness taking the stand at a small claims courts trial, or a mid-level sales manager talking through his shoddy quarterly sales Powerpoint presentation. This week, we have seen the emergence of bad boy Connor, letting obscenities loose on the ice and to the media, lit by a fire thus far contained but always present in this precocious captain.
It’s never been the case that Connor McDavid has no emotion or temper-- he's just mastered the art of controlling it in public, at a remarkably young age, so as not to stir up unnecessary controversy, despite much poking and prodding from the media. That's arguably an even more impressive skill. Many fans enjoyed seeing this other, arguably more genuine, side of their captain, and it was certainly refreshing to hear someone speak their mind for once, even if just to remind us that this guy is made of flesh and bones, not nuts and bolts.
What Connor did yesterday is what any human being would have done-- he was honest, emotional, and it was very satisfying to see him stand up for himself without having his play being affected negatively; in fact, one could make the argument that the emotion allowed him to elevate his game, as his coach remarked in his pre-game comments today.
What he will surely learn in the coming years as he matures is to get even better at staying above the fray with players like Manning, who will continue to emerge throughout his career. McDavid is just far too good of a player to concern himself with puerile issues like this, and players like Manning don't deserve the attention or emotional expenditure they got from McDavid last night-- it only validates their cause. I don't mind him speaking out at all and applaud the rare moment of candid honesty. Ultimately, though, the best punishment to vindictive players and bloodthirsty opposing fans is to first win the game, and then let the chirping and squealing become irrelevant as it falls on deaf ears. Players like that are not worth the frustration and fatigue, and likewise, no further ink will be spilled here regarding the juvenile antics of an altogether irrelevant player.