Tuesday Feb. 2 marked the long awaited return of Connor McDavid in front of a packed Rexall Place.
The fans marveled at McDavid as he danced his way to a highlight reel goal. McDavid had five points in his return to the ice through two games. However, his line was equally impressive, totaling a collective 14 points in two games. This outstanding play by his line was brought to a halt over the weekend, with McDavid’s line only recording two points against the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders. Is this the player that will propel the woeful Oilers to a cup? Or will this be another young star that fades as the years go by?
McDavid’s return will rejuvenate fan excitement at games, and increase viewing from the average hockey fan. With the Oilers still well back of a playoff spot, it will be tough for McDavid to help them to their first playoff run in nine seasons. However, he shows very few signs that his play will fall off in the coming games.
McDavid’s return not only increases fan interest, it also benefits his teammates. The trio of Jordan Eberle, McDavid and Derek Pouliot collected seven points in McDavid’s return. Head Coach Todd McLellan recently put the three together in hopes of sparking the offence of Jordan Eberle and Derek Puliot. This trust the coach seems to have with McDavid resembles his presence in the game. Counting on one player to improve the numbers of other players is no easy task, especially for a rookie. However, McDavid seems up for this challenge, which is the first challenge in becoming a leader.
Being out roughly three months with a shoulder injury has hindered McDavid’s chances of passing the likes of Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel, and Max Domi for the Calder Trophy. Unless he was a highly productive second half to the season, it seems McDavid should shift his sights to the development of the Edmonton Oilers players to ensure future success.
McDavid’s return might also create tough management decisions regarding three quality young center icemen. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid all covet the same role: to be the top line center for the Oilers. There will be very little room for all three in the coming years. Edmonton will soon need to look at making a move involving one of the three. This may mean for a trade in the coming seasons for one of these players. The franchise sees McDavid as the future of their organization, with the top spot seemed to be locked up in the future, where does this leave the other two? It may mean for a trade that will increase assents in areas of need. Edmonton plays Leon Draisaitl in a winger position on occasion. However, this position is not letting him fully develop into his preferred position of a center iceman. His big shape makes it easy for him to control the tempo of play down the middle. This inner conflict must be resolved soon, or this will hang over the organization just like goaltending situation in Vancouver roughly two years ago.
McDavid’s most recent game on Feb. 7 saw him score the loan goal in a 8-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders. His first week back can easily be described as a successful one. He immediately got pushed right back to the topic of discussion his first two games back. McDavid has few limits that will hold him back from future success. Avoiding injuries should be a key point of focus for not only McDavid, but for the whole organization. His long absence left a gaping hole in the organization. His presence does not only go as far as his point totals: it goes much further than that. Players feel more comfortable with McDavid in the line-up; his presence alone has the ability to increase the play of other players. The Edmonton Oilers have a gem in their organization, one that needs proper mentoring if he is to reach his full potential as a NHL star.