On Tuesday morning, Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland held a press conference in which he announced that the team’s superstar captain Connor McDavid will miss approximately 2-3 weeks with what he called a “quad injury.” Holland stated that the team is hoping for McDavid’s return sooner than that time frame, and that they will re-evaluate the injury in one week.
When news broke, Oilers fans around North America could feel their hearts sink down to their ankles. The Oilers are right in the midst of an extremely tight Pacific Division that sees first place to fifth place separated by just four points. In fact, when you look at the Western Conference as a whole, only nine points separate third place from twelfth place. That’s right, NINE POINTS. In a division and conference as tight as it currently is, and likely will be for the remainder of the season, there is a very slim margin for error for teams like the Oilers. And losing their captain and top centreman for even a short period of time is going to sting no matter how you look at it.
Holland stated in the press conference that McDavid will be out of the lineup for tonight’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and when the team boards the plane for their upcoming road trip to Florida, McDavid will be heading to Toronto to work with his personal trainers and therapists to begin the healing process. When the Oilers return to Edmonton from their three game road trip to Tampa Bay, Miami, and Raleigh, McDavid will be re-evaluated and will hopefully be able to play from then on.
So, McDavid will miss at least the next four games for sure, and depending on how his rehab goes, may miss more. The Oilers have confirmed that McDavid’s injury is not related to the knee injury he suffered in the final game of last season, and it’s safe to say that this is bittersweet news for Oilers fans alike. Many Oilers fans are thankful that there is hope for their captain’s return in the near future, but many are also concerned about how the team will perform for the few games he is absent. So exactly how does this injury affect the Oilers, and what does this mean for a team fighting for their playoff lives?
It means that the Edmonton Oilers are going to have to rally together and step up as a team. It means players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Riley Sheahan, Zack Kassian, and James Neal will have to step up now more than ever. It means that Oiler’s forward and the NHL’s leading scorer Leon Draisaitl will have to continue to be dominant, and will need to control the game like his counter-punch McDavid does so well. It means that the Oilers will need to have more consistent efforts from goaltenders Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. All in all, it means that every single member of the Oilers need to rally behind their injured captain and show themselves and the rest of the league how they can band together through adversity.
But perhaps that doesn’t happen. We all know the impact that Connor McDavid has in every game he plays. Arguably the best player in the game today, McDavid has consistently controlled games with his next-level speed, and has been putting up his fair share of highlight-reel goals this season. McDavid has posted 30 goals and 81 points in 55 games for the Oilers so far, good for second in the league behind only his teammate Draisaitl. McDavid has consistently been near the top in scoring every season since he entered the league, and even for four games, his absence will definitely be felt by team.
If the team cannot rally together and step up in their own ways, four games could feel like an eternity for Oilers fans who have been feeling optimistic about the team’s second playoff appearance since 2006. In a playoff race as tight as it is, with roughly 25 games left on the schedule for every team, the Oilers certainly cannot afford to throw points away. The Oilers do have a glimmer of hope knowing that they have 2 or 3 games in hand of every team in the Pacific Division that they are battling with, but at the same time, every point is valuable with the Western Conference close like this.
The time is now for the Oilers to prove that they aren’t just “The McDavid Show.” Good teams have depth, and good teams know how to deal with the adversity of losing their star player for any length of time. The Oilers have a lot to prove now, and if they want to be in the big dance come April, they need to be able to show that one player does not make a team.
Their first test without their captain begins on Tuesday night, when the Oilers host the Blackhawks at Rogers Place. Puck drop is scheduled for 9PM EST.
Dave Tippett’s squad needs to keep their confidence level up. They need to believe in each other now more than ever. Only they can control how this plays out.
Featured photo courtesy of Jason Franson / The Canadian Press
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