We’ve asked Connor McDavid enough question to know: The eye roll means more than whatever words follow.
Sure, it can mean, “What kind of a dumb question was that?” And I’ve asked my share.
But far more often, the eye roll isn’t a comment on the validity of the question. It’s more about the position the query puts McDavid in.
I asked him a couple of months ago, after yet another Oilers dispirited loss, “What’s it like to be Connor McDavid right now?” I got the eye roll.
The takeaway? It was too early in the season to ask McDavid for an honest dissertation on what it’s like to watch another year fade into obscurity, playing for an organization whose run of playoff absences has now reached Top 3 in NHL history.
My colleague Rob Tychkowski of Postmedia had much better timing than I, when he wisely asked McDavid — on the night the Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoffs for the third time in the Oiler captain’s four seasons — if he thought Oilers were close to fixing their problems.
Tychkowski got the eye roll too. But this time, the eye roll meant, “What do YOU think?”
Or as Tychkowski interpreted it, “Take a look around.”
It was the right time for McDavid to let his feeling be known, after a typically non-competitive 3-1 loss in Vegas, complete with the usually shabby goaltending and absolute dearth of support scoring for McDavid (who scored the goal) and Leon Draisaitl.
Today his words reverberate across the hockey world, nowhere more so than the city that once lost Wayne Gretzky.
“We don’t even have a GM, so I don’t think we’re in any position to comment on next season,” McDavid said. “We have a lot of crap to figure out. I hope we can put the right man in the spot and we can put together a good team.”
“It’s just not good enough,” McDavid continued. “All year. We let (losing) streaks drag on, we let times where we weren’t able to find wins drag on. You have to find a way to stop the bleeding, quick. There is a slim margin of error in this league. We did our best to stay in the fight, but it was a little too late.”
And McDavid’s frustration level?
“It’s really high. It’s really, really high,” he said. “We want to play in the playoffs as a team. I personally want to play in the playoffs. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be a long summer.”
So here’s a question we’ll ask, and the timing should be better this time around: What should get the attention of Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, and his CEO Bob Nicholson, more quickly?
Connor McDavid verbalizing his frustration with this endless losing culture in Edmonton? Or as many a few thousand season ticket holders refusing to renew this summer, when their three-year commitment expires after the third year at Rogers Place?
As the Oilers become only the third team in NHL history to miss the playoffs 12 out of 13 seasons, the economy here in Alberta is at its worst in a decade. Your house is worth less than it was a year ago, and whether or not your business is directly connected with oil, everyone’s bottom line is in some level of jeopardy as Alberta’s fossil fuel industry tries to get up off its knees in the face of environmental reports to the contrary.
They aren’t quite the most expensive tickets in the league, but it is not editorial comment to declare that no fan in the National Hockey League gets worse value than Oilers fans.
It’s still up for debate in some circles, but it’s not some rogue opinion to say the player voted by his peers as the best player in the game today has had one playoff experience in four years, and is getting sick and tired of being the face of a dysfunctional organization.
“It’s been an insane season,” McDavid said in Vegas. “Coaching change. GM change. Good times and bad times. It’s been a roller coaster. It’s been emotionally challenging. It’s been hard mentally to keep on going, but we were always kind of right there. We were close and then we drifted away. That’s the way it goes.”
That’s the way it always goes, in Edmonton.
It sounds like McDavid has had his fill of the losing.