For those of you who’ve been wanting Connor McDavid to show a little more fire in speaking to the media, Thursday was your night.
Think back to last year for a second, when McDavid first took the NHL by storm. At 18 years old, he was cruising along as an NHL rookie, scoring five goals and 12 points in his first 12 games.
Then, in his 13th game, his rookie season was derailed before it could really take off.
Using his patented speed to beat the Flyers defencemen on the rush, McDavid was checked by Brandon Manning and crashed hard into the boards. McDavid came up clutching his shoulder area and sat on the bench for the rest of the period. He didn’t return to that game and was forced out of action until February with a fractured clavicle.
In the first Coach’s Corner after that incident, you’ll recall Don Cherry claiming the Flyers knew exactly who was coming down on them and intentionally drove him into the boards.
“Connor was hurt on purpose. I’m telling you they meant to drive him into the boards,” Cherry said. “They should’ve let up a little. You’ll see as he’s going down they give him a little shot. He doesn’t have a chance.”
On Thursday night, McDavid and the Oilers faced Manning and the Flyers again. From the get-go McDavid and Manning appeared to be going at it, getting physical with each other in the corner and after whistles, and when McDavid scored he immediately turned to Manning and chirped the defenceman.
After the game, the usually close-to-the-chest McDavid sounded off on Manning, which really explained what was going on between the two during the wild 6-5 Oilers loss.
“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media,” McDavid said. “Everyone wanted to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose. And he wanted to say some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the most classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice.
“He said some things and our guys responded accordingly. And I guess we can put the whole if he did it on purpose thing to rest because what he said out there kinda confirmed that. Shows what kind of guy he is when he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”
After McDavid’s comments went viral, Manning followed up and said he did not intend to injure McDavid last season.
“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that. I think going back to last year, it was a total accident, I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention on hurting anyone.”
At the end of last season, Manning said he had gotten death threats after the McDavid injury. For his part, McDavid made sure not to put blame on Manning at that time.
“I don’t really think it was a hit or anything like that,” McDavid said. “It was just an unlucky play. I don’t really want to get into it too much, but for him to get death threats or anything… I don’t really know what that was about.”
The Oilers blew a couple of two-goal leads in Thursday’s loss, but McDavid scored and added an assist. Manning finished without a point and was a minus-1.