Connor McDavid on NHL jumping into playoffs: ‘A fair season is a full season’

Connor McDavid, Mark Giordano, Bo Horvat and Oliver Ekman-Larsson discuss how they would want to see the NHL season resumed.

Between workouts in his home gym and sifting through chirps on his team’s group chats, Connor McDavid has had plenty of time to think about how the NHL should proceed if given time to save the season.

And the Edmonton Oilers captain has strong thoughts on the possibility of jumping straight into the playoffs if the COVID-19 pause doesn’t go on too long.

"Obviously a fair season is a full season, so if we can do that that’s obviously what I’d prefer," said McDavid of the possibility of simply aborting the balance of the regular season.

"But I don’t think we can just step into playoffs. Game 1, Calgary comes to Edmonton, and guys just run around killing each other and haven’t played a game in two months. It will end up the Stockton Heat versus the Bakersfield Condors if that’s the case. We want to keep guys healthy and make sure everyone’s up and ready to play some playoff hockey."

McDavid’s rare candour came on a video conference call organized by the league Friday with fellow Pacific Division captains Mark Giordano, Bo Horvat and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Horvat’s team is in an interesting predicament as the league debates what a return might look like, as the Canucks sit ninth in points, but would be a top-eight squad based on winning percentage.

"To make it completely fair you’d play more regular season games, but it’s tough to make that call, for sure," said Horvat.

"You can’t eliminate teams that are out on points percentage and stuff like that," added Giordano in support of the Canucks’ plight.

"I think you go 12-on-12 and more teams get in this year, and maybe a couple byes at the top and play it out. I think it’s going to be tough to jump into a playoff game right away first game. Even if we can get a couple (regular season games) in before that it would be nice. Realistically I don’t think we’re going to have that time (for regular season to be played out). But we’ll see how long this lasts."

One thing the group agreed on was that if there is an opportunity to hand out the Stanley Cup with a condensed playoff, the entertainment value could be at an all-time high.

"If we can ever get back to playing, I think this is going to be one of the best playoffs ever, because every team is going to have all their guys healthy and ready to go," said Giordano.

"You’re truly going to be playing the best version of every team. If we can get through this as a community and as a group of NHLers, then we’ll be in for some pretty good hockey."

That would most certainly be the case if the Oilers and Flames faced off in the opening round, as the current standings would dictate.

"That would be pretty fun," said McDavid, whose second-place Oilers have played four of the league’s most memorable games of the season against the third-place Flames.

"We’ve had lots of games that were meaningless (over recent years), but with things so tight the fans always get into it and they’re always a lot of fun. This year they’ve been pretty wild, so hopefully we’ll get back playing here and maybe we’ll even see them in the playoffs."

Nothing would make hockey fans happier.

"Fun for sure," added Giordano, from his Calgary home.

"With both teams in those playoffs spots, for a lot of my career it wasn’t like that. So this is so much better for the game and it’s a lot more fun playing those games. We’ve had some good ones this year, so hopefully we’ll keep that going."

McDavid dismissed the idea that the 15-day rest, so far, has had any impact on his knee, as he says he’s 100 per cent healthy. He has the luxury of having a gym in his Edmonton home to continue his workouts, while also spending some time running outside with teammate Darnell Nurse.

Giordano said he’s got a few pieces of exercise equipment at home, but is largely relying on body-weight exercises like old school pushups to keep him active.

Horvat is back in his native Ontario with his pregnant wife, who is expecting their first child this summer.

With his free time Horvat said he tried his hand at painting Thursday.

"Painted the nursery – first time painting, so a little rough around the edges," he laughed.

Giordano did some cooking with the help of a meal kit from Hello Fresh, which he said was tasty, but did little to curb his distaste for cleaning up afterwards.

The players said they all keep in touch with teammates via team chats that have produced "ridiculous" photos and tweets in an effort to replace the daily banter they all miss so much.

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Giordano, for one, hasn’t lost his ability to throw a little trash talk out.

"I don’t know why everyone thinks they’re so quick – I think they’re actually kind of slow, especially Connor," deadpanned Giordano said when the panelists were asked what they didn’t miss about playing against one another.

"It’s kind of tough to adjust my gap space – I’ve got to slow it down there a bit."

He then targeted goalie David Rittich as the player he’d least like to be quarantined with.

"He crushes a lot of Pepsi and pop and stuff like that," said Giordano of the team’s favourite whipping boy.

"And half the time he’s yelling at me on the ice and I have no idea what he’s saying."

McDavid said he’d avoid quarantining with Zack Kassian, as he has way too much energy. Horvat chose Jake Virtanen and left it at that.

As community leaders, all four players wanted to acknowledge medical personnel for their exemplary service at a critical time.

"Thanks to all the medical workers – the doctors and nurses and everyone who is really putting themselves at risk to help the greater good," said Giordano.

"Social distancing and all that stuff, we know we have to do it. It’s frustrating for us and disappointing, but we have to do what is right. We know we can get through this."

Horvat concurred.

"Obviously, we miss you guys, the fans," he said.

"I can’t thank the medical staff and the people on the front lines enough, taking this head on. Putting themselves at risk, and also helping others that are in desperate need right now of some help. Hopefully we can resolve this thing quick and get back on the ice for our fans, because I know they’re missing it, and so are we."

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