EDMONTON — Patrick Maroon enjoyed a career year on Connor McDavid’s left wing back in 2016-17, scoring 27 goals while watching over the Oilers prodigy when teams tried to mess with him.
Tonight, as a member of the visiting St. Louis Blues, it all changes.
"Connor’s probably the fastest guy in the league, and sometimes you need to hold or grab him a bit," reasoned Maroon. "When I was over on (the Oilers) end I hated it. Now that I’m against him, if I’m out there against him I’m going to try to hold him."
"Aw, I won’t be able to catch him anyways."
Tonight, referees Kyle Rehman and Garrett Rank might as well bring a broom and dustpan to Rogers Place, as they’ll walk into the mess set out by Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock’s complaints over how opposing teams have been allowed to illegally restrain McDavid.
"Connor is a very unique player. You can’t stop him at the puck," Hitchcock said on Monday. "Where you stop him is before he gets involved in the play. That’s the part that bothers me. A lot of what happens is way behind the play."
As for McDavid, he stayed right in his lane Tuesday when asked about how he is officiated.
"I don’t like to talk about the refs. I never have," McDavid said. "I don’t think anything good is going to come from it. It’s a tough job they have — certainly one I wouldn’t (want) to have."
Does he notice what Hitchcock notices?
"The games have been tight checking — (a 4-2 loss in) Vancouver especially," he said. "A lot of teams try not to let me build any sort of speed, so they try to get above me."
"Keep skating. Keep working hard."
That’s what you get from McDavid when it comes to the referees. He may have learned this lesson the hard way somewhere along his hockey path, but if he did it was long before he came to Edmonton. Here, he has steadfastly avoided critiquing the zebras.
"Nothing good is going to come from getting in their face, calling them out or doing all that stuff," he said. "It’s an extremely tough job. The plays happen fast. They’ve got to somehow watch every play that’s going on out there — even away from the puck.
"It’s something that I definitely wouldn’t want to have to do. I think they do the best job that they can."
That’s the smart thing to say. No argument there.
"He just plays," said Hitchcock. "He’s like any other player in the game — he wants his space, and it’s my job to whine and complain. And I’m good at it, so…"