Defin­ing mo­ment

Cap­taincy piv­otal in McDavid’s MVP-wor­thy sea­son, says Oil­ers coach

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

The defin­ing mo­ment of Con­nor McDavid’s stand­out sea­son hap­pened off the ice, ac­cord­ing to his coach.

Todd McLel­lan says the in­tro­duc­tion of McDavid as team cap­tain Oct. 5 sent a mes­sage to the young cen­tre about the con­fi­dence the Oil­ers had in him, but also their ex­pec­ta­tions of him.

The 20-year-old re­sponded by post­ing 100 points to win this year’s Art Ross Tro­phy as the NHL’s scor­ing leader and earn a nom­i­na­tion for the Hart Tro­phy that goes to the league’s most valu­able player.

“It hap­pened the day that he was told he was go­ing to lead this group,” McLel­lan said Tues­day. “(We) sewed a ‘C’ onto his jersey.

“I think that el­e­vated his, not sense of value, but just his pri­or­ity list in the locker room for lack of a bet­ter ex­pla­na­tion.

“He re­al­ized he was go­ing to have to be on the fore­front and pro­duce on a nightly ba­sis, not only of­fen­sively, but de­fen­sively, prac­tice habits, car­ry­ing the spirit of the team, an­swer­ing for the group and he’s done a real good job.”

If McDavid wins the Hart on June 21, he would be just the third player un­der the age of 21 to do so af­ter Sid­ney Crosby (2007) and for­mer Oiler Wayne Gret­zky (1980).

“It’s spe­cial and it’s some­thing I’m very proud of, but it’s a credit to be able to play with this group of guys and play with the play­ers we have in this room,” McDavid said. “Def­i­nitely makes play­ing hockey a lot of fun.”

Crosby, a two-time win­ner, joins Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets goal­tender goal­tender Sergei Bo­brovsky and McDavid as this year’s nom­i­nees.

“He’s a guy I grew up watch­ing ob­vi­ously and to be up for this award with him, pretty cool,” McDavid said of Crosby.

McDavid com­piled 30 goals and 70 as­sists play­ing all 82 games this sea­son, and led the Oil­ers to their first play­off ap­pear­ance since 2006.

Crosby, now 29, to­talled 44 goals and 45 as­sists in 75 games.

Bo­brovsky, 26, posted a 4117-5 record, a goals-against av­er­age of 2.06 and a save per­cent­age of .931 for the Blue Jack­ets.

McDavid and the Oil­ers lead their best-of-seven Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal against the Ana­heim Ducks two games to one into tonight’s Game 4 at Rogers Place.

De­spite his poise and per­for­mance, his sopho­more sea­son wasn’t al­ways smooth sail­ing.

“It was my first full reg­u­lar sea­son and there’s a lot of ups and downs,” McDavid said. “There’s a lot of times when you’re not play­ing your best hockey and you’ve got to get back to it.

“Ear­lier in the year, I think I had a 10-game goal drought or some­thing like that. Ev­ery­one was harp­ing on me then.”

He’s had Gret­zky close by this sea­son to help him deal with the stresses that come with hockey suc­cess and re­spon­si­bil­ity at a young age. Gret­zky was named vice-chair of the Oil­ers En­ter­tain­ment Group shortly af­ter McDavid was in­tro­duced as team cap­tain.

“Now es­pe­cially, more than ever, I’ve had to rely on him and talk to him about cer­tain things,” McDavid said. “Just go­ing through this whole thing for the first time.”

CP PHOTO

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers’ Con­nor McDavid skates with the puck dur­ing first pe­riod NHL ac­tion against the Van­cou­ver Canucks in Van­cou­ver, B.C. on April 8.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.