Mike’s excellent article discusses which NHL-ers are the best to build an expansion team around, and of course while this is a well-structured and researched opinion piece, there is an omission that I need to challenge my friend and colleague on: the idea that you can’t build a team around the Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid.
Firstly it should be made clear that McDavid wasn’t forgotten about. Mike explained his reasons why he didn’t include the 2015 #1 draft pick in his list. I, however, wish to share some words in rebuttal of this. As much as it pains me to write nice things about the silverware-dodging club where draft picks go to die, but today I make an exception.
McDavid is, without doubt, a generational talent. At time of writing, he’s tied for most points in the Pacific Division with Johnny Gaudreau. In 2017-18, he topped the division for points with 107, 16 clear of his nearest rival. In 2016-17 he did the century of points. In his first season, McDavid played 45 games and scored 48 points. If you sum the points tallied starting from 2015-16 to today, the dude has 322 points from 252 games. That’s 1.28 points per game, the only player with a PPG above 1 is the aforementioned Johnny G (1.05).
Of course the question asked wasn’t ‘Is McDavid a great player?’ because that’s an absolute no-brainer for all but the hardiest of tunnel-vision’d Leafs fans. McDavid didn’t break the list of because you can’t build a team around him. This, I dispute. The Edmonton Oilers have certainly built a team around him. Would they have given Leon Draisaitl an 8 year, $68,000,000 contract if he wasn’t skating next to McDavid? Take nothing away from Draisaitl but the forwards in the league who command more share of their team’s Cap Hit% are the likes of Buffalo’s forward, coach, GM and CEO Jack Eichel, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux. These guys are all the respective faces of their teams.
When you’re building a new team and need someone as that cornerstone, you need one of two qualities; performance and/or leadership. McDavid has the performance you need, and if you surround him with players who can supply and protect the forward, then you’ve got a potent top line. Vegas got 78 points out William Karlsson in his first season with the team, whereas Columbus only managed 46 points in his previous two seasons. The Golden Knights essentially built an entire team around the league’s unloved castaways.
McDavid has the performance part nailed on. We’ve touched on that above. Can he lead a team? That is questionable. The Oilers under CMcD have been par. But how much of that is down to one guy is negligible, especially when is point production is a big driver behind the games the team did win. The dude is only 22 though, and while some leadership qualities may currently be lacking, he more than leads by example. If this isn’t something that you can build a team around, I don’t know what is.
Can you build a team around McDavid? Comment below or join in the conversation on Twitter.