There are certain moments in life when you just know you’ve reached a new level. Many times it comes under intense pressure, and as the saying goes, “No pressure, no diamonds”. It’s safe to say Connor McDavid has done just that as he approaches the 2022-23 NHL season.
All the NHL greats who have won the Stanley Cup have possessed it from Maurice Richard and Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby. It’s that intangible belief, the will to win that separates the good ones from the greats. McDavid is showing more and more signs that he has it, that je ne sais quoi. It’s not about winning scoring races, and individual trophies, it seems like it’s all about winning the Stanley Cup. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector recently mentioned on Oilers Now how he saw something different in him during his Sept. 30 press conference. You have to believe that he has upped his game mentally, spiritually – whatever you want to call it – to lead this version of the Edmonton Oilers and their fans to the promised land.
McDavid Reached New Heights in the 2022 Playoffs
Last May in the first round of the 2022 NHL Playoffs, it was crunch time for the Oilers as they fell behind the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. History was not on their side, especially having been swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 2021 Playoffs, and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2020 Qualifying Series 3-1. It was make-or-break time for McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and company against the Kings on May 12, 2022, and McDavid stepped up and took the series over literally by himself.
McDavid scored three points in the Oilers’ 4-2 victory in Game 6 and then went on to lead them past the Kings 2-0 in Game 7. Those two games marked a new chapter in his career not just as the NHL’s premiere player, but also as a leader. Like Neo in the movie The Matrix, or Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie, McDavid started to believe.
Colorado Got in the Way
Skeptics will say that if McDavid is so good and so focused, why didn’t he lead the Oilers past the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final? Fair point. Especially when Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar cemented his legacy as one of the best players in the game leading his team to the franchise’s third championship when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. But that was then, and this is now. It takes a team to win, and Colorado was deeper than the Oilers last season. In 2022-23, the Oilers might’ve closed the talent gap just a bit by signing goaltender Jack Campbell, unsung defenceman Ryan Murray and re-signing Evander Kane.
Meanwhile, Colorado lost forward Nazem Kadri to the Calgary Flames and goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Washington Capitals in free agency. The Avalanche still have their core group intact, recently extending forward Nathan MacKinnon to the NHL’s richest contract, but time will tell as to whether the Oilers and Avalanche will meet again in the 2023 Playoffs. If they do, you can expect the Oilers to be hungrier to win, especially McDavid, Draisaitl and defenceman Darnell Nurse.
Predicting McDavid’s and the Oilers’ Success in 2022-23
The Oilers are all-in to win this season. General manager Ken Holland recently mentioned how expectations are good and the team’s goal was to grow into a Cup contender. He also noted that three of the four teams that made it to the 2021 Conference Finals didn’t even make the playoffs last season. So the Oilers have a fresh sheet to work from.
No one really knows who will be in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. There’s a lot of hockey to be played between now and then. The only thing the Oilers and their fans can be assured of is their captain, Connor McDavid, is more focused on winning than he’s ever been. Considering he is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in the game, you have to admit he gives them an even greater chance to win this season. Whether you’re an Oilers fan or not, it’s beginning to look like they might just have the intangibles to win it all this time.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.