The Edmonton Oilers named superstar Connor McDavid the 15th captain in franchise history on Wednesday; at the tender age of 19 years and 266 days old, McDavid becomes the youngest captain in both Oilers and National Hockey league history.
With the Oilers opening up their brand new home Rogers Place this season, the team is desperate to prove it’s the start of a new era. After yet another season where the club finished in the NHL’s bottom five, the club decided to make some major changes.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli shocked the hockey world in late June by trading 2009 first overall choice Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in a blockbuster deal for defenseman Adam Larsson, and promptly signed highly-touted free agent Milan Lucic to a seven year contract worth $42 million days later. Edmonton’s makeover continued just yesterday with the trade of yet another Oilers first overall selection by sending Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues, and the free agent signing of defenseman Kris Russell.
Some people would tell you that due to his age and inexperience at the NHL level that it’s too early to name him captain, and in ways I agree with them. The role of captain is both a blessing and burden for the wearer; the point-getting expectations from fans usually grow higher, while your mistakes and poor showings tend to be magnified by the local media.
But there’s a reason behind every decision, and Oilers head coach Todd McLellan firmly believes in McDavid’s ability to rally the troops. Not only did McDavid prove his talent by scoring 48 points in 45 games during his rookie season, but also showed his leadership skills by captaining the McLellan coached Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey.
History also says the Oilers are making a solid choice. Names of some of the NHL’s youngest ever captains include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Gabriel Landeskog, and last but not least Steve Yzerman. Yzerman held the record for youngest ever captain for 16 years after being given the title by the Detroit Red Wings in 1986. In his 19 seasons at the helm, Yzerman led the Wings to three Stanley Cups in four Final appearances as well as consistently being one of the team’s top scorers each and every year.
Even if McDavid lacks experience, he’ll have his assistant captains to help him adjust to his new role. Lucic has eight seasons experience with the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings, as well as a Stanley Cup championship under his belt. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been around the Oilers locker room for years and understand the pressures that come with playing in Edmonton more than anyone.
That being said, Connor is well aware of the expectations that lie in front of him as he continues his NHL career. Ever since he began his junior career as a sixteen year old with the OHL’s Erie Otters, the worldwide knowledge that he could become the next great NHL superstar has followed him. Injuries slowed his rookie campaign in Edmonton last year, but a healthy McDavid could potentially be the difference between a playoff bound Oilers team and another standings basement finish.
In reality, not much will change day to day for Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. He’s still the supposed savior of the franchise, and the Oilers are still expected to finally build a winning team around their new leader. But making McDavid captain has already done exactly what the team wanted; it’s given the fans hope again. The dream that he could become the first Oilers captain since Mark Messier to hoist the Stanley Cup over his shoulders seems more and more like a reality for Edmontonians every day.
It’s been a rough decade for Oilers fans, but the ship finally seems to be passing the worst of the storm; and with Captain Connor McDavid at the helm, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be the one that finally leads this Edmonton crew to hockey’s greatest treasure.
LITC Blog Poll: Was making Connor McDavid captain the right move by the #Oilers?
— Lachlan Irvine (@LachInTheCrease) October 8, 2016