By all accounts, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are off to an excellent start to the season, so it’s only fitting that the reigning Hart Trophy winner isn’t amused about criticism from members of the hockey world.
ESPN’s John Tortorella — who spent the past five seasons as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup in 2004 — provided some unsolicited advice to the Oilers’ captain last week, stating that McDavid needs to stop lobbying for penalties if he is going to take his team deep into the playoffs.
“He complained about it a little bit, that he wasn’t getting the calls,” Tortorella said. “Quite honestly, and I hope I say it correctly: Just shut up. Don’t talk about it. I do think he has to change his game a bit.
“He’s talked about culture, he’s talked about standards, he’s talked about winning. You’re not just going to fill the net during the playoffs and outscore teams. You have to play on the other side of the puck,” Tortorella added.
McDavid was asked on Thursday if he felt he was deserving of getting more penalties called in his favour. He seemed to take a jab back at Tortorella with his response.
“I guess I gotta just shut up about this,” McDavid said.
There are seemingly two components to Tortorella’s remarks, and whether McDavid needs to alter his game in order for the Oilers to have further success in the playoffs is a contentious topic. Coming off one of the best individual regular seasons in NHL history — where he amassed 33 goals and 105 points — McDavid posted a goal and four points in four games as his team was soundly swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
As the face of the league, McDavid will draw all the criticism for his team’s failures, but it’s also been easy enough to point out that the Oilers have rarely provided McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with meaningful secondary support. With McDavid on the ice at 5-on-5, the Oilers controlled 63.1 percent of the expected goals during their four-game sweep, per So while it’s easy to take umbrage with Edmonton’s superstar, it appears that Tortorella has entered the Banter Zone, rather than providing a substantiated critique.
Whether McDavid needs to shut up about penalty calls is another debate entirely. McDavid currently ranks tied for 40th in the league this season in penalties drawn, per Natural Stat Trick. The inconsistent standard of officiating has been a major point of contention and many have supported the argument that McDavid should draw more penalties on a nightly basis given how he’s often obstructed and attacked by opposing defenders.
Whether the back-and-forth between McDavid and Tortorella leads to an uptick in penalties drawn for the perennial MVP candidate almost feels immaterial, but it doesn’t appear the Oilers captain is taking Tortorella all too seriously. And with the eye-popping individual numbers he’s posted, along with Edmonton’s stellar 11-4-0 record to date, there’s little reason why he should.
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