• By: Dave Gross

The Extraordinary Connor McDavid . . . (and other noteworthy observations)

Back in college and – eventually – university days we had what we called The Gretzky Rule.

It was pretty simple: Any playoff hockey pool worth its salt would eliminate any of the participants from having the ability to select Wayne Gretzky. The thinking was equally simple: The gap between Gretzky and the rest of the pack was so immense – points-wise – that the guy grabbing Gretz had an unfair advantage. A massively unfair advantage.

A few decades later there is an equally sizable gap. And it also features a skater from Edmonton.

That gap has a bit to do with points, but more with general talent and game play.

Because the talent gap between Edmonton uber-star Connor McDavid and the rest of the planet is now undeniable.

Oh sure, either bull-in-a-china-shop Nathan MacKinnon or the splendid craftsman Nikita Kucherov could (and likely will) lay claim to the Hart Memorial Trophy when its announced next week . . . but really?

Is there any question now, after what we have and we are witnessing in the most entertaining and dramatic Stanley Cup finale in many seasons, that the third candidate, McDavid, is light years ahead of the entire pack.

There was never any questioning the skill of the North Toronto native. The skating? Unparalleled. The stickwork? Mind blowing. Vision? Maybe Kucherov comes closest.

But now we add in drive, determination and an inability to give up . . . and the Porsche of players is lapping the field.

Constructing the perfect hockey player is as much about heart as it is about artistry, finesse and intelligence.

McDavid, in Year 9 in the National Hockey League, is about as perfect as you can get.



For weeks (and maybe months) the story emanating from this corner of your page was filled with praise and fluffy adjectives surrounding the pack mentality of the Florida Panthers.

This was, and is an operation built on TEAM.

All for one and one for all.

From the heights of the styling and profiling first line to the depths of the grinding, responsible and never-say-die fourth line, to the exceedingly deep and responsible blueline, the Panthers are as pack-centric as the Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970s.

But what hockey is seeing from Edmonton, probably since the finish of that grinding war against Vancouver in Round 2, is a top-heavy club morphing into a complete team.

Much like its opposition.

This wasn’t always the case.

In the regular season(s) prior, the Oilers were notable for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and then a bunch of regular Joes carrying their water.

But (almost) suddenly, there’s a whole bunch of character coming to the fore.

I mean, did anyone outside of Edmonton really know who or what a Mattias Janmark was? Hey Ottawa and Toronto, remember that guy Connor Brown . . . didn’t he retire or go play in Europe? And who the heck is Warren Foegele? Ryan McLeod? Anyone? Hello?

Now we know.


PLAYOFF THOUGHTS: Stuart Skinner: A man just enjoying a really good time . . . Skinner is doing what previous Oiler netminders could not – managing the pressure with aplomb and self-assurance . . . You might think, judging from the words high above, that we’re writing Florida off. That would be a poor analysis . . . Not that we’re putting him in McDavid’s class, but Aleksander Barkov is hockey’s most complete two-way player. Kind of a reincarnation of Anze Kopitar . . . This is not to suggest that Kopitar’s passed on. Ahem . . . I’m not nearly the first to say this (but maybe the last), the trade from nearly a year-and-a-half ago that brought Mattias Ekholm in from Nashville was essential in bringing the Oilers defence up to snuff . . . I’m probably not the first to suggest this either, but Ekholm on the next season of Vikings is a natural . . . Great to hear Bob Stauffer on Jeff Marek’s show this week. Bob was a regular guest on our sports radio show way-way-way back in 2006 during the Dwayne Roloson-led Oilers run to the Cup final against Carolina. Gruff and insightful, Bob’s a hockey staple in Alberta . . . Sticking with broadcasting, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a more excitable, charged, nervous and invested panel than the one on Sportsnet/CBC . . . Speaking on that, the fact newcomer Luke Gazdic’s been shuffled to the side for the final is criminal. He out-paces most on the current panel, outside of Kevin Bieksa.


OTTAWA SENATOR NOTES: In case you missed it, Ottawa signed d-man Max Guenette to a one-year extension this week. Guenette had 34 points for Belleville this past season and skated in seven games with the big club . . . Restricted free agent Shane Pinto’s been rumoured, through Postmedia, to potentially sign a short-term deal with Ottawa. If he’s determined to be looking for something in the neighbourhood of $5 million US per season on a long-term contract, and I’m Ottawa, I’m doing it . . . Seems like this one’s been on the burner for far too long – Mathieu Joseph’s on the trade block . . . Chris Tanev to Ottawa makes sense to Ottawa but does it make any sense to Tanev who’s 34 and turns 35 mid-season and has yet to win a Stanley Cup? . . . And congrats to old pal David Bell who’s back behind the bench with (AHL) Belleville. Got to know David years ago. He’s a Wiarton, Ont., native and while I was working in nearby Owen Sound and he was a leader with Brian Kilrea’s Ottawa 67’s, we’d catch up with a lunch or two during the summer months. Killer always told me David would be a head coach in hockey one day.


Photo: CourtesyTHN.com