Connor McDavid bashing from so-called Oilers fans needs to stop

Apr 29, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) speaks with media following game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) speaks with media following game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

While the frustration of Edmonton Oilers fans is entirely understandable, taking shots at Connor McDavid is ridiculous and irrational.

Unsurprisingly, the decision to fire Jay Woodcroft as Edmonton Oilers coach was a polarising one. Opinion on whether it was the right move to make is divided, and that’s an understatement.

Woodcroft’s defenders argued 13 games did not suddenly make him a bad coach, after enjoying plenty of success for most of his time in charge. It was more about the players under-performing, combined with general manager Ken Holland not doing a better job of working the salary cap and essentially handicapping him in the process.

On the other hand, the 47-year-old’s critics stated the buck ultimately stopped with him. It was up to him to do a better job of coaching a team with — at least heading into this season — the two best players in the game and a strong supporting cast.

We could go back and forth on this, but you get the point. Ultimately though, equalling the worst start to a season in franchise history prior to the win in Seattle, essentially sealed Woodcroft’s fate.

Where it’s really gotten ugly though, is the fallout from the decision to replace the winningest coach in Oilers history with Kris Knoblauch. In particular, the vitriol Connor McDavid has been receiving.

McDavid is somehow the bad guy in all this

You only have to go on one of the various social media platforms, or comments sections for different sports sites, to read just how bad it is. McDavid may as well be the devil incarnated, for all the hate and blame he’s getting.

The overriding belief is that the 2015 first overall draft pick is the NHL’s equivalent of LeBron James. That he has too much influence on what is happening behind the scenes in Edmonton.

This opinion is based on Knoblauch previously coaching McDavid for three seasons when he played for the Erie Otters. Given the 26-year-old’s success there, the thinking is he wanted to reconnect with the man who helped set him on the road to superstardom.

This follows on from the decision to bring in Connor Brown during the offseason. He also previously worked with McDavid, when the two played together for the Otters.

However, the main reason for the belief McDavid is too involved with what’s going on, comes down to Jeff Jackson. Not only is Jackson his agent, but the Oilers hired him as their new CEO of hockey operations back in August.

As a result, there is a segment of the fan base which firmly believes the best player in the world is offering his opinions to Jackson and telling him what he should do. How much so, is open to debate.

Oil On Whyte
Oil On Whyte /

Want your voice heard? Join the Oil On Whyte team!

Write for us!

Jackson versus Holland

Not helping in all of this, is that Jackson and general manager Ken Holland seemed to contradict each other during Sunday’s press conference to discuss the changes to the coaching staff. More specifically, when they were asked if the players were consulted on the decisions.

First up, consider the comments of Holland, which didn’t help McDavid whatsoever. When speaking to the media, he said:

"“I have talked over this past week with some of the veterans on our team. I’m not going to tell you what they said. I take the information (but) I ultimately have to make decisions. Obviously Jeff’s got a long relationship with Connor, which (he) can talk about that.”"

While we have no doubt Holland wasn’t trying to stir things up intentionally, surely he should have chosen his words better. It’s not like this is his first rodeo.

However, if this wasn’t bad enough, consider Jackson’s response. He said:

"“We didn’t consult with the players on this decision. (I) never spoke with Connor or Leon or Nuge or Nursey or any of the other leadership group. These guys are here to play hockey. … They don’t like being involved in these types of decisions, that’s my experience. The fact that Kris was Connor’s coach in Erie in 2014-15, it only has something to do with this because I think Kris Knoblauch is a very good coach. Connor didn’t have anything to do with this decision and neither did the other leadership group.”"

Now in fairness, maybe it was just a case where Holland did talk to the players about the coaching situation, while Jackson didn’t. However, you can certainly appreciate why there is a certain degree of scepticism around this whole situation.

In fairness, even if Holland and/or Jackson did speak to McDavid (and others), it does make sense. Despite his recent struggles, he’s still the best player in the game and the face of your franchise.

In addition, the Oilers are understandably hoping the three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner will sign another extension to remain in Edmonton. As such, why wouldn’t he be consulted on any decisions which will significantly impact the team?

A prolonged slump

As per the aforementioned struggles, it probably doesn’t help that McDavid isn’t playing up to his usual standard. He’s on a horrific run of eight games without a goal, which is tied for the longest drought of his NHL career.

It really is the ultimate case of what have you done for me lately, when considering exactly how much success the five-time Art Ross Trophy winner has had in the past. And really, this ties into the whole problem with the criticism he’s now receiving.

There’s no denying sports fans are often both subjective and irrational when it comes to their opinions. Fair or not, it’s reality.

Now combine this with how people act on social media, which you can essentially call the online equivalent of road rage. People lose all sense of perspective and rational thought process, as they let out all their anger and get into petty arguments with others, just because they have the ‘audacity’ to have a conflicting opinion.

Passion is one thing within fans – it’s at the very core of why professional sports are so successful. However, it doesn’t excuse those who just lose the plot, spouting hate, anger, or whatever you want to call it.

We could get into the psychology of all this, about how people’s anger and negativity is as a result of how things are in their own lives. Sport often represents a form of escapism, so when your team plays badly or whatever, it brings you back to reality and reminds you of any problems you might be having back in the real world.

Next. 3 Oilers who should be worried about Kris Knoblauch. dark

We must add in all this, that we appreciate social media doesn’t necessarily represent the opinion of the masses. Ultimately though — to whatever extent — the vitriol and criticism McDavid is receiving is ridiculous and if you’re one of those people that calls yourself an Oilers fan and is doing this, then shame on you.