Behind The Bench: No Star Like McDavid

By Michael Moore

Hello all,

STILL not feeling 100%. This stupid sinus infection persists. I saw my ear, nose and throat guy and said that it is some sort of secondary infection that refuses to give up. I was given a ridiculous regimine of meds and I think it is finally starting to work.  

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get to this week’s reading from Coach Littler. This is a fun one and given everything going on with Victorious Hockey and our health, something light is in need.

Enjoy (and buy stock in Sudafed!)-Mike


At last, he’s on a stage the whole hockey world will watch

Mark Spector,, May 30, 2022

DENVER  — If Connor McDavid has come in waves at opposing defensemen, he has washed over the hockey populace in layers during his ascent to the title of hockey’s best player.

Unlike Sidney Crosby, there have been no Olympic moments, no skating through snowflakes to win a Winter Classic for a hockey phenomenon who has played out his career in hockey’s version of Mystery, Alaska.

McDavid is not just sequestered in Alberta, the northwest corner of the National Hockey League map. McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers reside in northern Alberta, where 82 televised McDavid appearances each punishing winter are 82 reasons not to let the bitter cold and 4 p.m. darkness break our spirit the way he broke Jacob Markstrom’s.

There, in a province that lives and breathes the game, McDavid has long held the crown of hockey’s best player. Because out West, they see Matthews and Marner, Kucherov and Stamkos in a 5 p.m. MT start all winter long.

Then McDavid arrives on our big screens, like the main event after an undercard. With all due respect, for a while now, there has simply been no contest.

Today, as McDavid’s maturation coincides with a stage that a Hockey Night in Canada game in November simply cannot match, McDavid and the hockey world are on a next-level date.

By our count, McDavid’s Oilers have been seen nine times on ESPN’s or TNT’s national broadcasts this season. Less than the Flyers and Blackhawks, we’d wager. Certainly less than Crosby’s Penguins.

Starting Tuesday, the Oilers and Colorado Avalanche will command the hockey world’s attention every second night for most of two weeks. Like a Group of Seven painting, or some long lost Donald Fagan track, you can’t grasp McDavid’s brilliance by dropping in monthly, or catching the highlights on the morning sports shows.

For the next fortnight, fans who never have seen McDavid command an NHL ice surface twice in the same month can hit replay every second night on McDavid — hockey’s answer to whatever movie it is you can watch over and over, and it still does it for you.

It even took Scotty Bowman, one of the greatest coaches and sharpest hockey minds of all time, a break-in period before he could accurately decipher just what it was he was watching.

“I didn’t realize how he was pretty well even on making plays and finishing them, you know?” Bowman said this week.

“There are a lot of great players in the league, but some of them are one-dimensional. They don’t make plays. Wayne was like McDavid, but the only other one that I could ever think of was Mario (Lemieux). But he was a different player. He didn’t move like this guy.”

Of course, “Wayne” refers to the greatest player ever to lace ‘em up, in the eyes of most.

“He’s playing a different game than pretty much everyone else,” Gretzky said over the phone, as McDavid led his Oilers to a five-game rout in the Battle of Alberta. “The only two guys who compare him to in the league right now would be Patrick Kane and (Nikita) Kucherov — and that’s only in the basis of their playmaking ability. But Connor does it at a speed that I don’t know if those other two guys have.”

Gretzky continued:

“They have his hockey sense, and they have his vision, but he can do it at a speed that nobody else can do it at.

And so he’s always one play ahead of everyone else, knowing where the next guy is, where his teammates are. He’s extremely unselfish, but I think the biggest difference is, he competes at a tempo that nobody else is at.

“That I don’t think we’ve ever seen.”

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Crosby caveat existed. A time when the answer to the questions, “Who is the NHL’s best player?” and, “Which player would you want for a Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup?” had separate answers.

Today, McDavid’s defensive acumen, his faceoff work and his determination in all three zones of the rink has eliminated any “ya, buts” from the conversation.

And now he is beginning to lead his team places. Now, he’s taken a franchise that has wallowed, and with co-phenom, Leon Draisaitl, arrived at this Western Conference Final. Now, the distance between McDavid and Crosby that has disappeared becomes just another separator between McDavid and Matthews — and everyone else.

“Over the years he’s gone through a lot of trials and tribulations as far as the team goes, changes in the organization,” Gretzky said. “Through all that adversity, both him and Leon have carried their heads high and been then extremely accountable when things were tough. Now they’re enjoying the fruits of the success of the hockey club.

“Now their level of compete and battle, although it’s always been there, it just seems to be rising.”

Poll all of the nearly 1,000 NHL players in a given season. Add in another 500 coaches, front office types, scouts and such, and we’d wager that McDavid would get more than 1,475 votes as hockey’s top player.

The people in the know, they know.

Now, as the last of the rest of the hockey world gets its chance to see what the others have already come to realize, the conversation gets historical.

Forget today’s players. Who do we compare McDavid to … ever.

“I think that the closest player, but a different position, for me to watch would be Bobby Orr,” Bowman said. “Bobby Orr could really take off, and guys would be scrambling to try to get in position. Then he’s around behind the net, and then he can still make the play.”

Gretzky watched McDavid take his Oilers down the stretch, change his game and lead them in the right direction under a new coach.

“And then on top of that, when they were down three to two against L.A. (in Rd. 1) he put the team on his back and really made the difference — especially in Game 6, and of course Game 7 in Edmonton,” Gretzky marveled. “That’s what great players do. Bobby Orr did it. Lemieux did it. Messier did it. Howe did it. He’s doing that right now.”

McDavid scored the 2-0 goal that solidified their 2-0, Game 7 win over L.A. Then he scored the OT winner in the clinching Game 5 at Calgary.

He and Draisaitl sit tied atop the playoff scoring race with 26 pints — 10 points clear of third place.

And there are those who still wonder if the guy from their favorite team is his equal.

Two weeks from now? That shouldn’t be a problem.


What kind of relationship do you want to have?

Greg Revak and Daniel Dukart, Nov 23, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, we wanted to take a step back from the tactics of hockey to talk about the human side of the sport. Namely, the car ride to and home from hockey.

What does it mean to you as a parent or as a player?

A Word From Jeff Daniels

Jeff Daniels is a world-renowned actor. He also made the choice to live with his family in Michigan as a normal hockey dad over living out in Hollywood. Now Daniels tours with his children playing musical shows.

The car rides to and from hockey are times that Daniels held sacred with his children. He credits the conversations he and his kids had during those drives as to why he and his children continue to have close relationships into their adulthood.

“The time you spend in the car driving two hours to the rink for that 8 a.m. game, and the time you spend driving back — that’s why you do it.

And you talk to them about anything other than hockey. If they want to talk about the game, OK, but it was never about, ‘You got to get that slapshot working because if you want to be at a D1 school, and I know you’re only 10, but you gotta start getting to work.’

We were never that, and I think that our time spent with the kids in those car rides not talking about hockey paved the way for the closeness we have as a family in their 20s and 30s. That was more important than any career success I might have had.

That’s a constant. That I can keep control of and continue to work on and can make as good as possible.”

What Dan Remembers

My parents didn’t know the first thing about hockey when I first picked up a stick. Throughout my childhood, I would sometimes be frustrated by their lack of insights. When I needed on-ice guidance, they really weren’t prepared to offer advice (“well, what does your coach say?”.

Looking back, I think that was probably optimum. I remember our drives to and from the rink, and it’s true that we rarely talked about the nuances of the games/practices. Instead, we would talk about… well, anything else.

I think that lack of pressure fostered my passion for the sport. It really always was just a game.

What Greg Remembers

My father was my coach through youth hockey. I am thankful for those experiences and how he was supportive beyond just hockey.

I remember picking up glazed donuts, listening to new music, traveling with teammates, and having fun in the minivan. Thank you, Mom & Dad.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Arizona Players- check out this scholarship opportunity. If you have any interest in Cybersecurity this might be worth looking into.

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College Hockey Inc. is accepting applications for the third annual College Hockey Inc. Scholarship, presented by JLG Architects. The grant is awarded in honor of JLG founder Lonnie Laffen, a passionate hockey supporter who passed away in 2020. 

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Players and families, we want to hear from you. If there are any questions, concerns, or if you just want to have a conversation, please feel free to contact us directly. We want to hear from you. Good Luck and Great Hockey!

Thank you,

Team VHC