'Connor McOverrated' says Florida sportswriter, a cheap shot that won't vanish until McDavid wins big

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This in from Greg Cote, a sports columnist with the Miami Herald, his controversial take on Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid: “Connor McDavid is overrated. Boom. He puts up big, impressive stats, yes. Fine. But should he really be called ‘generational,’ called the best player in the sport, when in nine seasons he has yet to lead his team to a Stanley Cup? Edmonton truly had one of those players, once. His name was Wayne Gretzky. He’s why the Oilers bunched five Stanley Cup wins in 1984-90. McDavid? No Gretzky. He has the requisite nicknames — McJesus, The Chosen One — but he has not proved beyond-stats transcendent, able to lift a franchise to ultimate heights. McOverrated.”

The comment was met with predicable outraged and denial in Canada. On TSN, announcer Jay Onrait asked former NHLer Mike Johnston if this was the most ridiculous hot take ever?

“This is McRidiculous, absolutely,” Johnston said, adding he’s fine with clickbait pandering to the home crowd and gave credit to Cote for mission accomplished. “But if you know anything about hockey — and I’m assuming Greg might — you know that one player no matter how great he is can not get it done and win a Stanley Cup on his own. Not McDavid. Not anybody. But McDavid clearly is the greatest player in the game. He is generational. He’s one of he best offensive players in the history of the game already…. So Greg, I’m sorry, this is preposterous, outrageous, ridiculous, and just flat out wrong.”

Cote faced up to this and other such criticism and had a good laugh on his radio show, making up a new version of ‘O Canada,’ singing,

O Canada

So sad I riled you up.

Sad that Connor McDavid for all his stats has not lived up.

Sad that your McJesus has never raised the Stanley Cup.

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My take

1. First off, congratulations to Cote on his witty version of O Canada. He makes it work when he sings it. That made me chuckle.

2. It’s clear we are now at the part of the story where all the sensible words have been spoken, all the proper analysis has been done, and we’ve descended or ascended, depending on your point of view, into frivolity and nonsense.

Of course, as Johnston notes, McDavid is a generational player. McDavid will be one whether he wins a Stanley Cup or not simply based on his regular season and playoff point scoring. McDavid has averaged 1.52 points per game in the regular season, but upped that to 1.58 points per game in the playoffs.

When the going gets tough, McDavid is better than ever.

3. McDavid has gone supernova on a few occasions in the playoffs, but can we also acknowledge that Cote’s cheap shot is only half wrong?

When all is said and done, one key way that players are judged is whether or not they have won major championships. For McDavid, that would be Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals or World Cups of Hockey. It’s too early to know how many, if any, of such championships he will win. But if he fails to win any such championships over the length of his career, that will cast a shadow on his career. History is reductive in this manner when it comes to judging all-time greats. That is an undeniable reality, even if this kind of critique is becoming less relevant when we rate and rank players.

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4. Hockey isn’t like the old days of the six team NHL where you only had to beat out five other teams to win the Stanley Cup. There will be many exceptional NHL players now and in years to come who never win a Stanley Cup. This will be much more common than it was in the past.

When a league goes from six to 18 to 21 to 30 to 32 teams, that’s how things play out. It becomes that much harder for any player to win the Cup, and when you add in the salary cap — which increases parity around the league — it becomes that much harder again to ever win the Cup. It’s fair to say that winning the Cup now is a far greater accomplishment that it’s ever been in the NHL’s past. If McDavid does win the Cup then, that will be huge for him and his team.

5. Making it to the Stanley Cup final, beating out 15 other teams to get there, is as impressive a team accomplishment as winning the Stanley Cup was for majority of the history of the NHL. Until 1974-75, the NHL always had 16 teams or fewer.

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I think this is why the ’06 Oilers are held in such high regard in Edmonton, treated as if they are major winners. It was a massive accomplishment in 2006 to get to the Stanley Cup Final, if only to lose their in Game 7. Likewise for Florida and Edmonton just now, it’s huge for them to have made the Stanley Cup Final.

5. Jarome Iginla never won a Stanley Cup, but he helped Canada win two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup of Hockey. If McDavid helps Canada win such a championship, his status as a “winner” will be firmly entrenched, even if he never wins a Cup.

That said, I expect Connor McDavid will win a Stanley Cup. He and this Oilers team will get it done sooner or later.

6. But the time for words is over, right? It does not matter what anyone says, correct? All that matters is what starts on Saturday, the final showdown of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.

May the best team win, and may the losers limit how much they berate themselves, for both teams have already done something remarkable making it as far as they have. Just ask the players, coaches and fans of the other 30 teams that failed to do so.

At the Cult of Hockey

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