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GENE'S BLOG: Take Care, Captain

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the injury to Connor McDavid and how the Oilers will have to play by committee without him

by Gene Principe /

It wasn't the news hockey fans and, specifically, Edmonton Oilers fans wanted to hear: Connor McDavid injured and out.

The National Hockey League has a few faces it counts on to represent the League and McDavid is one of them. He's right alongside Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. There's also Patrick Kane and after that, there are some incredibly talented hockey players (Steven Stamkos, Carey Price, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, and I'm sure I'm skipping a few) but it's hard to achieve McDavid-like status. He is one of a kind.

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When the team said President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland would be speaking on Tuesday morning, there were two options: the Oilers GM was making himself available to talk Trade Deadline with the day less than two weeks away OR he had something to say about McDavid. 

It turned out to be the latter and not the former. Even within the media, who were huddled around awaiting Holland's arrival, there was a sudden moment of pause and uncertainty when Oilers Director of Hockey Communications Andre Brin announced (and I'm paraphrasing): "Hi guys, Ken first has an update on Connor McDavid." 

Here we go. What would he say? What was wrong and how long? In his first answer, Holland laid out what happened when Connor knocked skates with Nashville's Dante Fabbro and crashed into the boards, right up to the moment he stood in front of the cameras that were streaming the press conference. 

Bad news. Quadriceps injury. Out two to three weeks. The good news was that the MRI also showed the torn PCL injury from last season, that led to a one-hour documentary as seen on Sportsnet, was undamaged.

What a way to start a game day? That's right, game day. From hearing about their captain to playing without him less than 12 hours later. A test for sure and likely one of about seven or 10 tests (games) to be played out while McDavid heals and his team continues their pursuit for playoff positioning.

Other than McDavid, who Holland described as disappointed, it was the fans who took this the hardest. Let's be honest, they love Connor. What he does, who he is, and where he's headed with this team since being selected first overall in 2015. It was a tough one to take. 

Video: Draisaitl, Yamamoto lead Oilers past Blackhawks

It was hard on the players as well but I think the general public (which includes myself) doesn't always understand the 'next man up' or 'opportunity for someone else' analogies when you lose someone from the lineup. They don't want to be in this situation but they are. No hiding under the bench in a fetal position. I

nstead, it's come out harder, faster, stronger than ever to show everyone, including your captain, we miss you but we got this until you get back. Not at all easy to do but count game one without Connor a standings success with a 5-3 win over Chicago.

Leon Draisaitl was incredible. He had a four-point night. His linemates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto each had a pair of points to make it eight total for the line. Yamamoto potted a pair of goals and came close to his first-ever NHL hat trick. 

There was scoring from other sources, with Riley Sheahan starting the Oilers off in the right direction. The defence stood strong and held up against a team with a 1,000-point player in their lineup (Kane). Then there was the magnificent third period and game-ending, 38-save performance along with one assist by soon-to-be 38-year-old goaltender Mike Smith. 

Everyone will have to make up for the loss of Captain Connor. 

Captain, you take of yourself while we take care of everything else. See you soon.

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