EDMONTON, AB - A player wants to play but when he doesn't and is a healthy scratch they get the opportunity to watch the game in a different way.
It's supposed to give them a perspective that can be used effectively once they get back in the lineup. Broadcasters want to broadcast but on Sunday, I was a 'healthy scratch' replaced by Shawn McKenzie. In fact, our entire Sportsnet crew was replaced. Garry Galley taking over for Louie DeBrusk or Drew Remenda and Dave Randorf calling the action, not Kevin Quinn. Instead of watching the game from Montreal and the Bell Centre I was in the cozy confines of my home. It was interesting to watch others talk about Connor McDavid instead of me and my normal tv partners.
With that in mind, what did I learn? I learned that I (we) aren't the only ones who gush over the captain. Sometimes you feel like, 'OK I have to stop this,' but then Connor does something and before you know it, you're back to gushing again. Like Saturday and the goal he scored versus Philadelphia. He played keep away from three Flyers who were within feet of him before roofing one over Carter Hart (sidebar: I met the Sherwood Park born netminder after the game and he seems like a really nice kid). Again, he finds ways to redefine his greatness and things that literally no one else in the game can do.
Video: EDM@PHI: McDavid holds off defenders for 30th goal
Alright, back we go to Sunday. It was Garry Galley who mentioned when Connor was introduced, the fans cheered. Alright, I get them booing because he's the best player on the opposing team. Instead, they cheered because he's the best player in the League. Not sure that would happen often in any building or city but in one where fans have appreciated some of the greatest players of all time, they know greatness when it's in their presence. Montreal is a stage like no other. Whether it's in English or Francais the languages both have plenty of words, phrases, sayings to describe Connor McDavid. Graceful (gracieux), thrilling (palpitant), captivating (captivant) and so many more in either of Canada's official languages.
Connor has crept up in the scoring race slowly but steadily, moving up to where he starts this week tied for second in the Art Ross Trophy race. He and Patrick Kane sitting at 76 points, which is four back of Nikita Kucherov. As impressive as that is and continues to be, a lot of what has really grabbed my attention lately has been his words and not his on-ice wizardry. It hasn't been an easy time for the franchise and people in the room, people in the stands, people everywhere look to No. 97 for leadership. He has provided it with his lead by example approach but he's also done it by what he's had to say. In the aftermath of the loss to Carolina, he said if you don't want to be here, there's the door. At the All-Star break while others were answering questions about their favourite places to go on holidays, Connor was being grilled about the change in the Oilers GM position. Again, he stood up and said we will prove people wrong.
It's hard to do what Connor does because his God-given talents and tireless work ethic make him an extreme case in excellence. It's easier to just listen to him and believe in what he says and his commitment to pursuing the playoffs. I believe Connor McDavid has uncovered and is now displaying his leadership qualities out in the open for everyone to see. It's been an interesting few weeks and, for that matter, years watching the growth of this teenager into a young man as we all are enjoying the opportunity of catching up with Connor.