NHL Draft: Has ‘The Connor McDavid Show’ Already Jumped the Shark?

by Kolby Solinsky

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The moment you say you don’t want to talk about it, you’re already in the conversation.

We’re a full eight months from next June’s NHL Draft, and already the rankings – the unfair and uneven weekly updates on which 17-year-old has risen or fallen in picked and chosen seven-day periods, the blustering from a nation of sports writers who simply take Bob McKenzie’s research and mix and jumble his Top 30 into their own unique order so they can say, “It’s not plagiarism” – that’s already started.

And it’s like quicksand. Because now I’m talking about it. And this is all done for us because, in that same weird way that makes us complain about the smell beef jerky leaves on our breath while we wolf down yet another strip, we want it.

It would be annoying if it wasn’t the only thing we had to go on. I’m sure it’s annoying for Damien Cox, who’s no doubt been anointed-by-default at Rogers with the task of being their McKenzie – a former print dynamo who’s now the network’s NHL insider by *osmosis. I was surprised to see him with his own ‘Top 30’ on Wednesday, but of course, I was watching. So I guess it worked.

(*def’n: Osmosis – “If two solutions of different concentration are separated by a semi-permeable membrane which is permeable to to the smaller solvent molecules but not to the larger solute molecules, then the solvent will tend to diffuse across the membrane from the less concentrated to the more concentrated solution. This process is called osmosis.”)

It’s even annoying for Connor McDavid. Oh, you don’t know who he is? You must not have ears.

“Obviously it’s fun, to be able to put up some numbers some nights,” said McDavid, who put up 20 points in seven games to start this season, possibly his last with the OHL’s Erie Otters. “But you know, at times it can be stressful and almost annoying, because people expect it out of you.

“You can have a good game and that’s just the expectation. It’s not like you did something good, it’s just what they expect out of you. That can be stressful and annoying, but it comes with the territory.”

Those quotes of McDavid’s are in the video above, produced by The Canadian Press, which comes with the in-screen title “Emerging Hockey Star Connor McDavid On Handling Other People’s Expectation”.

And that’s it, isn’t it? Other peoples’ expectations.

McDavid is so widely accepted as next year’s number one, Cox began his top 30 with this: “18 points already and nary a detractor to be seen. Hard to believe he won’t go wire-to-wire at No. 1.”

Oh, really? Well then, I guess that’s done. We can hold off on the speculation and the guessing and the B.S. rankings for now, right? (Not likely. You noticed how Cox said ‘hard to believe’ instead of something more definite? That’s the trick of a slick salesman: “You wouldn’t think you’d need volcano insurance, but…”)

McDavid nailed it, with what he said. When he does something good, the accolades keep coming – not because anyone actually watched the game, but just because it’s expected of him. And the hype keeps growing, even though it already hit the Ozone Layer a full year ago. He’s been the frontrunner for so long – and really, the frontrunner for what, the chance to be the top kid in class? He doesn’t have a job yet – that his hype has started to recoil on him, and that’s allowed exceptional Americans Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin to enter McDavid’s rarified air.

If McDavid doesn’t blow the roof off this year’s World Juniors, suddenly Eichel will be the guy pushing him for the belt. He may even emerge as the frontrunner himself – but that title will be as fickle and temporary as the one McDavid just owned.

And I know this is what it’s all about… I know this is why we watch TV, and I know I’m as much a customer as anyone else is.

But there’s a reason wrestling sucks now. As soon as they let Vince McMahon win the heavyweight championship in 1999 – which he held for, like, six full days – the show had nowhere left to go. They had exhausted every storyline. You see it in sitcoms, too. This whole Ross and Rachel thing that every show dances with, it’s vital to their early survival and it’s a crutch to their longevity. The audience wants the main love interest to KABOOM so bad, and then they just forget about it minutes later. Boxing Day isn’t Christmas morning, after all.

To the credit of McDavid and Eichel, they seem to know this. That’s what makes them Alpha and Beta.

But I’m appealing to Sportsnet here, because I have noticed that TSN has restraint – rather, they have developed it after several years centering the top line.

TSN has control over its own outbursts – McKenzie only publishes his full rankings maybe twice a year, same for their backup draft guy Craig Button.

And I know Rogers may change its vomit-style delivery as the season goes on – all we’ve been treated to since October 1 is a tidal wave of public bragging from their on-air personalities, and I can only hope that’s going to change. (Tell me, is Sportsnet’s new hockey studio worth $4 million, or is it worth $4 million? I haven’t heard it, like, a million times already.)

So, I’ll air a challenge to those Toronto hoarders – how about you start informing us, instead of just referring us to someone else?

I know McDavid and Eichel have been inked in at the top. But it’s hard to find anything on the other blue chippers, guys like Hanifin or Paval Zacha, Oliver Kylington, Dylan Strome, Matthew Barzal, Lawson Crouse, Mitch Marner, or Travis Konecny.

Sure, I have YouTube, but that’s what I and everyone else use every year, and you know why? Because YouTube’s all we have. That should tell you guys out East something: you’re putting a whole bunch of crap on TV, and none of it is teaching us anything.

I know the real answer – it’s that you don’t really know anything. And that’s understandable. These are kids, and they play in tiny towns. Some of those towns are across the Atlantic. Come next June, most general managers will be guessing, so I don’t expect you to know everything, or anything.

But at least try. Stop copying and pasting. Start asking questions. Start telling us the answers, or something like an answer.