The Oilers are failing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl


What a waste.

That is the only way to describe the totality of the 2020-21 Oilers season after it ended with an emphatic thud on Monday night in a 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Jets.

The loss completed a four-game sweep, including three consecutive overtime losses, that sends the Oilers home early — again — without coming anywhere close to a championship.

It was a waste in the sense that it wasted a historic offensive season from the likely league MVP, Connor McDavid, in which he scored 105 points in 56 regular-season games.

It also wasted another prime year of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as they both, once again, finished as two of the NHL’s top offensive players and dragged an otherwise lousy team along as far as they could.

Most organizations will go their entire existence without ever having two players this good. It takes an extraordinary amount of luck, good fortune, and good timing to not only get two of them, but to get two of them at the exact same time, at roughly the exact same age, at the exact same point in their careers. On the rare occasion you do get that, you should be competing for the Stanley Cup every season.

Not just barely making the playoffs. Not just being close to the playoffs. You should be a major contender. Winning it should not necessarily be the expectation every year, but you should at least give yourself a reason to be in the discussion.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

The Oilers, now six years into the McDavid-Draisaitl era, are not even close to that discussion.

In total, they have won eight playoff games during that time, and that is if you want to be generous and include the one Qualifying Round victory from a year ago against the 23rd-ranked Blackhawks. If you do not include that one game, they have seven playoff wins. And that is a damning indictment on the entire organization from top to bottom, ranging from the former GM Peter Chiarelli to the current GM Ken Holland. They are wasting this gift from the hockey gods that they have been given.

Whenever a team loses in the playoffs, and this is especially true when it is an embarrassing playoff loss, there is always a rush to point the finger at the superstars. With big money and big stats comes big expectations. If the team fails, they get the blame. Or they get told how they have to change. For years when the Capitals lost in the playoffs it was always Alex Ovechkin that had to change his game. When the Lightning kept falling just short it was Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos that would take the heat. When Toronto goes out early, it’s the young core that does not know how to win.

Now, McDavid and Draisaitl are going to get that microscope placed on them with every aspect of their game being critiqued. Be better defensively. Make your teammates better. Change the way you play so it is a winning style.

It is all a waste of time.

First, consider this. This is the supporting cast for McDavid and Draisaitl that was on the ice in Game 4 on Monday.

Seems bad!

The struggle with team building in hockey is that the best players have the smallest impact in the game among the major sports. It is not like basketball where one or two superstars can play 90% of the game and change everything. In football, a great quarterback makes you a contender as soon as they join the team.


But here? The best players only play, at most, a third of the game. That means for the overwhelming majority of the game you need to rely on your supporting cast. And not to be overly dramatic here, but the Oilers supporting cast, for lack of a better word, stinks.

They are getting less support from their teammates than any other top player in the league.

Let’s look at this table here as an example. This shows the top-15 scorers in the NHL from this regular season. On the left, you have what the teams did with them on the ice during 5-on-5 play in terms of goals for, goals against, and shot attempt differential.

On the right, you have what those teams did when the top scorer was not on the ice.

Look at how dominant the Oilers were with those two on the ice. Then look at how bad they were without them. Look at the drop. Then look at the support the other players on this list received.

The only other players whose teams were outscored without them on the ice were Brad Marchand (minus-6), Patrick Kane (minus-25), David Perron (minus-10), and Artemi Panarin (minus-1).

Even with Marchand, that number dramatically improved after the trade deadline (because Boston actually tried to get better).

As for the others? Chicago missed the playoffs by a mile. The also Blues got swept in the First Round (while playing the NHL’s best team and not actually having Perron for any of the games). The Rangers also missed the playoffs.

The very fact that the Oilers even made the playoffs is a testament to how far McDavid and Draisaitl carried them because when they are on the bench this is a lottery team. A bad lottery team.

But Adam, you are probably thinking, this is the regular season here. The playoffs are different, and maybe McDavid and Draisaitl needed to do more. Fight through it. Go to the tough areas. Be better!

Maybe. But the Oilers still outscored the Jets with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice. It was only 3-2 on aggregate, but it was still in the Oilers’ favor. As was the territorial advantage (significantly so).

In the 90 minutes of all situations hockey (5-on-5, power play, penalty kill) where one of those two was on the ice the Oilers scored four goals.

In the 202 minutes without them the Oilers scored … four goals. And were outscored 9-4, including 7-3 during 5-on-5 play. When neither McDavid or Draisaitl played they were outscored by four goals at even-strength, in a series where they lost three one-goal games in overtime.

Yeah, maybe you could expect two superstars to have more than three total goals in four games.

But maybe for once, just once, this season or at any point over the past six seasons, somebody else on the roster could make a play, or score a goal, or make an impact on the rare occasion that those two guys got stopped. Maybe the goalie could make a save. Maybe they could avoid taking the stupid penalty that swings a game. At some point every Cup winning team needs that from their supporting cast.

The Oilers never get it. Because they do not have anybody else capable of doing it and every piece of objective evidence we have at our disposal illustrates it. For that to be the case six years into this, after all of the high first-round picks, is a complete and total failure across the board.

The Oilers have the two most dynamic offensive players in the world in the prime of their careers. And the team is still years from contending.

Total waste.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers sign Filip Chytil to 4-year extension

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NEW YORK — The New York Rangers have signed forward Filip Chytil to a four-year contract extension worth $17.75 million, locking up another member of their core long term.

The team announced the deal Wednesday night. Chytil will count just under $4.44 million annually against the salary cap through the 2026-27 season.

Chytil, 23, is in the midst of a career year. He has set career highs with 22 goals, 20 assists and 42 points in 66 games for the playoff-bound Rangers.

The Czech native is the team’s sixth-leading scorer and ranks fourth on the roster in goals. The 2017 first-round pick has 144 points in 342 NHL regular-season and playoff games. He was set to be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

New York already had top center Mika Zibanejad signed through 2030, No. 1 defenseman Adam Fox through 2029, veteran Chris Kreider through 2027, winger Artemi Panarin through 2026 and reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin through 2025.

General manager Chris Drury’s next order of business is an extension for 2020 top pick Alexis Lafrenière, who is only signed through the remainder of this season and can be a restricted free agent.

Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

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CHICAGO — Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to the ice but hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 years.

Toews, 34, skated with teammates prior to Chicago’s game with the Dallas Stars. It was his first time practicing with them since a game in Edmonton on Jan. 28.

He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and “long COVID.”

In meeting with reporters, Toews stopped short of saying he hoped to play in any of last-place Chicago’s nine remaining games. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

Toews said he’s feeling stronger, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play again for the Blackhawks or another team.

“Both if I’m being fully honest,” Toews said. “I feel like I’ve said it already, that I’ve gotten to the point where my health is more important.

“When you’re young and you’re playing for a Stanley Cup and everyone’s playing through something, that means something and it’s worthwhile. But I’m at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing.”

Toews, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick (third overall) in 2006, joined the team in 2007 and was a pillar of Stanley Cup championship clubs in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.

In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, he’s posted 45 goals and 74 assists, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.

Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response System, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue.

He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22, then started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down.

Entering this season, it looked as if Chicago might deal him, as it did fellow star Patrick Kane, before the March trade deadline. But Kane went to the New York Rangers and Toews to injured reserve.

Toews believed he was progressing before a relapse in January left him so sore and tired that he could barely “put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.”

Toews said his progress over the past month has been “pretty encouraging” and he’s delighted to be back among his teammates. He has no timetable beyond that.

“We’re just going to go day by day here,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. He deserves anything he wants to try to achieve here.”

Richardson hoped Toews “can take that next step later in the week and hopefully (he) gives us the green light to go in a game.”

But Toews emphasized his long-term health and ability to lead a “normal life” is most important. He wants to go out on a positive note and not hit the ice for a game playing through excessive pain and dysfunction.

“It’s definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here as a Blackhawk in Chicago,” Toews said. “It’s definitely very important for me to go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I’ve been able to be part of here in Chicago.”

Budding Wild star Matt Boldy more willing to shoot, and it shows

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Boldy was unable to resist a smile in the aftermath of his second hat trick in five games for the Minnesota Wild, a young right wing and reluctant star trying to make sense of a remarkable hot streak.

Does the puck feel as if it’s automatically going in the net these days each time he shoots?

“Yeah, it does,” Boldy said in the locker room after leading the first-place Wild to a 5-1 win over Seattle. “My linemates are playing great. Hopefully you guys are giving them a lot of credit. You look at some of those goals – just putting it on a tee for me.”

This non-attention-seeker has found himself squarely in the NHL spotlight. Boldy has 11 goals in nine games since Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined with a lower-body injury to raise his goal total to 28, in part because he’s been more willing to shoot. With vision and stickhandling as strengths and the humility of being a second-year player, it’s easy to be in a pass-first mindset.

“Everybody kind of took turns talking to him. But it’s not that he didn’t want to. A lot of times a situation like that where a guy’s got that skillset, it’s a real unselfish quality, right?” coach Dean Evason said. “But I think he gets now that he helps the team a lot when he scores goals.”

The Wild were confident enough in Boldy’s scoring ability to commit a seven-year, $49 million contract extension to him earlier this winter, after all.

“I think I’ve always had that mentality, but sometimes you just get into spots and it comes off your stick good,” Boldy said. “When things are going well, the puck goes in the net.”’

The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov. Boldy is a big reason why.

“You go through the slumps, you learn what you need to do to score. I think he’s found a good way to be in the right spot and shoot the puck when he had a good opportunity,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said.

The Wild have only won one division title in 22 years, the five-team Northwest Division in 2007-08. They’re leading the eight-team Central Division with eight games to go, with both Colorado and Dallas too close for comfort. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2015.

With Kaprizov due back before the postseason and Boldy on this heater, a Wild team that ranks just 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.93) ought to have a better chance to advance. Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson have been ideal linemates for the Boston College product and Massachusetts native.

Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy turns 22 next week, so there’s still time for one or two more.

“He’s big. He controls the puck a lot. He’s got a good shot, good release. He’s smart. He switches it up. He’s got good moves on breakaways. He’s a total player,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”Fun to watch him grow this year.”

Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

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BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

“It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

“I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

“Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

“I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.