By David Song, November 6 2014 —
Seventeen-year-old Connor McDavid plays for the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League. Despite his young age, scouts and hockey fans are raving about McDavid’s potential to develop into the National Hockey League’s next superstar.
McDavid has established himself as a blazing skater with tremendous offensive awareness. He also has the determination to crash the net and earn his goals at the all-important centre position.
McDavid is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick at next year’s NHL Entry Draft, but only the league’s bottom teams will have a shot at selecting him.
The Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers are a few of the NHL squads in dire need of a player like McDavid. Fans of these franchises often talk about trying to ‘tank the season,’ or lose games on purpose to better their odds of receiving a high draft pick. After all, it’s unlikely that these teams will make the playoffs, so it makes sense to aim for success in the draft rather than the postseason.
But this approach is a dangerous mistake that tends to do more harm than good. Take the Edmonton Oilers. For years they have enjoyed an abundance of high first-round picks including Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. All of these players can break a game wide open with their skill, yet the Oilers remain perennially mired near the bottom of the standings.
On the other hand, take the Calgary Flames. They too are a bottom-tier unit that lacks the firepower to compete with most NHL squads. In recent seasons, they have performed only marginally better than the Oilers. As a result, they have had their share of high first-round picks. Last season, the Flames had a record 49 one-goal games, more than any other team in the league. However, early this season, they have more victories than defeats.
While the Flames are still not a postseason threat, they have a strong work ethic and a gritty, never-say-die attitude. They consistently give their all against the NHL’s top squads, and their in-game performance is notably more impressive than their roster on paper. The Flames’ approach is epitomized by their captain, Mark Giordano, an undrafted player who became an excellent two-way defenceman to the surprise of many.
High draft picks are undoubtedly important to rebuilding organizations, but individuals don’t win hockey games, let alone championships. Ultimately, it’s the squad that matters, and no unit that subscribes to a losing mentality will be playoff bound.
Connor McDavid will provide a boost to whichever organization drafts him, but rather than focusing on one person, teams should focus on instilling work ethic and pride into all of their players.