Connor McDavid’s start to the season has been downright miserable.
Sure, the points have been there – if you’re a mere mortal NHL player – with two goals and eight assists in nine games.
McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers, however, are one of the league’s biggest stories a month into the campaign.
And not for a reason they’re proud of.
Edmonton owns a disastrous 2-8-1 record, good for 31st overall, and looks a far cry from the Stanley Cup contender many believed the Oilers would be in 2023-24.
The goaltending has been porous, defensive structure lacking, and the top-heavy offence disjointed. The stunning stumble out of the gate has led to questions about the job security of head coach Jay Woodcroft, who won three playoff rounds over the last two seasons and owned a 76-32-12 record over his first 120 games in charge.
McDavid, who missed two contests with an upper-body injury and sat 73rd in the scoring race entering Wednesday, just hasn’t looked like himself.
But all the struggles aside, the three-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player and five-time Art Ross Trophy winner as its leading scorer – including an outrageous 64-goal, 153-point performance in 2022-23 – still sets the standard for his peers.
McDavid was already an elite playmaker heading into last season, but decided that he would focus more on shooting.
The result? His first Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal-scorer.
“It’s great,” Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg said with a laugh before the season. “He was just like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna score goals this year.’ All right, sure.
“It’s great for the game. You have to find ways to keep up.”
While the top pick at the 2015 NHL draft has cut a frustrated figure through the first four weeks of the regular season, the bar McDavid sets year over year on an individual level pushes the rest of the league.
“Definitely motivating,” Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller said of the superstar centre. “To see what he’s accomplished already at such young ages, it’s insane. He’s gonna get 1,000 [career] points probably soon.
“You can definitely see he always has that look in his eye that he’s not satisfied.”
Chicago Blackhawks centre Connor Bedard – the most-hyped prospect to enter the NHL since McDavid after going No. 1 overall in June – has watched the Edmonton captain’s career from afar until this season.
“Unbelievable that he is getting better,” said the 18-year-old. “You’ve got to have that self-motivation, but to see guys like that getting better and push themselves, push their teammates, it’s pretty remarkable.
“It helps everyone.”
Montreal Canadiens sniper Cole Caufield isn’t sure how McDavid continues to improve.
“But it pushes us,” he said. “This guy keeps getting better every year and we gotta to do the same thing.
“We’re just trying to keep up.”
Forsberg said that while a player like Bedard could approach McDavid’s exploits down the road, he remains – despite the issues this season for both player and team – in a class by himself.
“He’s always going to be a little bit off in his own division,” Forsberg said. “But if he gets better, the rest of us have just got to try to keep that gap the same.
“And not let him get too far ahead.”