Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse put an exclamation point on Friday when the two took to the ice from Rexall Place, joining Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who recently arrived on the ice for phase 2 skating sessions.
They joined Ethan Bear, Matt Benning, Tyler Benson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis, Zach Kassian, William Lagesson, Kris Russell, Patrick Russell and Stuart Skinner. About 14 players are also at some point in quarantine here in Edmonton.
The fact that McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Nurse are already there and on the ice says a lot about the NHL and NHLPA leaders who actually set key dates for themselves while working at final agreement for the Stanley Cup playoffs which will feature Toronto and Edmonton in the Hub and Edmonton cities selected to host both the conference final and the Stanley Cup final.
The key dates seemed secure as it could be in this situation.
Phase 3 (start of training camps): July 13.
Phase 4 (arrival of teams in Hub Cities): July 26.
Beginning of the playoffs: August 1.
It could all be postponed for a day or two, but the players wouldn’t be there if they weren’t convinced it was going to happen.
Obviously there will be a great deal of focus on McDavid and Draisaitl when the 24-team play-in series begins. But for me, it will be the next few days going through the stages.
It is a lot to ask of two players, 23 and 24 years old in particular, with one year and 13 games each in experience of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But they will be decisive by example.
It’s not just about getting ready to play with a Chicago Blackhawks team that includes three-time Stanley Cup champions like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the hard core who joined a team. who missed the playoffs in nine of the 10 seasons. back to 1996-97 to win the three in six seasons from 2009-10 to 2014-15.
This is a bonus remote replay for these Blackhawk anchors for trying to lead a team that was in the final countdown to math elimination and ended up in a top five play-in and a new life following the expansion of the shortened coronavirus season.
McDavid, Draisaitl and the Oilers’ young base group are at about the same stage as Toews, Kane and his teammates when they started winning Cups. But there is no comparison of situations in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First of all, Toews, Kane & Co. only has to win four series to win their Cups. McDavid and Draisaitl will have to win five.
If these Oilers want to be there at the end – and offered the chance to play in the first Stanley Cup final on the Edmonton ice since 2006 – you’d think they would all want to take the opportunity more than anything hockey in their lives. There is only one team in the entire league that will have the chance to play all home games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at home, even in an empty arena.
Think about it.
I don’t know if all of the Oilers have done it before, but we’ve seen enough executives from McDavid and Draisaitl to find out.
There will be an emphasis on this team for all kinds of reasons, including Draisaitl and McDavid reaching the prime time of their careers and finishing 1-2 in the league table and possibly for the Hart Trophy.
But I think there will be a lot of attention on how they will lead the key dates – July 13, July 26 and August 1, which will lead to the start of the Stanley Cup.
When the playoffs start, of course, you need everyone to function in their roles and you need the guys of Fernando Pisani status on that team to get past and become Stanley Cup heroes.
The leadership I expect from the core group is how they approach the next 10 days leading up to the scheduled July 13 opening of training camp and during the days during that camp.
As they hit the ice and begin to tighten the team, the focus will need to be not only on hockey’s unprecedented challenge to go from zero to warping out of the playoffs. a training camp. But these are young people who will have to make exceptional efforts to remain virus-free.
This is to be expected in the coming days, especially with those from the United States and Europe involving commercial air travel as some may show up and be positive.
It does not matter. But go to July 13, July 26 and August 1, you need the Oilers to set the standard for the other 11 teams here. It will be a study that will watch them accept this challenge and see how far they can come up with.