Lowetide: Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid and his dominance at Art Ross

Lowetide: Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid and his dominance at Art Ross | Pro Club Bd

The Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid won his fourth Art Ross Trophy in 2021-22, placing 6th on the all-time championship-goal list.

McDavid’s four wins came in six seasons aged 20–25, a fantastic pace rarely matched in the game’s history. Gordie Howe won four in a row (1951-54) and five in seven, Stan Mikita won four in five seasons (1964-68), Phil Esposito won five in six (1969-74), Wayne Gretzky won seven in a row (1981- 87) and nine in 11 seasons. Mario Lemieux won four in six years (1988-93) and Jaromir Jagr won four in a row (1998-2001) and five in seven.

In this century, no one has delivered more and faster than McDavid’s four championships in six years (2017-22).

How many more scoring championships can McDavid fans expect? How old were the great scorers of the past when they last won the Art Ross?

player Age at final victory Gap between the first and the last

Gordie Howe

34

12

Stan Michita

27

4

Phil Esposito

31

5

Wayne Gretzky

33

13

Mario Lemieux

31

9

Jaromir Jagr

28

6

Connor McDavid

25

5

The gap between first and last is about five years, excluding the three outliers (Gretzky, Howe and Lemieux), and McDavid’s current gap is five years. If he never wins an Art Ross again, he’ll be a lot like Mikita, who had a five-year gap and turned 27 the last season he led the points race.

All previous winners have won at least one scorer title after age 25, and McDavid appears to be on a path that could put him at or near the top league of top scorers in history.

Linemates and consistency

McDavid has worked well with every winger assigned to him, with exceptional chemistry when playing with Leon Draisaitl. Did previous winners have the same linemates throughout their Art Ross seasons?

Howe won his first scoring title in 1950-51 and his linemates were Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay. Lindsay was in line at the four Art Ross runs from 1951 to 1954 and stayed on top for the 1957 title. Howe’s Art Ross win of 1962-63 came with Parker MacDonald on the left wing.

Middle was a different situation. Abel was gone after a few years, with Metro Prystai, Alex Delvecchio, Dutch Reibel and Norm Ullman all playing major roles in one or more seasons. Howe won the scoring championship.

Gretzky’s most frequent linemate was elite two-way forward Jari Kurri, who played on the right wing in Art Ross’ victories in Edmonton. In ’99 Edmonton was at the top of the points race, left wingers included Brett Callighen, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Dave Semenko, Jaroslav Pouzar and Esa Tikkanen.

Both Howe and Gretzky had a steady linemate who provided the impetus and another vital element. Lindsay was a fierce competitor who denied everything, Kurri a more intellectual two-way talent who was one of the most complete players of his generation.

McDavid’s most consistent linemate over the years has been Draisaitl. A number of robust wingers (Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Evander Kane) were part of the mix, creating style for Edmonton’s No. 1 line.

Among the men who have won four or more Art Ross trophies, no player has seen more linemate changes than McDavid.

Year Lw RW goals-60 Goal %

2016-17

Patrick Maron

Leon Draisaitl

3.53

60.4

2017-18

Patrick Maron

Leon Draisaitl

3.73

62.1

2020-21

RNH

Jesse Puljujarvi

5.76

58.6

2021-22

Evander Kane

K. Yamamoto

5.3

65.4

In his Art Ross seasons, McDavid’s line delivered an impressive five-for-five goals per 60 totals.

The scoring numbers are improving based on evidence from the past two seasons.

It’s also true that the Oilers now have so many powerful options for each wing that mixing and matching doesn’t mean sacrificing quality – it’s a first in the McDavid era.

McDavid as Point Producer

The captain is productive no matter who is with him on the ice, but are there better options? Here’s a list of wingers with 5-on-5 times on the ice and McDavid’s points per 60 since he joined the league in 2015. He can play with anyone.

From such a wide variety of player styles and qualities, the numbers are staggering. It’s hard to draw conclusions, but big men with good hands top the list, suggesting McDavid just needs a loose puck and a bit of daylight to score five-a-side. Wingers can help themselves by going to the net with their stick on the ice as an inviting target.

His total points each season depend heavily on five-on-five, power play, and four-on-four time, with McDavid performing well in each area. His splits last year were interesting as his second half was much stronger than the first half of the year.

A change in coaching, a healthier squad and the presence of Kane in the second half all had an impact, and the overall improvement helped carry McDavid to his fourth Art Ross win.

Coach games EV pt PP pt pts game

David Tippett

43

35

26

1.42

Jay Woodcroft

37

43

18

1.65

The Oilers were an improved outscoring team under Jay Woodcroft, and the numbers reflect that (even strength goals per 60 were 3.53, versus 2.67 under Tippett).

The power play had less success despite McDavid’s constant presence, and overall the captain’s score was higher.

Can he win another Art Ross in 2023?

If McDavid scores at similar odds as under Woodcroft, he’ll win the 2022-23 Art Ross Trophy by about 135 points. That would be the highest total in a season since Lemieux’s 1995/96.

McDavid will be an annual threat for the next several years (possibly well into his 30s) to win the scoring championship if he stays healthy.

One thing to look out for: A younger player pushing for a goalscoring championship. Each of the great Art Ross champions was eventually surpassed by a younger artist. That signaled the end of the line for two of the big scorers (Mikita and Jagr), but it had little effect on other Impact scorers.

player First title Younger Winner title after

Gordie Howe

1951

1955

2

Stan Michita

1964

1969

0

Phil Esposito

1969

1970

4

Wayne Gretzky

1981

1988

3

Mario Lemieux

1988

1995

2

Jaromir Jagr

1995

2002

0

Connor McDavid

2017

none

Esposito’s run was cut short by Bobby Orr’s first Art Ross win, and with Orr leading the offense that boosted Esposito’s scores, it’s safe to identify his four wins after Orr’s 1970 win as outliers.

Howe and Lemieux have six, Gretzky 10. McDavid won four before age 25. Gretzky was 23, Howe 25 and Lemieux 26 when they won their fourth race.

It boils down (once again) to Howe, Gretzky and Lemieux.

Will McDavid rise to that level?

The Smart Money suggests backing McDavid for 2022-23 and then doing it again the following year. He has a good chance of winning two more titles before someone offensively eclipses him.

Thereafter? Catching Gretzky’s 10 is impossible. Right?

By this point next season, McDavid could be halfway there with almost a decade ahead of him. Are we watching the impossible dream come true?

Too early to know. It’s one hell of a start.

(Photo: Perry Nelson / USA Today)

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