Friedman on McDavid, Oilers’ business pressures

The season is only four games old for the Edmonton Oilers, but it’s already been a roller coaster ride of emotions for fans.

A Wednesday afternoon The Program appearance on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 provided Elliotte Friedman a chance to explore a few Oilers-related angles.

The Insider was asked about the “unique pressure-cooker the Oilers are this season,” and the overreaction either way with the team’s losses and wins thus far.  

“Oh yeah,” agreed Friedman. “So they were 0-2, and they went into New York last weekend. On Friday they practiced in Manhattan and Daryl Katz, the owner, was there - he lives in New York City a lot - and guys told me, ‘It was a tense day.’ He was making it known how he felt and he wasn’t happy with what was going on and it’s got to change. One guy joked to me, ‘This game against the Rangers on Saturday, it feels like a must-win.’

“So they win that game, and then, as you mention, they’re losing last night and McDavid - it’s not even enough to say that McDavid put the team on his back. That’s almost underselling it, like not good enough. Jeff and I were talking today, maybe we should say that he gorilla-pressed them repeatedly because that is only the fair way to say it.

“But one of the things I learned early is understand how the business model works. The Oilers, when they opened Rogers Place, they have three sets of leases for their suites - three, five, and seven years. And this is Year Three, so they’re up after this year. Business moves like that and budgeting playoff games and ‘We’re going to have two playoff games, so we’re going to make this much money this year,’ that is the stuff that really creates the pressure on an organization.

“So when the Oilers are concerned about the way they’re playing, it’s not only because they’re worried they’re going to lose, but also how are they going to sell those suites that come up if their team is not that good.

“The other thing guys is (McDavid) is playing at historic levels for a forward. He is averaging 19:28, I think, at even strength. He played 20:27 even strength last night. Since the league began keeping ice time 20 years ago, there’s only one forward who has averaged 19 minutes of even strength in a season, and that was Pavel Bure - who you guys may be familiar with - for the Panthers in 2000-2001.

“And I’m looking at Todd McLellan and I’m looking at the numbers with him on the ice and the numbers with him off the ice - how are they going to not keep throwing him out there? It’s going to be bananas. They’re going to be like, ‘We have to keep throwing him out there.’

“He’s never going to say no, but I wonder if they’re going to burn him out by Game 40 because they’ve got to keep calling his number because he’s carrying their team.”