While he starts the article by writing, “OK, obviously not. But maybe?”, Sam Fels of Deadspin has caught some attention with a recent post suggesting the NHL is so caught up in trying to sell the game via Connor McDavid’s elite status and brilliant skill, that they’re actually rigging games in favor his McDavid’s team — The Edmonton Oilers. The idea seems to be to ensure the Oilers advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only that, but Fels suggests the NHL isn’t the first league to make the average fan feel like league decisions or the outcome of games should be questioned.
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He explains that the stars are so good, that fans who cheer against them need someone to blame. He writes:
That has always been the perception about the truly transcendent from us plebes. Tom Brady gets every pass interference and roughing the passer call. Michael Jordan could draw a foul by just looking at the lane. Greg Maddux’s strike zone was the size of a rhino’s ass. It seems no official/ref/umpire could resist the charms of that particular game’s best, and would get seduced like the rest of us.
In this case, the focus is on a disallowed goal that Blake Coleman scored in Game 5, that would have given the Flames a 5-4 lead in the game but was ultimately called back. The Oilers wound up taking the game to overtime and McDavid won it to send the Flames home and the Oilers advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where not coincidentally, they’ll face the Colorado Avalanche and fellow NHL-star Nathan MacKinnon.
What’s perhaps the most interesting about his article is that he labels the Oilers as not “particularly good”. He suggests the entire team is McDavid and almost completely ignores the contributions from Leon Draisaitl, Zack Hyman, and Evander Kane, who happens to be leading all players in the playoffs with 12 goals. McDavid has been incredible, but the Oilers aren’t where they are without the depth of the roster stepping up and helping.
He also ignores the fact that last season, McDavid didn’t draw a single penalty call in an entire series against the Winnipeg Jets. That’s the obvious flaw in his argument that the NHL might be gearing calls towards the stars.
He closes with the idea that McDavid is so good, that he’s automatically going to make it seem like the refs are on his side, even if they aren’t. He notes, “And if it happens to cast the officials under a spell while he’s at it, well, it only makes him one of the truly historic.”
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