Jack Todd: Connor McDavid doesn't need lame stats to confirm his greatness

Oilers star is already the best hockey player of his time and by the time he retires, he will be in the “greatest player ever” conversation.

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It’s stat creep, and it’s pernicious.

Stat creep sneaks up on you. One moment they’re telling you that Roger Maris is chasing Babe Ruth’s record, the next moment you’re learning that the second assist on the Dallas Stars goal tonight was the 13th this year for a left-handed defenceman from Manitoba.

Then you try to watch a baseball game and the screen looks like someone dumped a Scrabble set on the floor, with the WAR, the OPS, the BABIP, the LIPS, the wRC+. Somewhere under it all, there’s a good game trying to get out.

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Stat creep struck the Stanley Cup finals Saturday night when Connor McDavid, AKA Captain Whoosh, scored one of those McDavid specials during Edmonton’s 8-1 blowout of the Florida Panthers — a jaw-dropping combination of speed, strength, balance and timing.

Ray Ferraro is the best in the business, but sometimes even Ferraro is at the mercy of the worker bees pouring statistics into his ear. Ferraro informed us that the goal was McDavid’s 35th point of the 2024 playoffs, leaving him a point away from tying Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for the most playoff points in a season in the past 30 years.

“In the past 30 years,” so far as we know, is not a record category. It’s not an anything. With Stat Creep, we’ll soon have records for the past year, the past month, the past week. The infuriating part, from our standpoint, is that McDavid doesn’t need anyone to pump his tires with bogus records.

McDavid’s 35 points left him ninth on the all-time list behind a gent named Wayne Gretzky, who played a little hockey once upon a time for these same Oilers. Not only was Gretzky atop the list with 47 points in the 1984-85 season, he was also third, fourth and fifth and tied with McDavid, Mike Bossy and Doug Gilmour for ninth behind Malkin.

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As it happens, we did see McDavid break a record before the evening was out. He added three more assists to break Gretzky’s record with 32 — and when you break an Oilers scoring record, you’ve accomplished something.

McDavid had also surpassed one of his own coaches, Paul Coffey, and moved up to sixth on the all-time list of single-season playoff points with 38, behind Mario Lemieux in second place and four guys named Gretzky.

It’s conceivable, if the Oilers can prolong this series long enough, that McDavid may even catch Gretzky’s single-season playoff points record before the month is out. The real one, not a phoney total dreamed up on someone’s pocket calculator.

Records aside, Connor McDavid is already the greatest hockey player of his time. By the time he hangs ‘em up, he will be in the “greatest player ever” conversation with Gretzky, Lemieux, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr.

When it comes to settling that argument, records set over the past 30 years will not matter.

Meanwhile, back in Florida: That stunning 8-1 defeat aside, make no mistake — the Panthers are still very much in control of this series. When the puck drops in whatever fictitious Florida town the Panthers currently call home, the Oilers are going to wish they had saved some goals for Game 5.

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Florida is going to end it Tuesday night because they have better goaltending, they’re less mistake-prone — and they have Aleksander Barkov.

If you want to start an argument worth arguing, ask whether you’d take Barkov or Auston Matthews if they were in the same draft. The sports networks and all of southern Ontario would say Matthews, and the sports networks and all of southern Ontario would be wrong.

If you want to build a team, build it around a Barkov. An unselfish, 6-foot-3, 215-pound centreman who can create points or prevent points, depending on what you need.

And a guy who is about to get his first Stanley Cup ring.

Doing the 500-yard bow-and-scrape: Look, there’s no end to sucking up in the sports media. It goes with the territory — we were all just fans at some point although covering the Marc Bergevin-Michel Therrien Canadiens was a good cure for that, the tendency lingers.

Certain players are identified as stars, everything they do is “magnificent” or “splendid” and the fact they don’t drop so much as a crumb for reporters who fawn all over them goes unnoticed.

But the golfing media is in a category all its own. In the lead-up to the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods declared that he thought he could win it. His claim was reported as though Woods has not been irrelevant for a decade.

Then they got started on Bryson DeChambeau’s godliness and, well — thank God for soccer.

Heroes: Sergei Bobrovsky, Aleksander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl, Mattias Janmark, Evan Bouchard, Dylan Holloway, Paul Maurice, Cayla Barnes, Lina Ljungblom, Christian Eriksen, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Luka Doncic, Jerry West, Lu Dort &&&& last but not least, Connor McDavid.

Zeros: Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, the golfing media, Brendan Shanahan, Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins, Isaiah Buggs, Rashee Rice, Bud Selig Jr., Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and forever.

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