So as it turns out, it’s pretty easy to get under the skin of a 19-year-old. Even if that 19-year-old is the best player in the NHL.
You’ve all heard by now what Connor McDavid said about Brandon Manning last night. It’s in the video above, and also here if you’re still curious:
"You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media. Everyone wanted to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose. And he wanted to say some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the most classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly. And I guess we can put the whole if he did it on purpose thing to rest because what he said out there kinda confirmed that. Shows what kind of guy he is when he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys."
I think my favorite part is the self-righteousness of the “I did all I could defending him” part. We get it, Connor. You’re angry that your team blew multiple two goal leads and lost a game, especially because a borderline NHL defenseman got under your skin all night in the process. I guess that’s a free pass to assassinate a dude’s character in front of the media.
Here’s Manning’s response:
“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that. I think going back to last year, it was a total accident, I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention on hurting anyone.”
Let’s back up here a second to reconcile with the facts: Manning did not hurt McDavid on purpose last year. Any conversation about this needs to start there.
If you don’t believe that simple fact, all you need to do to realize that is watch the hit (which is also in the video embedded above). Three guys going towards the boards, McDavid loses an edge, it’s an awkward collision and he breaks his collarbone when he collides with the boards. It’s a shame, and it probably robbed McDavid of the Calder Trophy. But it obviously wasn’t intentional.
If you don’t believe me or your own eyes, ask Oilers coach Todd McLellan:
“It was a hockey play,” McLellan told the Edmonton Sun in the immediate aftermath of that game last year. “[McDavid] went to the net hard like he always does. He comes off that wing with a lot of speed. Three guys got tangled up. I’m not sure if he lost his balance but the group of them went down together. It’s unfortunate.”
OK. With that out of the way ... yeah, I’m not doubting that Manning probably made some comments about the injury on the ice last night. And as Oilers fans are quick to point out this morning, that’s not a very cool thing to say.
Manning and McDavid exchanging words and shoves. pic.twitter.com/WKjDP89NkQ— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) December 9, 2016
Counterpoint: who gives a shit?
The general consensus in the NHL seems to be that as long as you’re not making fun of an opponent’s family, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or anything along those super-personal lines, the rest is fair game. If a comment about an injury last year -- one that everybody already agreed wasn’t actually intentional -- is effective in getting an elite player off of his game, you should make that comment every time, right?
Manning and McDavid were on the ice together a lot last night, and I mean ... we’re not lying to ourselves here. Manning can only hope to halfway keep up with McDavid. It’s a super star vs. a borderline NHL player. The pairing of Manning and Shayne Gostisbehere had a rough game overall, and at least some of that has to do with the fact that they saw a lot of McDavid’s line.
So what’s Manning to do? If he can chirp at McDavid and get him off his game in any way at all, isn’t that his job?
McDavid could have shrugged this all off, of course. He has a lot of easy responses to Manning, such as “lol I’m Connor McDavid, shut up dude.”
They're back at it. Keep your eye on these two the rest of the night. pic.twitter.com/rm7qzZvpbr— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) December 9, 2016
Instead, McDavid clearly was thinking about Manning all night. Brandon Manning! Even after he scored a goal, Manning was still the first thing on his mind.
McDavid scores and immediately continues to chirp Manning. pic.twitter.com/D2QeI8Q9lv— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) December 9, 2016
This was a master class in chirping from Manning. It’s the first time in McDavid’s career that he’s shown this kind of emotion, and now the entire league a blueprint on how to get into McDavid’s head.
All you have to do is hurt his feelings a little bit. Better grow that thick skin pretty quickly, kid.