Connor McDavid puts a target on his back.
Codie McLachlan/Getty  

Connor McDavid puts a target on his back.

The Edmonton Oilers superstar has what he wants, now there is no one left to blame.

Jonathan Larivee

The Edmonton Oilers made some sweeping changes over the weekend in response to their poor start to the 2023-24 National Hockey League regular season, and perhaps no one will feel the impact of those changes more than Oilers superstar forward Connor McDavid.

The firing of head coach Jay Woodcroft on Sunday, a head coach with a win percentage of .643 and a record of 79-41-13, and the subsequent hiring of relatively inexperienced head coach Kris Knoblauch has cemented the fact for many that this is now a team run by McDavid himself. That in turn has placed a target on McDavid's back, one that may prove to be a lightning rod for criticism should the Oilers continue to struggle.

McDavid's influence, or perceived influence, can now be seen at nearly every level of the organization and there may even be other connections I am simply not aware of.

In August of 2023 the Oilers named Jeff Jackson, who was Connor McDavid's agent at the time, as the new CEO of hockey operations for the club. Jackson in turn no doubt played a significant role in the recruitment of Knoblauch as the next head coach of the Oilers, with Knoblauch also having a McDavid connection of his own. Knoblauch was McDavid's coach during junior when both men were members of the Erie Otters, and the McDavid connections do not end there.

This summer the Oilers, who had very limited cap space to work with, picked up both Sam Gagner and Connor Brown on league minimum salaries of $775k a piece further limiting their already limited flexibility. Brown is himself a former Erie Otter and teammate of both McDavid and Knoblauch, raising questions about the influence McDavid may have had on earning his former teammate a new deal. Gagner on the other hand is another former Jeff Jackson client as well, his first ever client in fact.

This has led many to question the level of influence McDavid is now exerting over the Oilers:

You can certainly make the argument that a superstar like McDavid should have significant influence over the decisions made by his team, especially a team that has been as poorly managed as the Oilers have in recent years, but with that added level of influence also comes an added measure of responsibility. That responsibility will quickly morph into criticism should McDavid's version of the Edmonton Oilers fail to deliver any results on the ice.