The Edmonton Oilers‘ 2023 season has been quite the roller coaster ride. With just one win in their opening five games, their start has been far from what they had in mind. To add to their challenges, their star player, Connor McDavid, had to leave their last game against the Winnipeg Jets due to an injury that we now know will keep him out one-to-two weeks. This news has shaken up the hockey world but, of course, it holds significant implications for NHL bettors.
Head coach Jay Woodcroft provided some initial insights, though the details were rather scarce. He mentioned that the injury appeared to be muscle-related and assured that more information would follow once he had conferred with the team’s trainers. Woodcroft even candidly admitted that he hadn’t found the time to rewatch the play. At this point, the only certainty is that McDavid’s injury could sideline him for up to two weeks, further adding complexity to what the Oilers had boldly labelled a ‘Cup or bust’ season. With the highly anticipated Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton against the Calgary Flames just around the corner on October 29, the looming potential absence of McDavid casts a shadow of uncertainty over the event.
With and Without McDavid
McDavid missed a big chunk of his rookie season, but he’s been incredibly durable. The last time he missed consecutive games was during the 2019-20 season, and the Oilers managed to keep a respectable record of 3-2-1 in six games without him. Since October 1, 2016, the Oilers are 5-4-4 when McDavid’s not in the lineup and 285-197-47 when he’s playing. However, their goal-scoring stats tell us how vital McDavid’s presence is. They’ve scored 3.21 goals per game with him and just 2.38 without.
How McDavid’s Injury Will Impact NHL Betting Lines
To gauge how much McDavid means to NHL bettors and oddsmakers, let’s look at past numbers. However, McDavid played all 82 games in 2022-23, and he’s missed just two games in the last three seasons. Still, that info can give us an idea of his impact on the hockey betting market.
For example, FanDuel had -164 moneyline odds for the Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 4, 2022. But when they found out McDavid would be out due to an illness on the morning of Jan. 5, Toronto’s odds jumped to -315, an increase of almost 14% in implied probability. Later that season, on April 29, McDavid was ruled out in a game versus the Canucks. This time, the Oilers were the favourites, and their odds dropped from -215 to -130 at Sports Interaction, a drop of almost 12%.
I talked to NHL oddsmaker Jeff Davis of Circa Sports in Las Vegas on Sunday. He said, “It means so much for two reasons. No. 1 is obvious: He is the best player in the league by a good margin. No. 2 is because of how top-heavy the Oilers’ lineup already is. They now have to take someone out of a below-average bottom-six and make up the 20 minutes a night that McDavid was playing. From a ratings perspective, this is a team that was rated similarly to teams like the Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils, and is now closer to the Calgary Flames or Ottawa Senators.”
That makes sense to me, as I think a 12-14% change is a bit too much now, even for McDavid. He last missed time a year and a half ago, and the Oilers are a deeper team than they were in the 2021-22 season. Still, the loss is massive, and my projection model suggests that Edmonton’s chances of winning Tuesday’s game against the Wild in Minnesota have dropped from 61.5% (-160) to almost 52% (-109). And, for those wondering about the upcoming outdoor game, our NHL projection model (which you can see weekdays on Canada Sports Betting‘s new YouTube show, The Puck Portfolio) has Edmonton’s listed as a -160 favourite if he’s in the lineup on Oct. 29, but -108 if he’s not.
Will McDavid’s Injury Hurt The Oilers’ Playoff chances?
That’s how odds are impacted in the short term, but what about the long term? How will Edmonton’s chances of reaching the playoffs be impacted if McDavid misses one or two weeks, as expected?
Well, it looks like the Oilers can afford to miss McDavid for five games, which is what they’ve got to play over the next two weeks. The season is still young, and although the Oilers have struggled, they’re not in that deep of a hole. With four out of the next five games at home, Edmonton still projects to be a 100-plus point team even if No. 97 is out of the lineup for all of them, but then again, the game isn’t played on a computer, right? Leon Draisaitl and the rest of the Oilers must dig in over the next week or two. If they don’t, the Oilers could find themselves in a position that nobody thought they’d be in.