Back off! Edmonton Oilers coach wants ‘tug of war’ to stop against Connor McDavid

Ken Hitchcock doesn’t have it in for the referees, but he’s all-in when it comes to standing up for his star.

“As a coach who has an elite player, your job is to protect that player,” he said after Monday’s practice at Rogers Place. “When I feel like a player isn’t being able to exploit his skills legally, I get mad.”


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On Sunday, after the Oilers lost 4-2 in Vancouver, Hitchcock said it was a “tug of war” on McDavid and that his captain is “not allowed to play give-and-go. It’s give-and-hold.”

Hitchcock believes that McDavid is a unique player to defend. He feels opposing teams have resorted to new tactics to try and slow him down.

“You can’t stop him at the puck. Where you stop him is before he gets involved in the play. That’s what bothers me,” Hitchcock added.

“That’s my job — to allow my best players to play. What I see is an inability for an elite player to get up into the play.”

So why now? Is this just sour grapes after a loss – one in which Hitchcock feels his team became frustrated by the Canucks? Or is this a ploy get get more power plays from fouls against McDavid down the road?

“I’ve been here a month. I’ve watched it. I never said a word.

“I’ve talked to (GM) Peter (Chiarelli) and people about it, really since game three or four. I couldn’t believe then some of the things that went on, so yesterday I spoke up,” said Hitchcock.

No doubt he’s been heard by opponents and refs around the NHL.

The Oilers host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. Catch the game on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5:30 p.m. The game will start at 7 p.m.

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