Does Connor McDavid cheat for offence? I don’t buy that notion, but there’s a debate going on regarding this aspect of McDavid’s game and about how he’s going to fit in with new coach Dave Tippett, who is known for teaching strong defensive play.Tippett is on the record saying McDavid doesn’t cheat, but that was contradicted by Sportsnet commentator John Shannon, who said that McDavid does indeed cheat for offence in the d-zone.First, here’s Tippett said to TSN’s Gino Reda about what he hopes to see from McDavid: “I want to see him wheel offensively more, which means you defend less. If you defend less, then you’re going to be in the offensive zone, you’re going to have a chance to wheel more. If we play defence, he’ll get more offence.”Tippett reiterated this talking with Tim and Sid — Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro — on Sportsnet: “The key is the more he can play offence, the better, so if you defend well, quick, you’re going to play more time on offence. Connor is not a player that cheats the game. But when you come back to your own end, if you check well early, you can turn over the puck and go to the other end. I’m a big believer in you’ve got to spend more time in the offensive zone… Connor McDavid, through the neutral zone and the offensive zone is probably the best player in the world right now. Why wouldn’t we want to do that as much as we can for him? And that’s everybody buying into checking in our own end and playing more in the offensive zone.”Next, Tim and Sid talked with Shannon, who said Tippett is going to have a challenge getting it right with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on a few fronts: “The challenge for Dave is the same challenge that a lot of veteran coaches have in the NHL and that’s learning how to speak to millennials, and learning how to deal with younger players. And learning how to make sure, and in the interview he did on radio with us and on TV with you, he talked about how important it is for Connor McDavid to be in the offensive zone, and isn’t that the best thing for McDavid. But I’ll tell you what: Connor cheats. In the defensive zone, Connor cheats. Connor wants to get that quick jump, that edge. Is that necessarily what Dave Tippett wants out of his star players in the defensive zone? If Tippett can improve the goals against, get it down to a reasonable number then this team has a good chance to make the playoffs. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going to be a big part of it. Leon Draisaitl, should he have his own line. These are learning lessons Dave Tippett is going to have to figure out. How many times do you want McDavid and Draisaitl to play together? If it was my team I’d put them on separate lines… Put them on special teams together on the power play. But the rest of the time do a one-two punch.”My takeTippett has it right here in regards to McDavid’s alleged cheating: he’s not guilty. I don’t see that as McDavid’s game. That said, I do think McDavid’s defensive game needs some work. He’s not always strong in man-to-man defence. He doesn’t always pick up the right player on the back check. He can be guilty of puck watching. In this way, he’s like almost every single other young NHL player. He’s not yet a defensive ace, though he’s not been getting eaten alive either mainly because of his ability to win pucks down low and advance them out of the zone, most often by skating it himself but sometimes by passing it. McDavid’s ability to win a puck, find time for himself with a quick move or by protecting the puck, and then advance the puck is an elite defensive skill. He just needs to do a better job on his defensive reads, but that’s a different issue than a player blowing the zone to get a pass, or constantly playing on the wrong side of the puck so that he might steal it and get a break. In the d-zone, McDavid is usually on the right side of the puck, but he’s not always there. As stated, sometimes he misreads a play, or fails to pick up an attacker in the slot. But I see these as the typical mistakes of a young centre. Draisaitl makes them, too, as does the more veteran Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They all need to continue to focus on honing their defensive skills, on bearing down and checking their man. So Tippett is right to focus on this as an area of improvement and one that will indeed help them shut down opposing attacks more rapidly and thus win back the puck to attack themselves. In the d-zone, a huge issue has been the inability of Oilers d-men to win pucks, then advance them out of Edmonton’s end. As a group, they don’t pass the puck well. At times you’ll see McDavid break for a pass — as he should do and is expected to do — but the d-man will fail to hit him with a clean pass. This is a huge issue and one that will only be fixed with a change of personnel on the Oil’s blueline. McDavid had his best year as a two-way player in 2016-17, the year he won the MVP trophy. It’s no coincidence that that same year Andrej Sekera was still at his best. He was uninjured and making all kinds of fantastic passes. This made a huge difference for the Oilers and I’m also going to suggest it provided a boost to McDavid. He can’t do it all alone. In the last two years, with Sekera generally out or not at his best, and with Oscar Klefbom often in the same boat, McDavid’s even strength plus-minus on Grade A chances has dropped. Not even McDavid can do it all on his own but until the Oil get better puckmovers that is will be asked of McDavid. The real issue then is the lack of quality puckmovers on the Oilers, not McDavid being a bit too greedy to attack at the expense of his defensive play. I don’t buy that argument from Shannon, and I don’t see how McDavid is going to have any issue with Tippett’s message. But whatever Tippett says the Oilers won’t return to 2016-17 levels of strong play until they get one or two or three more strong puckmovers on the blueline. So far the best hope for that for the Oilers next year is the promotion of over ripe Caleb Jones from Bakersfield, Sekera’s return to form, and the hope that newcomer Joel Persson, a puckmoving ace in Sweden, can rapidly translate his game into NHL sucess. If the Oilers can add three puckmovers, expect McDavid’s offensive game to improve and for him to spend less time in the d-zone. At the same time, as he gets more experience, his defensive reads will improve, and that should also benefit the Oilers.