Darryl Katz is one lucky man. After years of mismanagement and some flat-out horrible hockey, the owner’s franchise stumbled into the first-overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft, bringing generational talent Connor McDavid to Edmonton. In fact, Katz was so thrilled that he made the world privy to one of the most
unscripted segments in the history of draft day coverage. More power to you if you can get through 15 seconds of this without cringing.
Draft day awkwardness aside, the Oilers now have a world of opportunity in front of them. And for the first time, it actually feels legitimate. Long known as a franchise that was essentially run by an old boys club, Edmonton finally ditched the status quo by naming Peter Chiarelli President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. Todd McLellan, who had an incredible amount of success as the head coach of the San Jose Sharks, was brought in to call the shots behind the Oilers’ bench.
Let’s say the Oilers hadn’t lucked out and won the McDavid lottery. Simply hiring Chiarelli and McLellan would have already represented a huge step forward. Continuity can’t be underestimated as a key ingredient for success, something that Edmonton has sorely lacked in the last decade. For once, it feels as if they have a management and coaching group that will be around for a few years.
Only a handful of months into his tenure as Edmonton’s G.M, Chiarelli has already strung together a series of transactions immediately improve his roster. Cam Talbot is the latest in line of backup goaltenders coming to Edmonton in the hopes of becoming bona-fide starters. Unlike the latest experiment in Ben Scrivens, Talbot posted some incredible numbers behind an iffy defense in New York. To boot, he’s arriving in a much more stable situation than Scrivens did with a beefed up blue line and a superior tactician in McLellan.
Andrej Sekera finally brings some responsible puck-moving ability to the Oilers’ blue line. Although the contract that will keep him in Edmonton until 2019-20 at $5.5 million might seem like an overpay, that’s simply the reality of doing business in a Canadian city not named Toronto. The end result is that the Oilers got exactly the kind of defenseman they needed, which will be a huge plus for them going forward.
Back From The Dead?
There’s a lot to like about the 2015-16 Edmonton Oilers. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle are all top-flight forwards, while Anton Lander and Teddy Purcell are serviceable bottom-six guys. With McLellan behind the bench, the Oilers might have some semblance of order in their overall system, something that should make everyone a little better by default. Throw in a franchise player in Connor McDavid, and all of a sudden you have the makings of a decent team.
The issue for Edmonton remains that their defense doesn’t exactly hold up when compared to other teams in their division, let alone their provincial rivals in Calgary. And although their bottom-six has some quality sprinkled throughout, it still doesn’t scream (or even whisper) that of a unit that can hang with the big dogs of the Western Conference.
Limitations aside, the Oilers will at least get a sniff at a playoff spot this year. Another step back seems almost impossible given all that has transpired this summer. Hell, if the Flames could barrel their way into the playoffs last year, then these Oilers can at least be in the mix. Nothing is guaranteed to work out though, even with all the potential and management chops in the world. That being said, progress feels tangible again in Edmonton, and ’15-16 will mark a step, however small, in the right direction.