Another season wrapping up and another season outside the playoffs for fans of the Edmonton Oilers franchise. The Oilers currently lead the NHL with the longest running streak with nine consecutive seasons outside the playoffs with next season being an ten year anniversary of the 2006 cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Essentially the Oilers have become the newest laughingstock of the league and it doesn’t seem as if the ship is going to magically turn around next season as they inch one step closer to tying an NHL record for longest playoff drought in league history (previously held by the Florida Panthers (10 seasons).
Creating An NHL-Worthy Defense Is Akin To Rocket Science…
If there was a moment in time that marks the downward spiral of the Oilers franchise it has to be July 3rd 2006, the day Chris Pronger was traded. The Oilers have since been searching for a top pairing defenseman ever since, dabbling with Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Whitney along the way to no avail.
The defense is finally in transition as the sheer atrocious on-ice play and off-ice management has left the Oilers with the opportunity to draft Martin Marincin (46th overall 2010), Oscar Klefbom (19th overall 2011), Darnell Nurse (7th overall 2013) and sign Justin Schultz out of college and away from the Anaheim Ducks.
Add into the fact the Oilers are due for another Top 5 selection at the 2015 NHL Draft which could lead to defenseman Noah Hanifin (US NTDP) joining the fold and all of a sudden the future looks bright. But in the mean time the Oilers defense ranks dead last in the league with a 3.33 GAA and allows over 30.1 SA/G.
If I were to pinpoint where the Oilers rebuild went sideways a bit, it would be when they didn’t address Goaltending, Defense, or Center Ice
— Matt Henderson (@Archaeologuy) April 10, 2015
In return the underwhelming performances of recent UFA signings Nikita Nikitin ($9M/2Y), Mark Fayne ($14.5/4Y) and Andrew Ference ($13M/4Y) have seen most of the flack from the fanbase and justifiably so as the three have a combined -50 and more importantly a takeaway/giveaway differential of -72. There is light at the end of what seems to be a never-ending dark tunnel, but it’s still unknown when the team will turn this around.
It’s obvious the strategy of throwing a group of young kids together in prominent roles isn’t working and GM Craig MacTavish is going to have to look at the market. The tough sell however is that when a franchise is far from a contender, it’s near impossible to sign a UFA top-pairing defender, if one even gets to market (Ryan Suter/Minnesota aside).
In return fans will have to wait as the Oilers hope one or two of the youngsters emerge as legit top-pairing defenders.
Owner Allows An Organization To Be Run By Simpletons…
All things considered what seems to be the biggest sticking point is the fact President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe continues to be the man to blame for the teams inadequacies on and off the ice.
In some eyes Lowe might be the most arrogant man in hockey or is he the smartest man in hockey for managing to convince multiple ownerships to keep him employed for over 16 seasons Behind Lowe it seems that the glow surrounding owner Daryl Katz has fizzled and the fans are no longer content with his misappropriation of assets when it comes to the management of the team. Since the 2006 run to the final the team has employed six different head coaches (Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and now Todd Nelson) and three GMs (Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish).
Informal poll time: what lottery team do you least want to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes? — Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) April 11, 2015
To sum up a quarter of the jokes made around the league, how does a team fire a head coach, replace him with three inadequate replacements and then not only rehire said coach, but promote him to management?
Apparently this all is possible to happen in a five year span.
It’s time for Katz to step up and save whatever sanity is left and shake up the front office. MacTavish can stay for now but it’s clear the supporting staff that has been around for over a decade needs to have ties severed, that means not reshuffling and re-assigning duties.
Kevin Lowe we wish you the best in your future endeavours.
Edmonton Journal Survey Results Show Fan Frustration…
Craig Ellingson of the Edmonton Journal wrote an article “Oilers survey results: Edmonton GM on Hot Seat With Team Faithful”. It’s a great piece if you look at it in it’s entirety because it sums up how frustrated the fanbase has been. One stat that stood out was that 79% of the fanbase didn’t believe Katz has the team headed in the right direction. It’s the side effect of having an owner who is also a fan, a fan of the 1980s dynasty and the players from it. It’s a reason why so many former Oilers are involved in “righting the ship”.
To really think about it over the past six seasons Florida (75), the NY Islanders (74.9) and the Oilers (65.1) make up the three worst teams over the last six seasons points wise in the NHL. The Islanders have qualified for two of the last three playoffs, the Panthers qualified in 2012 and narrowly missed it this year.
The Oilers on the other hand have created a new definition of the term basement dwellers, all under the watch of Katz.
What could be even more disappointing is as Ellingson pointed out a third of the fanbase truly believes the team is destined to be a non-playoff contender for another four-plus seasons, not a very pleasing approval rating.
Where Do We Go Now?
Before another brilliant “fan” throws another uniform on the ice, let’s just agree that every Oiler fan has officially lost their patience. It doesn’t matter how much patience is being asked of this fan base by management and some members of the media, the fact is the team isn’t making the hard decisions in areas that need addressing. Complacency in key roles has led to this neverending rebuild and at the end of the day the only one’s that suffer are the fans.
The team needs a top-pairing defenseman, a legit starting goaltender or at least one that is capable of playing behind a defense that will likely have the same growing pains next year as it did this year. There are options out there whether it’s making a run at UFA’s Devan Dubnyk, Antti Niemi or even a trade with Carolina for Cam Ward, but it’s clear Laurent Brossoit is the future starter, even if the future is still a few years away.
Can confirm Penguins do not have lottery protection on the first round pick they traded to the Oilers. — Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) April 6, 2015
The biggest ace in the hole for the team is the Top 5 pick they are guaranteed at this June’s NHL draft. Even if the Pittsburgh Penguins miss the playoffs and the Oilers get to increase their lottery odds by 1%, it only creates a 12.5% chance the team ends up with the first overall pick that gives them Connor McDavid.
Jack Eichel is a lock for either Buffalo or Arizona. That leaves defenseman Noah Hanifin who gives the team it’s best shot at a legit top-pairing prospect eventually. Dylan Strome is the next best forward outside of McDavid and Eichel and at 6’3 187lbs he has the intangibles to draw in defenders, but doesn’t play the physical game the Oilers so desperately need upfront in their Top 6.
All in all when the team rids itself of an inadequate supporting cast in management the team will continue to be the laughingstock of the NHL for years to come.
You know it’s bad when one of the fanbases biggest hopes is that no one throws a jersey on the ice next year, that’s improvement…
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.