I used to be a huge Oilers fan. I had the posters, had the calendars and had the eye strain from watching too many games on TV. I might even still have a shred of that Copper and Blue blood in my system. However, today I find myself hoping my childhood team loses. That continued last night, and I received great satisfaction after the defending Stanley Cup Champions beat the upstart Edmonton Oilers quite handily, 6-3.
Why has my fandom evaporated? Why was I so delighted as the seconds wound down last night at the TD Banknorth Garden and Boston celebrated a victory that got them back to 0.500 for the first time since the beginning of the season? For starters, are the Bruins coming off back-to-back last place finishes in the NHL? Did they have to fail perfectly in order to achieve their success? The Bruins represent an entirely different approach to franchise-building compared to the Edmonton Oilers, and one that I support completely. One that many would agree is better than the approach of the Edmonton Oilers.
See, the Boston Bruins built a phenomenal team and farm system with the belief that they didn’t have to rebuild from the ground up. After disappointing, but not last place, seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 where they missed the playoffs, the team began building for the future while still remaining competitive in the present. The Andrew Raycroft and Phil Kessel trades, smart free agent signings (Zdeno Chara, Mark Reechi) as well as shrewd drafting (Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic) executed by the Boston Bruins proves that rebuilding isn’t the only way to win in the NHL. The fact that Steve Tambellini didn’t receive that memo may have turned me away from the Oilers for good.
The Edmonton Oilers drafted their franchise winger, Taylor Hall, with the #1 overall pick at the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles. The Bruins may not have a franchise winger, but if they did, it would probably be Milan Lucic. Lucic was chosen with the 50th overall pick out of the Vancouver Giants (WHL) in 2006. The Bruins previous franchise winger, Phil Kessel, was drafted fifth overall in that same 2006 draft out of the University of Minnesota.
The Oilers drafted their franchise center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, first overall at the 2011 NHL Draft. The Bruins also have a franchise center in Tyler Seguin, and two franchise defencemen in Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton. Does anyone remember how they acquired these players? Bruins GM Pete Chiarelli, a master of the trade market, parlayed his franchise winger (coming off of his first 60 point season) into two first round draft picks courtesy of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston acquired Zdeno Chara through free agency, and now he is considered one of the best defencemen in the game. The Oilers don’t have a franchise defenceman on their roster or within their farm system — the defending Stanley Cup Champions have two.
The Boston Bruins organization, on top of their franchise center and defencemen (along with Milan Lucic) also acquired a franchise goalie, back in 2006. Again Chiarelli, a master of the trade market, traded Andrew Raycroft to the Maple Leafs for young Finnish goalie (and starter for last night’s game) Tuuka Rask. Yet, on August 8, 2002 the Bruins dipped into the free agent market signing a man named Tim Thomas. Thomas was an unknown at the time, and took a while to get established in the NHL. Now though he is considered one of the best goalies in the NHL, as his two Vezina Trophies and Conn Smythe Trophy prove. The Oilers don’t have a franchise goalie in their system.
The Boston Bruins farm system is loaded full of players that will soon vie for full-time NHL jobs. Dougie Hamilton, Jamie Arniel, Jared Knight, Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron are all considered legitimate prospects. The Oilers, to their credit, do have a bevy of prospects in their system, however the Bruins are considered to be stronger in that respect.
Overall, the Boston Bruins represent the right way of doing business in the NHL (along with the Detroit Red Wings and other organizations), and the Edmonton Oilers represent the lazy way of conducting business. It is no fluke that the defending Stanley Cup Champions are stronger than the two-time defending last place team in almost every category: goaltending, defence, forwards, farm systems. It is also no fluke that last night’s game the first star (and a big part of the Bruins playoff run last spring) was Brad Marchand, drafted 71st overall in 2006. The Oilers best player was the player they had to fail for, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That was no accident, and justifies the waning pulse of my loyalty towards everything Copper and Blue.
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Salim Valji is based in Edmonton AB, writing about all topics hockey for THW. His work has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, Fox Sports and NHL.com. He is credentialled by the WHL and Hockey Canada and attended the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He will be covering the 2012 IHHF World Junior Hockey Championship for THW.