Edmonton Oilers: Hockey Exile to Destination of Choice?

The Edmonton Oilers have been the butt of many a hockey joke over the last number of years, and being perennial bottom-dwellers, most were for good reason.

It has been no secret due to their losing ways as well as remote location and frigid winters; few players have voluntarily chosen to wear the oil drop.

It has been very apparent in their inability to sign big time free agents and lure them to Edmonton. Those that they are able to sign, they have needed to significantly overpay for.

(OHL Images)
Winning the lottery and the chance to draft McDavid signals big changes in Edmonton (OHL Images)

Change is in the Air

There isn’t a person inside or outside the organization that would disagree with the fact that the Oilers needed to make big changes after last season.

Yet another bottom 3 finish as well as poor execution across the board from management to the coaches to the players and frustration and impatience was at an all time high.

Nobody though could have predicted such drastic change in a short period of time.

First, they announce the new boss in Bob Nicholson to run everything under the Edmonton Oilers umbrella. No more carte blanche for the old boys club in Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, everyone answers to Nicholson now.

Then, the Oilers do the unthinkable and win the draft lottery, jumping up two spots to pick first and inevitably generational talent Connor McDavid.

Finally, they are able to attract one of the games top executives in Peter Chiarelli as their new President and General Manager, all in a relatively short period of time.

In the fallout from those moves, it also shuffles the deck and puts Lowe and MacTavish in lesser positions within the organization. Lowe moves to the business side and MacT becomes Chiarelli’s right hand man.

The moves strengthen the organization as a whole. Nicholson is a respected businessman as well as hockey executive, with his resume from Hockey Canada speaking for itself.

Chiarelli brings his own resume of experience and success as well as credibility to the management group. He also has a connection to both Nicholson and Lowe, working with them as part of the Team Canada group.

The moves to keep Lowe and MacTavish perhaps seem questionable to some, but are smart moves by the Oilers.

For all the criticism they have drawn, they are part of the Oilers legacy and have a rich history with the team. For newer players coming in there is nothing wrong with keeping a link to the dynasty years and both Lowe and MacTavish have had past success.

Make no mistake, Chiarelli will make the hockey decisions, but a smooth transition within the management in Edmonton is not a bad thing.

The Connor McDavid Effect

While Peter Chiarelli brings a presence and credibility, the biggest chip the Oilers have will be in McDavid.

(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
Chiarelli’s next job is to hire a head coach, and the Oilers have become a place of interest (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Whether it is attracting a coach or other players, McDavid will play a factor.

In previous years names like Babcock, McLellan or Hitchcock may have been mentioned in rumours, but never as a serious candidate to sign.

Now, a call from Chiarelli and the prospect of being McDavid’s first NHL coach could be very enticing indeed.

Take Babcock as an example; while the smart money is on him staying in Detroit, prior to the lottery draft there was not even a vague rumour that he would consider Edmonton as a potential destination. Now, the rumour mill is churning out stories that it may be near the top of his list.


All speculation at this point no doubt, but one can imagine the name Connor McDavid alters people’s thinking about the prospects in Edmonton.

The same can be said for pending free agents. The thought of playing alongside McDavid or the fact that one or two more prominent players, in addition to McDavid and the other young stars, could be the difference in bringing the Oilers back to hockey relevance.

Perception is Everything

In the end whether the Oilers get the coach they want or how they fare fishing in the free agent pond, the perception is changing in Oil Country.

They have two of the most respected executives in the game at the top in Nicholson and Chiarelli, as well as the potential of adding the game’s next great superstar.

{See Related: Connor McDavid is Coming to Oil Country}

Almost forgotten in the recent changes is the fact they still have a core of some of the most talented youngsters in the game. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are lighting it up for Canada at the World Championships and are elite wingers, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has become an all-star and a legitimate top two NHL centre.

Add it young, and almost NHL ready talent in Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl and the future in Edmonton is looking brighter than ever.