With only two winning seasons in the past decade, the Edmonton Oilers of recent memory have built themselves a reputation that could easily be summarized by one word: incompetent.
Failed draft picks, less-than-ideal signings, and even worse stomach-turning trades spearheaded by executives who were caught reminiscing about their glory days as the game passed them by (looking at you, Peter Chiarelli, Kevin Lowe, you too, Craig MacTavish) have frustrated fans of the franchise until their state of anguish all but became normalized.
Related: Best & Worst Oilers of the Decade
However, the status quo that has plagued this organization since their miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 (alright, also outside of the 2016-17 season where Edmonton appeared to be a team on the rise) could be a thing of the past.
Maybe, just maybe, we will no longer have to watch Fernando Pisani and Ales Hemsky’s heroics in Game 6 of the opening round of the 2005-06 NHL Playoffs against the heavily favoured (still feels like an understatement) Detroit Red Wings – the start of a miraculous run that fell just one game of the franchise’s sixth Stanley Cup victory.
Maybe, just maybe… this new decade of Oilers hockey can replace those thoughts of despair that dominated the previous one.
A New Era of Oilers Hockey
Because, and thank your lucky stars for this next statement, this isn’t the same team of yesteryear. Edmonton has an opportunity to break the status quo and re-emerge near the top of the NHL’s hierarchy after a prolonged slumber in the cellar.
Mediocrity has a shelf-life; eventually, as a team, you have to step forward in the right direction. By no means am I advocating that either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl are discontent in the slightest with their organization, but the clock is ticking. It’s time for the Oilers to announce themselves (again) as contenders.
Though their megastars are just 23 and 24 years of age, respectively, it’s not exactly like the Oilers can hang around and wait forever. It is very true that these sets of circumstances are unprecedented and frankly, hard to predict, but Edmonton still has been gifted a wonderful opportunity to remove the “old guard,” the Chicago Blackhawks, and have some success this postseason as the new kids on the block.
Again, technically not their first playoff berth of this era, but these last two seasons have utterly reversed the organization’s forward trajectory set in that 2016-17 season.
This could act as a foundation, a building block, for future Oilers teams in the not-so-distant future.
Edmonton boasts the league’s top two scorers and perennial threats to take home the Hart Trophy in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl. They had the league’s scariest power play, and one of the NHL’s most stifling penalty kills.
They also had a moderately surprising steady goaltending tag-team that helped a drastic turnaround from a seventh-place finish in the Pacific Division a year prior to a second-place finish this year. They have more scoring depth this year (10 players who scored 10 or more goals this season), and a head coach in Dave Tippett whose philosophies have really resonated with this current group.
Can Edmonton Take That Next Step?
The Oilers are primed to finally take that next step. It took two years of stagnation and disappointments, but for the first time since the 2016-17 season, real upside and possibility of sustained success should turn fans’ state of saddened inebriation to one of elation.
Per Vegas Insider, they are currently -167 favourites to come out the victor in their play-in series against the Blackhawks. Chicago may have gotten the edge in their regular-season series, winning two out of their three games against the Oilers, but that should not discount Edmonton as being the better team. They are.
It’s now about executing, breaking that status quo that has followed this organization for far too long. Because, well, it’s time for these Oilers to showcase that though their engine is clearly running on McDavid/Draisaitl oil, all of their complementary internals have what it takes to amplify their stars’ abilities and emerge as legit contenders moving forward.