Oilers, Playoffs Will Reunite Next Season

What is the fine line between winning the ultimate jackpot and falling just short?  In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, it was the favorable draw of some ping pong balls.

The 1st 3 lottery balls came out.  They were 5, 14, and 6.  The Toronto Maple Leafs were feeling really good about life at this result.  So were the Buffalo Sabres.  They had a total of 7 combined chances (4 for Toronto, 3 for Buffalo) to hit the ultimate jackpot, and win the right to draft Connor McDavid.  Those that were also in contention, the Oilers had 2 chances.  The Avalanche and Blue Jackets also each had 1 chance.  It all came down to the last number.

And it finally dropped, the 4th and final lottery ball.  Why was this so important?  Because we all would finally know where Connor McDavid would end up.  But this goes way beyond that.  That final lottery ball would tell us which franchise would have much better days ahead.  Funny enough, the final lottery ball was the number 1, like Connor McDavid’s draft position.

Connor McDavid oilers
The Oilers have much better days ahead, thanks to their lottery win. (Photo: OHL Images)

The number 1 made the lottery fall in the favor of the Edmonton Oilers.  Celebration broke out as soon as this was revealed.  The Oilers now knew that they had the 1st chance to draft this amazing talent.  The impact of Saturday April 18th, 2015, will be felt for many years after.

Once a year, usually in August, I write a column called “Say What? 30 Bold Predictions For The Upcoming Season.”  In it, I make 1 bold prediction for each team.  As you’ll see, some predictions came out exactly right.  Other ones couldn’t have been more wrong (see Montreal).  Given the outcome of Saturday night, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give you next season’s bold prediction for the Oilers.  It’s simple.  They will make the playoffs.

Are You Crazy?

Yes, this is definitely a bold prediction.  You mean to tell me an 18-year old (assuming they draft him) will help them overcome finishing in 28th place?  Do you see how many things need addressed, from top to bottom?

Yes I do.  But this is where the true value of Connor McDavid will be realized.  Most realize the talent that he brings to the table.  You can go anywhere on the internet and find his highlights.  But that is narrow minded at best.  Think for a second about his impact to those who are already on the team.

Players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are each going to get a boost of confidence, knowing that they will be teammates with McDavid.  They are each really good players, who now have the chance to be even better.  They have the potential to be a scary offensive team.  And just imagine what their power play could do?  McDavid’s Otters led the entire CHL with a power play conversion rate of over 31%!

Now think about the Oilers’ management.  The team just announced that Bob Nicholson will be their CEO moving forward.  In his press conference the other day, Nicholson said, “I have to make sure we have the right structure to make everything successful.”

For years, the Oilers were known as a team who didn’t have sound management. As soon as Nicholson was announced as CEO, he declared that everyone within the Oilers organization will report to him.  He is the one who will oversee all aspects of Oilers business and hockey operations.

This is the team’s attempt to straighten everything in the front office out.  They have to make sure that the things they are doing are smart.  They cannot afford to go through the same dysfunction that they endured in the years leading up until now.  Appointing Nicholson CEO is their attempt at accomplishing this.

Addressing The Oilers Needs

If the Edmonton Oilers want to make the most of this opportunity right away, they must address several needs, including their blue line and goaltending.  In this day and age of parity and free agency, they can do just that.

The 1st thing the Oilers need is a coach, but not just any coach.  They need someone who will be able to get the best out of these players.  Todd McLellan has parted ways with the San Jose Sharks.  Will the Oilers look at him?  They should.  He’s a really good coach, despite what happened in San Jose.

Once a coach is in place, then the Oilers can look to see who is available.  Goalies like Antti Niemi could come in and help stabilize their crease.  They need someone who has been in big games.  Niemi has won a Cup.  Other goalies will be available as well.

niemi oilers
Could Antti Niemi be wearing an Oilers uniform next season?(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

What about their defense?  This will be the thing that determines how quickly the Oilers return to the playoffs.  They could look to free agency for help.  They could also look at a trade.  With the talent they have at forward, moving one of those pieces could bring a significant return.  The point here is, the Oilers know what needs to be addressed.  With McDavid seemingly in the fold, the team will do whatever it takes to address those needs as quickly as possible.

The Oilers also have the draft to help address their glaring needs.  Besides picking 1st, they have Pittsburgh’s 1st round pick.  They also have 2 2nd round picks.  In other words, they have 3 of the top 33 picks in this deep draft.

It is for these reasons that the Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs next season.  The McDavid effect goes beyond his talent.  The current players are excited.  Management is excited.  That confidence should carry over into next season.  If the team handles the offseason well (addresses glaring needs), the playoffs are within reach.  It will be one of the greatest turnarounds in NHL history.  The pieces are there?  Can the Oilers make it happen?  Yes they can.

Also see:

Turning Oilers Into Contenders in 7 Steps

Connor McDavid Is Coming To Oil Country

Oilers Win Lottery: Does Drafting Connor McDavid Equal A Championship?