With the Edmonton Oilers clinching a playoff spot, it feels as though the past 11 years of futility don’t matter anymore. (In fairness they were awful). But all of the bad trades, poor signings, and seemingly incompetent personnel decisions have faded a little in light of being the first Canadian team to qualify for the postseason.
Usually at this time of year, Oilers fans are wondering what position their team will be in when it comes to the draft lottery. Then they’ll wonder what misstep will follow, or which draft bust will be chosen. Oh how things have changed. The players have momentarily forgotten the past, especially the ones who have suffered through the majority of the bad years.
things that are really important to me : jordan eberle smiling after making playoffs for the first time after 501 regular season NHL games pic.twitter.com/Fps9qsoQEL
— Alyssa (@alyssastweeting) March 29, 2017
One of the main figures is Jordan Eberle, a member of the franchise since 2008. His jubilee over the realization that he’s finally going to suit up for a playoff game was fun to watch. But had it not been for a monumental trade, he wouldn’t have been an Oiler to begin with.
The Chris Pronger Trade
Perhaps the Oilers most important player the last time they were in the playoffs was defenceman Chris Pronger. He was the catalyst of their blueline and was a huge part of leading the team to the Stanley Cup final. But he wouldn’t get a second chance to win in Edmonton.
On July 3rd, 2006, the Oilers traded (were forced to trade) Pronger. He was moved to the Anaheim Ducks for a significant package. The Oilers received Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, a first round pick in 2007, a second round pick in 2008 (which they traded), and another conditional draft pick.
That second round pick, which eventually got to the New York Islanders, was used to select defenceman Travis Hamonic (53rd overall in 2008). The Oilers had been long rumored in trade talks for Hamonic last year. He ended up staying with the Islanders.
The conditional draft pick was key. The terms stipulated that the Oilers would receive a first-round pick in 2008 if the Ducks made the Stanley Cup final. They ended up winning the Cup that year (thanks in part to the presence of Chris Pronger), and the Oilers used that pick to draft Jordan Eberle.
The pick ended up being number 22, and with the exception of John Carlson chosen at number 27, Eberle was the best player left on the board in the first round. Other than missing out on Carlson and not choosing Hamonic, the 2008 draft wasn’t terrible for the Oilers considering they had no choice but to move Pronger. However, it didn’t quite end there.
The Dustin Penner Offer Sheet
Kevin Lowe, the then-GM of the Oilers, was on a mission to improve the team, and believed that newly-minted champion Dustin Penner would be a part of that. He did the unthinkable: he signed Penner to an offer sheet. It was one of the more publicized GM wars in recent memory. Ultimately, the Ducks didn’t match the offer sheet. As a result, the Oilers got Penner. They also lost three draft picks.
One of them was a third round pick (which was a confusing one), that ultimately went to the Islanders, who selected Kirill Petrov. The other was a second round pick. The Ducks ended up keeping that one, and chose none other than defenceman Justin Schultz. (No need to dig into that story).
The most significant of the three was the Oilers first round pick in 2008. It was number 12, which eventually got to the Buffalo Sabres. They chose defenceman Tyler Myers. Oilers fans shouldn’t care too much about that. Myers isn’t even with the Sabres anymore and despite winning the Calder trophy, he’s had an uneven career.
But maybe what they should care about is the fact that just three picks later, the Ottawa Senators chose defenceman Erik Karlsson. Now there’s no telling whether Oilers scouts would have gone with Karlsson had they still had that pick. There’s no way of knowing what the Oilers would have looked like with a franchise player like Karlsson.
If we could re-draft that first round, no doubt Karlsson would go much higher than 15. Perhaps even as high as third behind Steve Stamkos and Drew Doughty. (Or even higher than those two?). The Penner offer sheet wasn’t a wise decision. Retrospect taught us that difficult lesson. The 2008 draft still gave the Oilers Eberle, who despite being the fans whipping boy at times, has contributed to this team.
“You think about the number of guys who have come through and left, mostly based on the team’s lack of success,” said Eberle. “So it’s bittersweet that it took this long.” [Edmonton Journal]
He remains one of the few memories of a painful era in Oilers history. The postseason-clinching victory against the Kings closed the book on that era, and opened the door for a new era in Edmonton. A championship is likely the only thing that can truly shake the ghosts of the past, but a playoff berth goes a long way in starting the process.