When it comes to the Edmonton Oilers this season, you never know what you’re gonna get. Before being shut-out by the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night, the Oil had won five straight and found themselves in the eighth and final playoff spot. It’s been an uphill battle all season long for Edmonton, who have had to dig in deep to earn points and claw their way up the jam packed Western Conference standings. Going into tonight’s game, the Oilers are in 9th place with 39 points. The eighth place St. Louis have a bit of a cushion with 42 points, but the Oilers do have a game in hand.
Consistency has been a problem for this team over the past few seasons as their young players learn the ropes of playing in the pros. But for all the growing pains they have had to experience, on some night’s they look unbeatable, starting with Taylor Hall. Hall leads the Oilers with 41 points in 34 games and finds himself seventh in league scoring ahead of the likes of Jonathan Toews, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin. It’s been a breakout season for Hall, who has struggled with injuries throughout his short NHL career, but his skill set has never been in question.
Back in Hall’s draft year, there wasn’t a consensus number one, and the NHL cashed in on it with it’s marketing of Taylor vs. Tyler as Tyler Seguin was also seen as a can’t miss prospect. The two were stars in the Ontario Hockey League, and the Oilers had a decision to make on which player they wanted to help re-build their team. Thanks to an ill-advised trade by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins won the right to select second overall in the draft. Boston was far from a rebuilding team, in fact they went on to win the Stanley Cup that season.
Had the Oilers picked Seguin, it would have been Hall raising the Cup in June. Instead, he’s part of a team starting from the ground up, and as they continue to stockpile talent, the future does indeed look bright. But when people reference the future for this team, just how far ahead are they looking? After signing college free agent Justin Schultz in the summer and picking Russian sniper Nail Yakupov first overall, expectations were starting to rise for the Oilers.
But there have been times this season where the young team has looked over-matched and unprepared. Certain games have left many wondering if they had taken any steps forward at all. But thanks to Hall’s stellar play, and solid goaltending, the Oilers are playing meaningful games down the stretch, something fans in this city haven’t seen since 2006. The path to the playoffs is not going to be an easy one. The Oilers face the defending Stanley Cup champions today with two huge points on the line. The Oilers have never quit this season, even when they were staring at the basement of the conference earlier this season.
The experience of playing important games in March and April is going to be invaluable for the young players on this team. Will they continue to win and make the playoff race interesting? Or will the inexperience flare up again? One thing is for certain with this edition of the Edmonton Oilers. When the puck drops, you really have no idea what’s going to happen.