05 Aug Extra Virgin Edmonton Oilers
In the 1995 Alanis Morissette song “Ironic” the famed singer references several questionable instances of irony such as rain on one’s wedding day, a free ride when you have already paid (perhaps foreshadowing Uber for all we know) and good advice that one just did not take (for whatever reason). Although, unfortunate instances in and of themselves, they each fall short of the true meaning of irony.
The Oilers were named in the 1970’s due to the proximity of oil mining in and around the city. Oil, as we know, is used for fuel and generating power (among countless other things).
The Oilers franchise over the last ten seasons has done anything but generate production; they have fueled no fires and sparked no signs of ignition. They are the one franchise in the entire NHL to have failed to make the playoffs in each of the past ten seasons. This failure to generate any kind of success given the name and meaning behind the franchise, is truly a perfect example of irony.
But (and yes there is always a but) perhaps that is all about to change and this new-look Oilers team is ready to ignite and keep generating for years to come.
Why now? A fair question. And all I can do from my seat, currently in the East Coast of Newfoundland, is speculate. But here’s a list of reasons why I think this year will be the year Edmonton no longer finishes in the basement of the West.
Off Season Wheelings and Dealings
Any team that adds Milan Lucic to their roster has improved. Plain and simple. Here is the epitome of a “big body presence” at 6″3/230 who also happens to have a nose for the net and has played in all but a handful of games over the past five seasons. Don’t be surprised to see Lucic surpass 30 goals for the first time in his career this year. Here’s a guy with two visits to the Stanley Cup Finals on his resume heading to a team bursting with young, raw talent and a distaste for losing. Oh, and did I mention he’s only 28?
I would wager when most people heard that the Oilers traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson the general impression of the public was that New Jersey just fleased Edmonton. What was Peter Chiarelli thinking? Well, he was thinking that his team desperately needed defence if they were going to shake the stigma of being perennial bottom feeders. There is no doubt that Taylor Hall is a premier talent in the league and has the skill to be a point a game guy… but how many seasons since Hall has been in the league have the Oilers finished out of the bottom five? Larsson was a 4th overall draft pick in 2011 and at the ripe young age of 23 is ready to anchor this Oilers blueline for the years to come. And if you’re weary on Swedish defenceman (and I don’t see how you could be) look what happened to Erik Karlsson’s production after his first full season in the NHL. Certainly hard to qualify this as taking a step back if you’re Edmonton.
A Full Season of Connor
Regrettably to the hockey world (especially the Edmonton fan base) Connor McDavid missed a large chunk of last season due to injury. Even as an 18 year old, he displayed flashes of brilliance. He is a once in a generation talent who put up 48 points in 45 games. Don’t be surprised if a healthy McDavid breaks the century mark in points this year. If both Sid and Ovechkin did it in their rookie years, who’s to say that McDavid won’t do it in his first full season. And I’ll just bet I know who the happiest guy in Edmonton was when Milan Lucic signed for the next eight seasons.
Great Young Talent
Despite parting ways with Taylor Hall the Oilers still have Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Darnell Nurse just to name a few. Truthfully, I don’t believe that either of the Nuge or Yakupov will be All Stars in the NHL but there is no reason why they can’t carve out roles for themselves as bonafide top 6 forwards. Jordan Eberle is a true talent and a clutch scorer (see his international history) who sees the game well and is a great leader on this squad. And Nurse is a big, young defenceman who happens to be the nephew of Donovan McNabb… yeah, I think he probably learned a thing or two growing up about what it takes to be a professional athlete. And, between the pipes, Edmonton made a big move a year ago to land Cam Talbot who will be 29 years old when the 2016/2017 season begins, a man who happens to hold a .928 save percentage in over 100 games in the NHL over the past three seasons. Look for Talbot to rise to the occasion and become the starter Edmonton was hoping they were getting.
Management with Pedigree
When your team’s GM is Peter Chiarelli and your coach is Todd McLellan, I can’t see how this puts you in a bad position to win. Yes, it was the same thing last year and they didn’t win… but do you think it’s a coincidence that the former Boston GM was able to land Milan Lucic? And Peter DeBoer proved that it wasn’t McLellan who couldn’t win a cup with that San Jose core. McLellan’s teams have made the playoffs 6 out of 8 years and Chiarelli, like Lucic, has a Stanley Cup ring to his credit… yeah, I think they’ll be just fine.
I think it would be too bold to predict Edmonton as a playoff team this year. But look for them to finish no worse than 10th in the West. If they do miss the playoffs, I think they’ll finish within 10 points of the second wild card (and it’s always a log jam in the West). I know that doesn’t sound like much but for a team who has been forsaken of the playoffs for as long as this team has, you have to embrace the small victories. It’s time for the Oilers to, just as their name suggests, start firing on all cylinders.
By: Eric Saltsman