There seems to be more than the usual frustration surrounding the Edmonton Oilers. It probably has a lot to do with the in-season "Groundhog Day" that includes long periods of futility combined with small windows that give us a glimpse of the future.
We have a bunch of questions. Read on for the answers.
- God this is bad. When will it get better? The current problems are fixable. There are 4 major elements impacting the team’s strong of L’s: several kids are learning on the jobsite; Steve Tambellini’s moves to address need over the summer (Vandermeer, Fraser, Strudwick, Foster) are not delivering; Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t a major league average goalie; the Oilers (as always) address need so slowly they shouldn’t even bother. It’ll get better when the kids turn the corner and the GM at the time addresses need with useful players.
- The coach is bad too. Not so. The Oilers have had good coaching all down the line. From MacT to Quinn to Renney and the assistant coaches, this team has attracted top level people. We can probably assume that the assistant coaches new to the NHL are taking time to get up to speed but these are good resume’s behind the bench.
- I’m frustrated because the management gets a free pass under the "rebuild" banner. This is partly true. The problem comes from the rebuild starting right after 4 years of terrible hockey. So we’re going to spend a generation in the cellar on the way to glory. However, Darryl Katz listens to the customer and unrest is building over this hockey team. Steve Tambellini is on the clock and the Khabibulin contract (along with this past summer’s moves) are on him. Tomorrow is promised to Taylor Hall in this town, but not Steve Tambellini.
- They should have kept Hall in junior. I disagree, but respect the opinion of others. My feeling is that the risk isn’t as great as made out to be by many fans. There are two reasons: Hall’s a #1 overall pick, he was going to make big coin anyway; and assuming he’ll leave at 25 frames the issue in the most negative way. Hemsky signed to stay here through the first portion of his free agent eligibility and from what we hear may sign on again.
- How come they’re so awful? They don’t have enough actual NHL players. If I could draw you a bell curve, with the low end being rookies and young men like Cogliano and Gagner, this group is working toward being productive. If we draw a line just after that, the actual NHL players live there. Farther over on the curve, there is the group of men who may or may not have been productive at this level but are no longer able to handle the speed and skill of NHL competition. Robin Brownlee wrote an item last night that covered the subject nicely.
- What should the Oilers do right now? Play Dubnyk for three games in a row. It can’t hurt. Also, call up Shawn Belle and Alex Plante, while risking waivers on JF Jacques and sending down Jason Strudwick.
- They can’t do that, because there will be too many veteran contracts on the AHL team. Fine, then ask Strudwick to take on a coaching position with the minor league club. No disrespect, but as Robin stated last night it isn’t working. He’s a strong positive in the room? Fine. Keep him there as an assistant coach.
- What should fans do with their frustration? Take your wife/GF/BF out to to dinner and let nature take its course. Watch a movie, take a course at GMC, take up knitting. The Oilers are going to have bad nights this season, but it isn’t a reflection of you as a person and you do have a choice. Depression sucks. Turn off the TV when they\re bad and cheer like hell when they’re good. Oiler fans did it in 92-94 when the club was terrible and last season I’m sure the Oilers were partly responsible for a baby boom in the city.
- So there’s nothing to look forward to? Not so. The Oilers have some fine veteran players and three or four sublime talents up front. Plus we can follow the Magnificent Bastard’s draft picks in junior, college and Europe. There’s the trade deadline (the Oilers don’t like to address need during the season, it interrupts lunch) and of course the draft.
- How did they get into this mess? Trading Pronger for futures, asking the season ticket holders their opinion ("fix it, and get it right") and losing focus on the big league team because the arena is the passion of ownership and therefore management.
- Are they following the Chicago model? I’d say this is more the Pittsburgh model. Sucking in order to get good picks and a new arena.
- What model do you hope they’re following? The New York Islanders 1972-1980 model. Acquire good NHL players from all possible places. Bill Torrey brought them in via the draft, trade, signings and waiver wire. You can google "Bill Torrey Islanders Panthers team building" and spend hours reading about true innovation and wisdom.