THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

Wouldn’t it be great for fans if the rebuild the Edmonton Oilers are undertaking now resulted in five straight 100-point seasons, a President’s Trophy and consistent finishes in the top-six NHL-wide? Of course it would. That, of course, guarantees nothing in terms of Stanley Cup success, as the San Jose Sharks will attest.

When it comes to windows of opportunity, no team has had one swing open wider since the NHL lockout than the Sharks, a team consistently considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and a fixture atop the standings. At least until this season, as the Sharks fight to stay in playoff contention in the Western Conference and the window of opportunity closes before their eyes.

For all their regular season success since the lockout, the 100-point seasons and their place in the NHL’s upper echelon, the Sharks have never advanced beyond the Western Conference finals. The Oilers, whose best points total since the lockout (95 points in 2005-06) hasn’t equaled San Jose’s worst (99 in 2005-06), have been to one more Stanley Cup final than the Sharks have.

That’s not to say San Jose fans haven’t had more to cheer about than fans of the Oilers while watching their team roll to seasons of 99, 107, 108, 117, 113 and 105 points, because they have, but it also serves as a reminder that even if GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe do put together a contender here, a date with the engraver isn’t a given.

There’s still that carpe diem thing.

TAKE YOUR SHOT

While the Oilers are destined to finish out of the playoffs for the sixth straight year since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sharks are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time after seven straight years, and 12 of the last 13, in the post-season mix – more often than not considered a Final Four favourite.

2010-11: 105 points, 5th overall, lost Conf. Final to Vancouver.

2009-10: 113 points, 2nd overall, lost Conf. Final to Chicago.

2008-09: 117 points, 1st overall, lost quarter-final to Anaheim.

2007-08: 108 points, 2nd overall, lost semi-final to Dallas.

2006-07: 107 points, 7th overall, lost semi-final to Detroit.

2005-06: 99 points, 5th overall, lost semi-final to Edmonton.

Today, the Sharks are a team in decline, even if they’ll finish well clear of the Oilers in the standings. Edmonton is a team on the rise, even if there’s plenty of work do before Tambellini cobbles together a team that can overtake the Sharks in the standings, let alone contend for a Stanley Cup.

I’m not comparing the Oilers to the Sharks in the sense that they’ve been put together the same way, because they haven’t, or suggesting that it won’t be a helluva lot of fun for long-suffering fans if Tambellini or somebody else finds a way to coax the Oilers into legitimate contention, because it will.

I’m just offering a reminder, as we watch the Sharks fade away, there remains plenty of work to do and that even with getting it mostly right, it can be a long, long time between sips of champagne.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • A-Mc

    Tonight is a win win in my books.

    1. Oilers win – Sweet.. The oil won a game and are now really close to the 62pts of last season

    2. Oilers Lose – sweet.. San Jose jumps up and pushes Calgary out of 8th. HECK YES!

    I’m not sure which i want more!

    Maybe this is the year that San Jose squeeks into the playoffs but then pulls the trigger to get their ass into the finals!? It would be an interesting story that is for sure. And with hockey, nothing is guaranteed; the last seed could be the cup winner.

  • O.C.

    The Sharks are in the tank, their window of opportunity has closed. When the Nabakov in net and Heatley with Thorton, that was when they were dangerous, but they blew it.

    Hopefully tonight the Oil will take them out again, and maybe next year they will overtake them in the standings….

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    It just never seemed as if SJ had fire in the belly come play-off time. In the 06 run it looked as if the whole team had it but some had a nuclear bomb inside! Pisani was at the top of that list, Smyth, Smith, Pronger and Hemsky come to mind as well!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    My hope i the Oilers play a heck of a game but still lose
    and Calgary is cussing us. No i dont want the boys to tank it, but
    really for the fans anyway, what good does it do to win ?

    I cherish each win the boys get but… hey the higher the pick
    the better usually.

    Feel my pain… I am a St.Louis Rams diehard as well.
    Nothing but draft picks but the Rams are doing the right thing
    as well. Trade the #2 pick and now have several first rounders
    over the next few years… Rebuild and destroy.

    GO OILERS !! Play hard play well and f— The Flames !

  • Very good points Robin.

    I recall very well the fan euphoria that came with the Katz proclamation “i will spend to the cap”. Fans heard…. Katz will buy us a cup.

    Howz that workin out?

    There are no givens in this current NHL, you need a good team, depth, some luck, a few breaks on calls and posts and such “karma” type things and a general avoidance of the injury bug during the playoffs.

    It also is mandatory to have a few guys on the roster that are over performing their contract number and next to none that are under performing.

    Piece of cake……… no?

    • Hall for President

      That gives me hope

      Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Petry, Nugent Hopkins, Klefbom (probably), Grigorenko (again, probably)..19-25 yrs old

      Even Smid, one or two of the bubbling under D-prospects

      We’ve got 9 years before the Oilers start to decline

        • The Oilers core, limited as it is with Hall, RNH, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner and Petry etc is younger than the core that started the post-lockout era with San Jose.

          It’s not so much a comparison of the teams as it is a reminder that if you do manage to build a contender like the Sharks have with all those consecutive 100-point seasons, you’d better make hay while the sun shines.

  • nvan97

    The NHL is littered with teams that have tons of talent but the one intangible missing from their game is Chemistry!

    How many times have we seen talent go to some stacked team only to accomplish nothing. Lately it’s been Carter, Richards, but next summer it will be Nash, Suter, ………who knows.

    Developing talent through the draft is the only way to create some chemistry.

    • John Chambers

      Your right & here’s the thing, look at the Oilers young core! Hall, Eberle, Nuge & up & comers like Petry all have the drive to win! You can see it in their games! So young though & probably another couple years before they bear fruit!

  • John Chambers

    Robin, a well crafted and thought provoking piece. Prime examples abound, Washington, Buffalo, etc all looking to get 3 finese guys, two stud dmen and a top 10 goalie. We are hoping for the same and hope the formula and mixture send us through the window.
    There is value, however, in putting an entertaining product on the ice. Let’s not forget this is the entertainment business. The sports side is about winning. They kind of go hand in glove, especially for the owners purse during the playoffs. I only ask that my OIL be a treat to watch. If I’m going to commit to 2 1/2 hrs make it memorable not miserable.That’s all. I’m out.

  • Hall for President

    Just get us into the playoffs, we’ll worry about the rest later. Playoff season is electric in Edmonton and I miss it. Plus, with Eberle and Hall being so clutch, no WAY we don’t go to the cup finals, right?!*

    *blind faith from a total fanboy

  • I tried it at home

    Now that Danny “Mr Minnesota” Heatley isnt playing there, Im ok with San Jose winning a cup. Hell, someone has to, and it aint gonna be us, or the cowtippers down south of us.

  • 24% body fat

    anybody remember the days before the lockout when free agents were restricted until they were 31 and players didn’t hit their prime until 29-30.

    The game has become much younger.

  • Brownlee stated:

    Edmonton is a team on the rise, even if there’s plenty of work do before Tambellini cobbles together a team that can overtake the Sharks in the standings, let alone contend for a Stanley Cup.

    Perhaps you mean “…before Tambellini’s replacement cobbles together a team that can…”

    The future success of this rebuild isn’t with the present Oilers’ management and coaches. There is still so much more work to be accomplished: determining the goaltenders, adding to the defence, strengthening the forwards and an overall balance of the squad that will make this team a contender for the SC.

    Onward with 2nd last place exciting hockey! And another top-notch draft choice.

    • “I’m not comparing the Oilers to the Sharks in the sense that they’ve been put together the same way, because they haven’t, or suggesting that it won’t be a helluva lot of fun for long-suffering fans if Tambellini or somebody else finds a way to coax the Oilers into legitimate contention, because it will.”

      Or, you could have simply referred to the above paragraph, which came right after the one you cited, and left out “perhaps” when it comes to what I meant.