LOSING SUCKS

Losing is no fun. Players hate it and so do you, but if you get a taste of victory here and there it can tide you over for awhile. The Oilers and their fans haven’t experienced the euphoria of winning a playoff series since May 27th, 2006, when the Oilers beat the Ducks 2-1 to close out the western conference final.

In the 2,173 days (yes that long) since you watched the Oilers defeat the Ducks, you’ve never left the rink or turned off the TV feeling that energized. As you watch fans in LA and Phoenix enjoy their surprising runs to the western conference final, I’m sure you feel envy, but likely you are starting to wonder if you’ll ever get to experience that rush of excitement after you team wins a playoff series again.

It’s been six long NHL seasons of losing for Oiler fans, but you are far from the longest suffering.

The Jets haven’t won a playoff series since 1987. Of course they lost their team for 14 years, but it’s still been forever since Winnipeggers celebrated a NHL playoff victory.

New York Islanders haven’t won a series since 1993. They’ve made the playoffs five times since then, but they’ve lost in the first round every time.

Florida hasn’t won a series since they went to the Cup final in 1996. Would you still be a diehard fan in that market? Including this season, they’ve only been in the post-season three times since 1996.

Columbus has only made the playoffs once, 2009, but their fans didn’t even get to celebrate one playoff victory; they got swept four straight. Eleven NHL seasons and no playoff wins. It is hard to maintain a fan base around losing, never mind trying to build one.

Minnesota hasn’t won since 2003.

The Leafs and Flames haven’t won a series since 2004.

Oiler fans haven’t racked up their Visa’s partying after playoff wins since 2006.

Buffalo and Ottawa haven’t won a series since 2007.

Dallas and Colorado haven’t celebrated since 2008.

Carolina and Anaheim last tasted playoff success in 2009.

Chicago, Montreal and Pittsburgh won a round in 2010.

Detroit, Tampa, San Jose, Vancouver and Boston won last year.

While Nashville, Phoenix, LA, St. Louis, Washington, New Jersey, Philly and the Rangers gave their fans at least one playoff victory this spring.

Interesting to note that five of the ten longest suffering fanbases are from Canada. Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton have all had Cinderella runs to the Cup finals since 2004, and the memories from those incredible two months is what keeps most fans interested eight, six and five years later.

But at some point the fans in Calgary and Edmonton might start losing interest. These two teams can’t continue to rely on a strong economy to keep their buildings sold out. I’d assume that eventually fans will stop going, but right now I don’t see that happening. I wonder what would be the turning point in either market, that stops fans from going to the rink?

NOT EVEN A SNIFF

You know it is bad being a Leafs fan when you wear a bag on your head and dream about a return of Mats Sundin. Losing has lasted so long in Toronto that this fan forgot that the Leafs never made the playoffs during Sundin’s final three seasons with the Blue and White.

Leaf fans hold the longest active post-season drought; they haven’t had a sniff of the playoffs since 2004. Getting to the playoffs and losing sucks, but it is even worse when your team never gets there.

Once again, Canadian fans are right in the mix of this loser list.

Last time your team saw the playoffs:

Toronto –  2004
Edmonton – 2006
NYI – 2007
Minnesota and Dallas – 2008
Calgary, Columbus and Carolina – 2009
Colorado – 2010
Buffalo, Montreal, Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg – 2011
**Winnipeg made the playoffs in their final year, so technically that fan base has only missed the playoffs for one year.**

LONGING TO CELEBRATE

The good news for you long-suffering fans is that you might see the playoffs, and a victory, sooner than you think. In the near future you might be able to have too many beers, get caught up in the moment and do something really stupid at a playoff game like this idiotic Phillies fan. I’m sure many of you yearn to be in a position to allow your "inner fan" to be fanatical again.

If this year’s playoffs are any indication, maybe we are seeing a changing of the guard in the NHL. It is only one year, but the Kings, Blues and Coyotes tasted post-season victory for the first time in a long time.

The Coyotes won a playoff series for the first time in their 14-year history, and now they are in the western confernce final.  Kings’ fans hadn’t celebrated a series win since 2001, while fans in St. Louis hadn’t been out of the first round since 2002.

Dare to dream Oiler fans, dare to dream.

ONE HIT WONDERS

Vanilla Ice and Ice Ice Baby was #7 on the Top 100 one-hit wonders, but that coat should have pushed him into the top five. He was beaten out by the following:

1."The Macarena” by Los Del Rio (1996)

2. "Tainted Love” by Soft Cell (1982)

3. "Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners (1983)

4. I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred (1992)

5. "Mickey” by Toni Basil (1982)

6. "Who Let The Dogs Out” by Baha Men (2000)

I know most of you likely just sang a few lyrics from at least four of those songs. It’s okay, they were catchy, except the Macarena and Who Let the Dogs Out; those two were horrific.

I did a quick look back at the last 19 years in the NHL and found out that there has been a few one-hit wonders during that time.

The Islanders have won one playoff series in the last 19 years, 1993, when they went to the conference final.

In the last 18 seasons, fans in Calgary and Florida have experienced a winning feeling in the playoffs once. The Panthers had their miracle run in 1996, while the Flames did it 2004. Every other year they have either missed the playoffs or lost in the first round. Only once in 18 seasons have those fans experienced a meaningful victory. Ouch.

Here’s a look at how much, or little, other fans have had to celebrate over the last 18 seasons.

Detroit:            12 seasons they won at least one round. Six trips to the Finals and four Cups.
San Jose:       10 seasons with a series win.
NJ Devils:       9 seasons with a win, four trips to the Finals and three Cups. (Still active)
Colorado:        8 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals and two Cups.
Pittsburgh:      8 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals and one Cup.
Philly:               8 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals. (still active)
Dallas:             7 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals and one Cup.
NYR:                 7 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals and one Cup. (still active)
Vancouver:       7 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals.
St. Louis           6 seasons with a win.
Boston:             5 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals and one Cup.
Buffalo:             5 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals.
Ottawa:             5 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals.
Washington:    5 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals. (still active)
Montreal:          5 seasons with a win.
Toronto:            5 seasons with a win.
Anaheim:         4 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals and one Cup.
Chicago:          4 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals and one Cup.
Carolina:          3 seasons with a win, two trips to the Finals and one Cup.
Tampa Bay:     3 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals and one Cup.
Edmonton:       3 seasons with a win, one trip to the Finals.
Los Angleles:  2 seasons with a win. (still active)
Nashville:         2 seasons with a win.
Phoenix:           1 season with a win. (still active) (14 years as a franchise)
Florida:             1 season with a win, one trip to the Finals.
Calgary             1 season with a win, one trip to the Finals.
Minnesota:       1 season with a win. (11 years as a franchise)
Columbus:      0 seasons with a win. (11 years as a franchise)
NYI:                   0 seasons with a win.
Winnipeg:        0 seasons with a win. (4 years as a franchise)

If the Rangers don’t win the Cup, then we will see a 12th different franchise win the Cup in the last 18 years. In the 18 years prior we only had five franchises hoist Lord Stanley: The Canadiens (6 times), Oilers (5), Islanders (4), Penguins (2) and the Flames (1).

The league is much more competitive now, and I don’t see that changing in the next 18 years, but I wonder long before we see the Islanders, Panthers, Leafs, Oilers, Wild, Flames and Blue Jackets win a series.

I sense it might be longer than most of you want.  

  • Very good article. I appreciate the research.

    “But at some point the fans in Calgary and Edmonton might start losing interest. These two teams can’t continue to rely on a strong economy to keep their buildings sold out. I’d assume that eventually fans will stop going, but right now I don’t see that happening. I wonder what would be the turning point in either market, that stops fans from going to the rink?”

    It’s hard for me to see a point in the future when fans will lose interest. When you sell out a game in March vs the Columbous Blue Jackets and fans are doing the wave you know you’ve got the fanbase by the balls. I hear it’s to an even greater degree in TO.

  • DSF

    Nice numbers. I’m actually more interested in what they say about winning. Interesting to see that only 3 teams have multiple cups in that time period. Are San Jose, Vancouver, and Philly unlucky? It does seem like the model is “be a good team” and then cups will usually follow. Anaheim, Carolina and Tampa being outliers here.

  • Time for a new management group. When do we start protesting at the Katz household? (in Vancouver) Maybe we can get jeanshorts over there for a sit down.

    BTW: that lead photo is hilarious.

  • Bucknuck

    I think if this team can make an appearance in the playoffs, then Edmonton will go crazy.

    no more trading players for draft picks, it’s time to trade draft picks and players for better players!

  • vetinari

    Detroit is clearly the “gold standard” of the NHL for a reason.

    However, when you think about any given season in the modern NHL, only:

    16/30 teams will make the playoffs in any given year (or 53.3%);

    8/30 teams will win at least one playoff round (or 26.7%); and,

    29/30 Maple Leaf fans will have a parade route planned prior to the start of the season. Unfortunately, the route is through “Sucksville”… and it usually starts the first week of October and ends the first week or so of April… and they have to tell everybody about it the whole time. Sigh.

    In the 1980’s, prior to expansion, playoff droughts seemed minor in comparison because most teams made the playoffs. Now, almost half of all teams are on the outside looking in. Hopefully, the Oilers can correct course and get back to the show after this offseason because it has been a long, annoying drought.

  • Jason Gregor

    @vetinari

    Funny thing is that when 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs, fewer teams actually won the Cup.

    In last 17 years, 11 teams have fun…

    In the previous 18 years only 5 teams won…

    So while odds were better to get into the playoffs, fewer teams actually won. Interesting.

  • Bucknuck

    I can’t see the Oilers making the playoffs for 10 years maybe more , their philosophy is wrong and management has got to go.

    Most teams are trying to get bigger with talent. Oilers are stuck in the 90’s speed speed speed.

    It’s like they are trying to put together an all-star team, they have no idea how to build a team.

  • Soccer Steve

    Watching Phoenix eliminate a superior team in Nashville and seeing the fans quickly file out of their arena like lemmings DEFINITELY does not make me envy them in any way. I pity them.

    The NHL should be forward thinkers and get that team out of that unsustainable and ridiculous city.

  • Soccer Steve

    @jake One of the reasons for the futility is that the Canadian teams for the most part have not been bad enough to get the kind of high quality talent that you need to compete. When your hovering around the 14-20 spot every year your not getting those high picks that you need to develop your franchise. The arguement is the Detroit model and the counterarguement is the Pittsburgh model. The Oilers have either by choice or default chosen the Pittsburgh model.

    Getting the first pick 3 years in a row ensures that baring outright stupidity you’ll get some very high end talent. Looking at the Oilers draft record in the previous 2 drafts I’d say that the Oilers will be on the inside looking out for many years to come when it comes to May and June.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think the Oilers should go back to the old Stars Wars intro music they use to come out to for pre-game warm-ups. Put things back on the straight and narrow again.

  • D

    “But at some point the fans in Calgary and Edmonton might start losing interest.”

    Jason – I don’t think the fans in Edmonton will lose interest until such time as the owner begins behaving badly. The only time that attendance in Edmonton was an issue was in the 1990s when the owner was threatening to move the team out of the city. Other than that, historically Edmonton fans will support the team, win or lose.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Mr. Gregor; interesting article chock-full of info, thanks for this. But as a nit picker and to ensure your argument remains unsullied if NYR don’t win we still might not see a 12th different franchise win in the last 18 years IF the devils win.

  • Reg Dunlop

    UNTIL the league makes nets bigger and goalie equipment smaller , size will be a big issue . Everything is getting bigger except the nets ! Closet hockey played in a Venturi tube filled with LINEBACKERS . Thats the new NHL or should it be better put – the emerging NLL (The National Linebacker League ). Oilers not set up in it’s core to accel in this type of league . We have speed and skill of smaller forwards to entertain us , but not headed toward a team that can make the playoffs

    As an example – Even Chicago with Kane , Sharp , Toews , Keith and Seabrook were easy pickings this season . Now , i think those five are quite a bit better than our top five . If Chicago just barely made playoffs last season then how far away are we ? Look at Tampa top five compared to ourselves – both lack an adequate base , but they have some size with skill .