THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH

For all the differences between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers, including the cities they play in, the two teams that contested the 2006 Stanley Cup final have one thing in common – it’s pretty much sucked to be a fan of either organization since then.

Fans in Edmonton, who watched the Oilers sneak into the playoffs in 2006 and then come within one win of celebrating a sixth Stanley Cup, haven’t had a playoff series to cheer about since then. It’s a seven-year drought that’s about to become eight straight years. The Oilers haven’t only missed, they’ve missed by a mile. This, we know.

The Hurricanes, who come calling at Rexall Place Tuesday, haven’t taken the has-been bit to the same extreme as the Oilers, but they’ve missed the playoffs for four straight seasons and have made the post-season just once – in 2009 — since they hoisted the Cup in Raleigh. They’re in contention in the Eastern Conference this season.

That’s an uncomfortable comparison for both teams, to be sure, and a relationship that’s an anomaly as far as I know – just one playoff appearance combined for the teams over the past seven years. I haven’t been able to find two Cup finalists from any year previous to 2006 who combined for just one playoff appearance in the following seven years.

When the Oilers and Hurricanes missed the playoffs in 2007, it marked the first time in NHL history that both Stanley Cup finalists from the previous year failed to qualify for the post-season the next year.

LONG WAY DOWN

The Hurricanes, as Edmonton fans are all-too aware, at least got their names engraved on the silverware in 2006 and then made the conference finals in 2009. They’ve been in playoff contention in other years as well. The Oilers? They got first overall picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov and a ham sandwich.

Just five players from the 2006 Cup final remain with the Oilers and the Hurricanes. The lone Oilers are Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth, while Radek Dvorak now plays for the Hurricanes, joining Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward.

The teams have gone through eight coaches since then. Edmonton’s had now-GM Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins behind the bench. Peter Laviolette, Paul Maurice and Kirk Muller have run the gate down on Tobacco Road.

I remember chatting with Chris Pronger going into that 2006 Cup final and I recall him hammering on the point about seizing the moment and leaving everything on the ice because there was no way of knowing when, or if, the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup would come again.

Fans filing into Rexall Place for this match-up of the 2006 Stanley Cup finalists can certainly attest to that after seven years, going on eight, of nothing but futility since.

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

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  • Retsinnab5

    My son was born in 1999. He has been alive for 2 millenniums, 2 centuries and 3 decades. Yet he can barley remember the last time the Oilers played a playoff game.

    Fire K-lowe

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The player who made the biggest impact in that series…..

    Marc Andre Bergeron.

    Without that fateful hit, the Oil would be 6 time Stanley Cup Champions today.

    • The Bergeron play swung the final over the balance of the series, but the Oilers coughed up a 3-0 lead with Roloson in goal in Game 1.

      It’s easy to point at Bergeron as the goat, but the play in which Roloson was injured came after the Oilers frittered that lead away and before Conklin misplayed the puck on the play Brind’Amour got the winner on.

      • But I do see the oil recovering if they didn’t have conklin in net. The next game was a blowout, and I believe that a big part of that was the loss of faith without roloson who was a catalyst on that team. I blame MA Bergeron for that cup loss. Which is ironic because I let Steve Smith off the hook for his dumb play.

        • D

          Conklin is listed as a goat in my profile (along with Steve Smith and Pocklington). To me, one of the biggest mistakes of the last decade was having Conk-head as backup in net for Game 1 of the SCF.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        i think, as was mentioned, the reason the Oilers lost the cup finals was they couldn’t hold a 3-0 first period lead in game #1 in Raleigh. i firmly believe that Jussi Markkanen played well enough for us to win the cup if we could have just held that lead in game #1.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        i think, as was mentioned, the reason the Oilers lost the cup finals was they couldn’t hold a 3-0 first period lead in game #1 in Raleigh. i firmly believe that Jussi Markkanen played well enough for us to win if we could have just held that lead in game #1 and won it.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    I’m typically not an overly emotional person, but watching that SCF Game 7 intro almost brought me to tears.

    Almost 8 years later, and it’s still too soon to talk about.

  • Retsinnab5

    I was at 1/2 of the home playoff games in 06 since I share my tickets, virtually every game I was at went into overtime and I think everyone was double O.T. and the Oilers won every one, it was so load and exciting, after the game we had the 2 hour drive home and I was custom spraying so 2 hours of sleep and off to work,it just about killed me but so much fun.

  • Spydyr

    After 2006 the league went one way , and we tried to emulate the old Oilers thru draft , etc.. We never imagined with the new rules how much size and grit would dictate the new game and order of things to come . Only this draft have we gone all out to upsize , and I doubt we will have much success for 2-3 years down the road . Slow for Oilers to recognize , and just as slow trying to redevelop any of it . A new GM and Coach have had even less success than those they replaced ,despite everything . This feels more like the first year of the rebuild than the 8th to be honest . The obvious , always draft skill did not work for us .

  • **

    Kevin tell me why did Pronger want out after only 1 year ? The Pronger curse continues it will be eight long years and no playoffs. Kevin us diehards are hurting please quit. The other 44 SS would sure look good here wouldn’t he, compared to the group of bums we have currently on the backend.I sure miss Cal and the previous ownership.

    • Tikkanese

      He didn’t want out. His wife thought a change of scenery would stop Chris’ extra curricular non marital affairs he was having. True story. Watch his exit press conference.

      • Zarny

        I was told from a fairly reliable source that there was an agreement between Pronger and Lowe that it would be a trial run for 05/06 to see how the family liked Edmonton(his wife is a daughter of the Dupont empire) and if it didn’t work out he would be traded to a contender in the states. This does make sense since they even rented their furniture, if this and the extra curricular things are true then that is why the deal with Anaheim happened so quickly. No one in their wildest imagination thought this team would be one win away from winning the cup including Pronger and Lowe. Lets hope Darnell is the next “Rake”.

        • Tikkanese

          Well I have two sources. First the exit press conference question and answer from Pronger himself. Second, I played ball hockey with a former teammate of Pronger’s from that very season. He said many details of it, including Pronger’s pick up line, who the girl was, what her job was(entry level sports reporting of some kind, I don’t remember now), etc.

          Not to mention, the sheer speed of the deal immediately after the season ended. Lowe did the classy thing and got him out as fast as possible, given the situation. Lowe could have been typical Lowe and waited for the best possible deal or to screw the guy over(Comrie etc). That alone disproves the theories of the wife didn’t like the weather/city. They had all off season yet to get a deal done. The whole family could have stayed anywhere they wished during that time.

          By the way, the “renting of furniture” doesn’t really line up with Prongers’ story of how all his furniture was burned by angry Oiler fans. He went off on that on the Jim Rome show one time.

      • Tikkanese

        That was probably part of the reason. However there has to be more to it .Peca wasn’t exactly happy to be here and left after 1 year. I have to believe K Lowe pissed them both off just my opinion. I am sure they both would have stayed if Ken Holland or Stan Bowman were running the team.

        • Zarny

          Unlikely.

          Peca is an American. He simply didn’t want to live in Edm.

          Pronger leaving simply boils down to happy wife, happy life.

          Nothing would have changed if Ken Holland or Stan Bowman were running the team I’m afraid.

          Peca and Pronger’s wife would still have preferred a different postal code.

        • Tikkanese

          No, there doesn’t have to be more. He got another woman pregnant. His wife made him deal with that and then demanded the change of scenery. The reporters even questioned him on it during the exit press conference and his reply was “ask her, is she pregnant now?”.

          All the smoke screen stories of how his wife didn’t like the cold don’t make any sense. He just got a massive raise to play for the Oilers and almost won a cup. Got all the playing time he could handle, was the toast of the city. No way K Lowe would or could have pissed him off enough to want to leave the city. It was 100% save the family effort.

          Peca thought he was better than he was at that point of his career. That’s why he left. Most of the others were rentals and all got to much $ on the open market to match.

  • Rocket

    Since 2006 I’ve hated The Hurricanes and I always will. I hear Raleigh is nice though.

    Man it feels like forever since that Cinderella run. Remember when The Oilers were in the playoffs? I barely do. Wasn’t that before facebook , twitter and iphones? I’m not sure but time flies when my favourite team sucks at hockey.

  • Rocket

    Robin,

    The thing I find most interesting is that the Hurricanes have a Big #1 centre, and a proven #1 goalie. 2 things the Oilers do not have.

    They may not be a powerhouse, but the Hurricanes have consistently been better than the Oilers since that Cup year. as well.

    • The problem for the Oilers is they spent years finishing just above or just below the playoff cutline as the Hurricanes have and that didn’t work in building a contender.

      The Oilers haven’t fared any better, at least not yet, by finishing 30th, 30th and 29th. What’s left?

      The point of this item is that both 2006 finalists have been remarkably inept — historically so — since they met. A one-off, if ever there was one.

      • Bishai in the Benches

        Robin,

        I see your point the problem was during that time management thought (and rightfully so) that Pronger was the centerpiece of the team. I remember Al Strachan breaking the news on HNIC that Pronger wants out… I didn’t believe it. The Pronger fiasco left a huge hole in the Oilers that they never fully recovered.

        If it wasn’t for that that teams was built to repeat at least contend for the playoffs.

  • Was at every home game during the ’06 playoffs… still tears me up inside every time watching that reply in game 7. The team we have now is more talented but man did that team put effort every game.

    I remember fans being hard on Peca… but he and Pisani delivered when it counted. I would take the 06 Oilers in a heartbeat over the current Oilers not just because they went into the final but because they “Competed” every night during the season. They were just a goaltender away from being a solid team throughout the regular season… and then they go Roloson.

  • Retsinnab5

    I propose an all time goat list. I’ll Start…
    Pocklington (after august 9 1988)
    Steve Smith (True Dynasty Lost)
    MA Bergeron (Killed last shred of dignity)
    Belanger (where offence goes to die)
    Conklin (Sucks)
    KLOWE (One year where the coach pulled a team out of nowhere. I will never forgive the two class of fan and six ring comments. You’ve had 13 years pal.)
    T..a….b..e…l..i…n…n….i (still assessing him)
    Thats all I got for now, I don’t know if any current players have earned a spot on an all time list, but they are doing their darndest.

  • Al Davis

    This seven-year itch is starting to feel more like an STD. The sex was great when it happened, but then we found out Pronger had herpes and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

  • D

    Stanley Cup finals in 2006, if the Oilers won the first game with 3-1 lead they could have won the cup that year. They blew the lead and lost the game then the next game too. Down 3-1 in games and came back to tie 3-3 was amazing. Again game 7 they were flat and lost 3-1. That’s a painful summer for me, but then it’s a great run and I was so thrilled with the playoffs that year. Hopefully Oilers can make playoffs again soon.

  • Al Davis

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the real key to the 2006 success – arguably the best player in the world at the time anchored the defence. Face it, Pronger was a horse, heck, he was a whole team of horses, and he cemented his reputation by carrying 2 more teams on his back into the SCF, winning once. Hot goaltending, Pisani in a zone, and a bunch of guys inspired to play so far above their heads that their noses bled – has Stoll ever played better? Smyth? Torres? Hemsky? A rock solid 3-4 and 5-6 D.

    Man, just thinking about that team makes me shake my head in disbelief at how far the Oilers have fallen.

  • EasyOil

    In my view, the worst part of that cup run was obviously not winning, but all the “playoff” overpays (Hemsky excluded) on contracts that came after, even with the knowledge that Peca, Pronger, Spacek would not be around. Those players had big playoff impacts on the play of those who remained and got the overpays. So now you can’t pay Smyth and your salary structure is off.

  • oilerjed

    @RB
    These are sour memories RB. Unfortunately I am reminded of the 2006 FAIL everytime I am at the Campbell River Airport, where a glass encased Rob Brindamour Canes jersey sits prominently in the 10′ * 10′ waiting room. Right up the road from the Rod Brindamour Arena. Man I hate Campbell River. If I only hadnt had previous bad experiences with breaking glass……………

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      it was a bad memory for me too, but i remember at the time i took it rather well and figured we had enough talent to get back to the finals again, having beaten very good teams like San Jose, Detroit and Anaheim to get there…..then Pronger, Peca and Samsonov left, the Oilers tried to UFA sign their way back to the finals, failed miserably, and….well, here we sit today with this dog’s breakfast. 🙁

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I ask each current oiler if this isn’t something they want to be a part of. If it is then they better show up like they want it, if they don’t they should look at a career change.

  • Zarny

    Love the articles about the 2006 Oilers because I think it highlights the fundamental flaw in the Oilers rebuild and the path forward.

    The 2006 team was characterized by depth. All contenders are. Depth down the middle, depth on the blueline, depth in net.

    The current Oilers are the antithesis of depth.

    As we’ve seen if 1 or 2 of the top 6 F are injured half their forwards become borderline NHL players.

    Conventional wisdom with young players who are prone to making mistakes is to support them with veterans.

    Instead the entire 4th line has even less NHL experience than the kids.

    And they are supported by a below average D where only Ference has more than 200 games experience. Heck, Ference and Petry are the only D with over 100 games experience.

    And in G is a 27 y/o “prospect” who may or may not be good enough to make the playoffs.

    The bold moves for a top pairing D, 50-60 pt power F or elite G will not easy; but adding basic NHL depth should be.