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.