What order the wins and losses came in really doesn’t matter. The Oilers went 4-2-1 in January, and optimism abounded; so far they’ve gone 2-4-2 in February and consequently optimism is in short supply. What matters is that the team is 6-6-3 on the season, sits 11th in the Western Conference, and is just one win out of either the final playoff spot or second-last.
And that means whatever viewpoint one subscribes to – the ‘yes, they’ll make the playoffs’ or ‘Draft Lottery IV: This Time It’s Personal’, there’s something there to back it.
The Amazing 2005-06 Oilers!
The 2005-06 edition of the Edmonton Oilers – also known as the most successful playoff team iced by the franchise since the glory years – started the post-lockout era in mediocre fashion. With a nasty, seven-game road-trip coming up in November, getting off to a good start was important but the Oilers flopped, going 6-6-1 in their first 13 games.
There was a lot of hype entering the season with a pair of high-profile additions – Chris Pronger and Michael Peca – having joined the team. Unfortuantely, in the early going that hype was difficult to justify, particularly with Peca struggling, and the Oilers looked much like the same team they were before the lockout – a team that was life and death for the playoffs and bound for at best a plucky first round victory followed by a quick second round defeat.
The road trip turned out to be not so bad – the Oilers went 4-and-3, hung around until the deadline when Kevin Lowe was able to add Dwayne Roloson from Minnesota and finally solidify the goaltending. The Oilers were a greatly underrated team entering the playoffs – far better than their eighth seed would suggest – and ultimately made it to the Stanley Cup finals, where the loss of Roloson to injury likely cost Kevin Lowe a Cup ring as general manager.
The ‘Worst In Franchise History’ 2009-10 Oilers!
The 2009-10 edition of the Edmonton Oilers – a team that sunk to previously unknown depths, arguably the worst-constructed team in club history – started off in mediocre fashion. With a five-game road-trip on the horizon, the Oilers went 7-7-1 over their first 15 contests, cooling after a 6-2-1 start.
There was a lot of hype entering the season, as Steve Tambellini had his first real chance to put a stamp on the franchise and recruited two high-profile additions – legendary head coach Pat Quinn and new starting goaltender Nikolai Kahbibulin. Fan opinion had drifted downward somewhat after the hot start, and this team seemed like a decent bet to finish in more or less the same place previous editions had – either barely in or barely out of the post-season.
The Oilers went 1-2-2 on the road-trip; not a strong record but not an awful one either, and then Khabibulin hit his first major injury as an Oiler (the last game he played that season was the final one of the road-trip). Replacement Jeff Deslauriers would keep the Oilers competitive for a while, but by the new year it was clear the team was doomed and management decided that ‘rebuild through the draft’ would be the club’s new mantra.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before…
The 2013 edition of the Edmonton Oilers have started their season in mediocre fashion. With a brutal, nine-game road-trip coming up the team has a 6-6-3 record, having cooled after a 4-2-1 start. There was a lot of hype entering the season, given the expected maturation of the young core as well as a pair of high-profile additions in free agent defenceman Justin Schultz and first overall pick Nail Yakupov but the optimistic talk has died down of late given their recent troubles.
The outcome of the road trip, as well as of the season, are yet to be determined. I expected this edition of the team to finish just outside the playoffs, with some potential to rise or fall depending on things like injury. I still feel comfortable with that prediction; this team’s performance this year hasn’t been especially surprising to me.
With that said, the examples of the 2005-06 and 2009-10 teams show that this is one of those things that could still take a ‘Crazy Ivan’ and change dramatically. Could they make the playoffs? Absolutely they could. Could they end up in the bottom five for the fourth consecutive year? That too is a possibility. The fate of the 2013 Oilers is yet to be determined, and it’s not that hard to look one way and see a playoff team, or look the other and see another wasted season.
Recently by Jonathan Willis
- Big Decisions: Signing Ales Hemsky
- The things I like about Ralph Krueger
- Why the Oilers should *not* offer-sheet Ryan O’Reilly
- Mike Gillis blames "some guy in his mother’s basement" for Luongo buyout talk
- For the Oilers, the course is set
- Dustin Penner: On the trade market again
- Best of the Nation: 2.17.13
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter