2014-15: MEASURING SUCCESS

Success

It’s perfectly understandable after eight seasons out of the playoffs that fans of the Edmonton Oilers want to see their team back in the post-season mix, but if that’s the expectation, you’re in for another year of frustration.

It goes without saying, or should, that what long-suffering Oiler fans want and what they can reasonably expect from a roster that’s been re-vamped considerably by GM Craig MacTavish since he inherited a mess from Steve Tambellini are two distinctly different entities.

The Oilers are coming off a season in which they finished 14th in the Western Conference with 67 points, which left them 24 points behind the eighth-place Dallas Stars. They play in the Pacific Division, a Murderer’s Row that includes the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings along with Phoenix, Vancouver and Calgary.

The Hockey News today picked the Oilers to finish sixth in the division, and even allowing for the most optimistic outcome for coach Dallas Eakins and his team, the THN bottom line is one I have difficulty poking holes in. You can find the entire item here.

“Like Calgary, the Oilers will face a lot of California creamin’ this season. As much as we liked Edmonton’s chances of moving up the standings the past few years, we now think the team is capable of making positives strides forward, but that’s coming on an escalator that’s moving downhill. Any gains the Oilers make this season will have to be in the form of spiritual and psychological advancement rather than in the standings.”

PICK YOUR PROGRESS

workInProgress

If you’re in the camp of fans where the post-season cutline is what separates success from failure – enough of this we’re-getting-better crap and give us a freakin’ playoff game already – “spiritual and psychological advancement” isn’t going to do it for you.

If, on the other hand, when you separate what you want from what you expect and accept that the chances of the Oilers making the playoffs in 2014-15 are only marginally better than Justin Schultz winning the Norris Trophy during his career, the measuring stick changes. What’s yours?

From where I sit, expecting an improvement of 12-15 points is a perfectly reasonable and would mean the Oilers would be playing “meaningful” games in March and April. That’s something we haven’t seen for years. Of course, 79-82 points would still leave the Oilers short of the playoffs.

Based on last season’s standings, that improvement would also move the Oilers up just one place in conference standings, ahead of the Calgary Flames. Based on off-season moves, I can see the Oilers also vaulting past Winnipeg and Nashville. Is there a team I’m missing?

Seeing as it’s eight years and counting since the Stanley Cup final run of 2006, I understand those with a playoff-or-bust mentality, but I don’t see any way a post-season berth is in the cards. What I do expect is a significantly improved – although still flawed – team that’ll stay in contention deeper into the season than we’ve seen in years.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . . 

WalkAMile

One of our regular readers at Oilersnation and an old colleague on the Edmonton sports scene, Paul Wodehouse, is struggling through a very difficult time. I’d like to pass along an item brought to my attention the other day by way of a tweet from Mike Brophy of CBC. The item is here.

Oilersnation is again participating in the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes campaign against family violence Sept. 23 by entering a team. I’m taking part this year. If you would like to donate to my participation, as a couple of you have already generously done, or our team, you can do it here. 

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

  • Serious Gord

    Funny enough i justed posted this reply on C&B 2 days ago so i’ll just repost it here:

    Measuring success…

    The difficult thing about all this is how will success be measured? The Majority will simply look at wins as the end all be all. Some have already stated that anything short of playoffs is a fail. The sad truth is 4 out of your 5 points could be successful and yet the results might not have a resounding affect on the win column. The division the Oilers play in, improvements of other teams around them, injuries(especially to any Center/Hall?)… I do feel we will see an increase in wins thanks to the improvements.. How many? Tough to say. But what I really will be looking for is recognizeable simply by watching the on ice play. How competitive is the team throughout the games. Are they matching the intensity and effort of the opponent? Can they hold onto a lead late in the game? Do the majority of players look like they are putting out maximum effort and giving a damn? Too many years of watching 2nd and 3rd periods of teams steam rolling the Oilers has got me to this point in my fandom.

  • Serious Gord

    Even if we make some progress on the ice (which I am hoping we will) this team is still the joke of the league until Kblowe is fired. He is a disgrace to this team and to professional sports management. But I am probably stepping out of my bounds making this statement because after all, I am only a tier 2 fan. The fans in this city deserve much better.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Can’t argue with anything Robin though I would put the odds of a Schultz Norris in his career a tad higher than the Oiler’s 14/15 playoff chances.

    My frustration with this team over the past few years comes from the lack of staying with the rebuild plan. Playing Ryan Smyth on the PP down the stretch while Yak sits on the bench. Giving away 2 draft picks for a goalie that’s 31 (now 32) and was #4 on his team’s(a divisional rival) depth chart. A fourth rounder for Smithson. I’m tired of losing but moves like these make me scream. Patience is needed now – more than ever.

    Leon, Klefbom, Nurse and every other prospect needs to play in whatever league that will help them long term. Yak needs reasonable even strength ice time and lot’s of PP time. Lander and Arco need an adequate chance to prove they are regular NHL’ers. The Oil should do these things before even thinking about the playoffs.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Cancer is so limited…

    It cannot cripple love.

    It cannot shatter hope.

    It cannot corrode faith.

    It cannot destroy peace.

    It cannot kill friendship.

    It cannot suppress memories.

    It cannot silence courage.

    It cannot invade the soul.

    It cannot steal eternal life.

    It cannot conquer the spirit.

    God speed to our friend Paul Wodehouse.

  • Serious Gord

    I know I am sounding like a broken record [ I have stated this many times]

    Until this team fixes their “goals against] by playing sound defensive hockey as .. six man unit … they will continue to be bottom feeders for ever.,

    Oilers were 30th in the NHL, last year, with 267 goals.

    Check the number for all the teams that made the play offs.. there is most of your answer.

  • Serious Gord

    Three things I will be tracking this season assuming that the playoffs are out of the question:

    1. Can they beat the flames head to head for the season. And can they out point them

    2. Can they do the same with the Canucks.

    3. Will they greatly reduce or eliminate the kind of zero effort, horrendously coached games like they had against cgy and others – (the NYR home game sticks out in my memory not just because I witnessed it live but also because according to a couple of guys who have seen every home game say it was THE worst of the year from start to finish).

    All of these things are achievable. If they fail at a majority of them then it will likely be a part of a bigger failure for the season – finishing less than fifteen points better than last year.

  • Serious Gord

    Three things I will be tracking this season assuming that the playoffs are out of the question:

    1. Can they beat the flames head to head for the season. And can they out point them

    2. Can they do the same with the Canucks.

    3. Will the greatly reduce or eliminate the kind of zero effort, horrendously coached games like they had against cgy and others – (the NYR home game sticks out in my memory not just because I witnessed it live but also because according to a couple of guys who have seen every home game say it was THE worst of the year from start to finish).

    All of these things are achievable. If they fail at a majority of them then it will likely be a part of a bigger failure for the season – finishing less than fifteen points better than last year.

  • Serious Gord

    All I want is for them look like they have a clue. Look like an NHL calibre team. Like, don’t give up a break away every single PP. Don’t get hemmed in your own zone for 5 minutes.

    Everyone points to the C position as the big question mark, but I think the biggest make-or-break areas are goaltending and coaching. They had the worst goaltending and coaching I have ever seen in the NHL last year. Both ‘should’ be better, but I will need to see it.

  • paul wodehouse

    I understand this article serves as a warning to irrational fans, and that the hope train is in another county by now, but the team must click eventually. It may not be this year, but I can’t see it lasting too much longer. The thing with the Oilers, is that they have the talent to reach limits a lot of teams, even a few Western Conference playoff teams, simply can not. With youthful exuberance, the notion of belief is a powerful thing. When this team figures out how to win, with enough experience to create winning routines, and confidence, the team will take off like a child discovering how to ride a bike without training wheels for the very first time.

    We can’t know when this will happen, and sure, it’s easy to say it’s doubtful it will happen this year. It’s safe, it’s predictable, it’s expected that the team will not make the playoffs, but they will figure it out, and I, for one, will not rule out the possibility that it’ll happen this season. I won’t be so abiding to declare this a non-playoff year.

    • The Oilers might figure it out this season, as you put it, and that would signal success to me.

      Even if the Oilers do figure it out, they might not make the playoffs because there’s too much traffic ahead of them. Simply put, this can be a successful season even without a playoff spot.

      • Yes, I agree. The players may know it by the end of the season. There is generally a sense in the room, a mystique about a winning locker room. I would be thrilled if the young guns learned that lesson this year. Those irrational fans, well let’s hope they can be convinced that that is a successful season. A playoff spot would be a nice perk, but as discussed, we can’t reasonably expect that at this juncture. I’m not going to put a cap on our best case scenario, but wouldn’t it be nice if we were the Colorado Avalanche of 2014-15.

    • Reg Dunlop

      I would take some sort of proof that Hallnugeberle snubbing team Canada wasn’t for naught. A cruddy start to the season, say 4 wins in the first 15 games, and I will argue that the refusal to play in the WC was the wrong decision and in fact may be a sign of a lack of character.

  • Spydyr

    I don`t know why everybody thinks the Oiler`s cann`t make the playoffs this year.They have shored up the defense which was a need and they were not blown out of too many games last year.How many games did they loose by just 1 goal I think this year we just might win a few more than what we lost last year by just 1 goal as a result we should think the playoffs are within reach
    j

  • Spydyr

    Watch what people do not what they say.The Oilers will release all the seats for the season on one day this year.The only other time they have done that in recent history was last year.We all know how that ended.

    It appears if there will be one more year of suck look at the glaring hole at centre,now look who is available in next years early first round picks.

  • paul wodehouse

    My success measuring stick will be a goal differential closer to a positive number. Pretty difficult to be a successful team with a negative goal differential.

    This will demonstrate a marked improvement in two way play, defence, and goal tending. Once that is headed in the right direction, really then it’s kind of just about proper development for guys like Yakimov, Yak, Nurse, and LD. Those 4 players could end up being just as significant to the Oilers future success as Hall Nuge and Ebs.

  • paul wodehouse

    Same clueless coach.
    No legitimate No. 2 C.
    Signed a couple of D who shouldn’t be anywhere near top pair on a good team.
    Expansion-team goaltending.

    Oiler fan should be grateful to see 10 W at the Funeral Home this winter.

  • OilCanFan1

    I think they should be finishing with 85 – 90 points for me to consider it a successful season. Lots of trying too would be nice – too many times it looked like they tuned out and mailed it in. Definitely a failure if the Flames finish higher in the standing and/or win the seasons series.