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.

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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

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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.

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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.


  • Batfink

    If you do not have the players there is little to suggest going upwards in the standings . From a poor Gm to an even greener Gm that drove us backwards last season despite all the changes . New Gm has done little to fill the gaping holes in personnel . Until that changes optimism is in a holding mode . The GM sets the squad and coaches can only coach the group they are stuck with . I see no progress forward to suggest our GM is capable of taking us forward despite all his changes . We were expected to push Anaheim just a year ago for the last playoff spot by most odd makers . Well we all know now how that went with our acquisitions . Anaheim makes a couple of astute moves and we went opposite way and plummeted back to basement . Guess who was most responsible for that ? It certainly was not Tams .

    • ” We were expected to push Anaheim just a year ago for the last playoff spot by most odd makers .”

      I don’t recall ANY odds-maker saying this would happen, let alone MOST. Where does this come from? I’d like to see it.

      • Craig1981

        Sportsnet had Oilers at 25/1 and Anaheim, Colorado and Dallas at 40/1 . Sportsbook and Fox had Oilers @25/1 and Anaheim @ 22/1 .We were expected to do much better than we did .

        • Sportsnet and Fox aren’t odds-makers.

          I did find Sportsbook, however. Given that this outfit had the San Jose Sharks at the same odds as the Oilers, I’d question whether they’re an authority:

          Anaheim Ducks 22 to 1
          Montreal Canadiens 22 to 1
          Edmonton Oilers 25 to 1
          Minnesota Wild 25 to 1
          Ottawa Senators 25 to 1
          San Jose Sharks 25 to 1

          In any case, that’s a long way from “most.”

          • I wasn’t expecting a playoff appearance but after 2 years of fairly solid gains ; from 20 games under .500, to 8 games under .500, and then only 3 games under in the lock-out shortened season I was hoping for the next level, and definately not a 12 game slide back to 15 games under .500. I don’t expect progress in the standings every year but it seamed they took a really big step backwards last year. And on the ice is only part of it, the more Kblowe speaks the less respect the rest of the league has for this team. The way he handles himself in the media is a complete embarrassment to this team. And that earns him a promotion from his bud. But what do I know, I am only a tier 2 fan.

          • ONLY IN EDMONTON does Kevin remain employed. What a complete and utter failure and embarrassment that conceded milk man from LaChute QC is.
            THEN the truly ridiculous occurs. He’s actually defended by the town media except for a few brave scribes like McKinnon. And Brownlee deserves some credit there to.
            But honestly, if you’re not wondering where his resignation papers are… I want to come work for you. Because that folks… Is very easy money.

        • Anyone with a brain in their head knows that you font listen to.a damn thing Fox has to say when it comes to hockey.

          Coming out of the last lockout some bonehead writers at SI I believe had Edm at #3 league wide in power rankings. Does that mean we should be disappointed they didnt challenge for the Presidents Trophy? Get a clue

  • ThinkingOutLoud

    it really is the same ol problem, it appears we got bigger but no way in hell did we get grittier. We will get pushed around, loose battle after battle, get frustrated and get hurt. Everybody should get ready for another season of men against boys.

  • Serious Gord

    I suspect the casual oilers fan is going to have a difficult time swallowing a season where the oil finish 24-25 which is where I put them. They aren’t seeing what robin et al are.

    Compound that with how the season is likely to progress – lots of good news early – a scandalously easy schedule, likely few injuries and two goalies that other teams really haven’t had much data on regarding where the flaws in their game are.

    Then the bottom falls out. The big western teams maul what little there is at centre and top end defense and the below average goalies are exposed meaning a grim end to the season and those casual fans – the vast majority – will be out for blood.

  • Bloodsweatandoil

    The Oilers are on a verge of a remarkable dynasty, longest streak of playoff futility.Yikes.What are the advanced stats for this to happen? Daryl that would’nt look good moving into your new palace.Please hockey gods we need a serious intervention.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I agree the Oilers wont make the playoffs this year or even next but as long as we finish ahead of Calgary its ok. I am getting very tired of Edmonton teams getting beat by Calgary.

  • Batfink

    I think we are a playoff bubble team. We don’t play EVERY game in our division.. if we can manage to win 50 % of the games against our division ( I know it’s a big IF) I think we will be real close.. It’s a different year for me as I think we made some good changes such as size and most importantly improvement on the blueline. Four things need to break right for us to compete for a playoff spot..

    1. Yak needs a breakout year.. 70 pts..

    2. Nuge needs to return to his rookie year pts per game

    3. We need a min of a 918 save%.

    4. Jultz has a 50 pt season.

  • Bloodsweatandoil

    I can accept that for this year, holes have been filled and not just plugged for a change, yes we are short a #2 C, but I think it can filled from within barring any injuries.

    I still have my doubts about Eakins and I hope he learns his lessons from last season. With his choices of assistants being granted, its all on him now.

    But, I still made a $100 bet with my Flyer fan friend last weekend that the Oilers will make post season this year lol…….heres hoping!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ole Steve came in and did exactly what he was brought in here to do….and that was drive this team face first into the mud. He succeeded beyond Katz and Lowes wildest dreams I have to think. Three first overalls on his watch is the stuff dreams are made of. The problem is now, how do you turn off the suck when it’s been their gameplan for so long.

    Over to you now Daryl and Kevin. You’ve shown you know how to wreck things, and Kevin says he knows a thing or two about winning. Lets see if you and 6 rings are equally as capable of reversing that losing culture you felt was necessary.

    • paul wodehouse

      Q…it appears that you are leaning, albeit not generously, toward a change in Oiler fortunes if these two can put the right product on the ice at the right time…maybe even to have a team that might be close to middle of some road down the road … AND far enough away from yet another charity lottery pick…
      …therefore my friend I think it’s time to get back to reality, change that mcjesus moniker thingy you’ve been sporting for these last many months and be QUICKSILVER BALLET again!

      your other words at comment #45 are heartfelt

      many thanks
      wodehouse

  • 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I say they make the playoffs. LD’s great play will pressure older kids. Oil could be magic. …stranger things have happened.
    ?? What team has best winning %? In terms of. ..a playoff appearance resulting in a cup? We must be close to top, no? Special things happen when oil make the dance.

  • Batfink

    Hope springs eternal………..I for one am hoping that the so called “kids”, take a giant leap and propel this team forward.

    Mac T has made many moves that help point arrows in the right direction, especially on defence. The additions of Pouliot and Purcell also helo balance the offence, or so I’m hoping.

    All we need is one of the prospects ( or two say LD & Kahira) to have very strong camps and the positive energy roll!

    I’m hoping that Dallas Eakins has learned who his players are and how to use them so we can start the season of on a winning note. Winning the first few games will be the litmus test of the balance of the season……..fingers crossed.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.