Was It Worth The Pain?

McDavidWin

I screamed so loud that everybody on my block should have been concerned. I got up, screamed YES!, ran into my kitchen then back around into my living room where my wife was looking at me like I was having a psychotic episode, and then did it all one more time. I jumped on Twitter and gave everybody celebratory e-hugs and then tried to write my first McDavid article. It was four lines long and it felt like it took me 15 minutes to piece together because my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. The celebration was real. The elation was real. It wasn’t actually for another few hours before my mind could begin to process what just happened but I was struck by the first question that came to me: Did winning the McDavid lottery just make everything that happened this past season worth it?

It was an agonizing eight months if we start from September and work our way to where we are now. Oiler fans have been put through a torturous affair. Your minds and hearts have been under assault for long enough that nobody would bat an eye if we formed a militia to deal with the problem. Let’s recap a bit, shall we?

BACK STORY

Heading into this season the Oilers had just completed the first year of doomed head coach Dallas Eakins’ tenure. The team had moved backwards in the standings and several players had gone through high profile collapses. 

Devan Dubnyk washed out of three organizations the year before. Nail Yakupov looked wayward under the new coach. Justin Schultz was well on his way to having a medical condition named after him. We didn’t know things would continue to get worse, but all of a sudden the team wasn’t headed in the right direction. 

Since Daryl Katz took ownership of the team the Oilers have been doing their best impression of an AHL squad and most nights they were bang on. The better part of a decade out of the playoffs and no amount of draft picks seemed to fix the problem. 

So we headed into the summer where MacT proclaimed Justin Schultz had Norris potential, gave Petry a one year deal “to challenge him” right into unrestricted free agency, and ignored anybody who questioned his plan to play Draisaitl in the 2C spot.

SEPTEMBER

Tkachev

We went into camp without enough NHL centers to ice a complete team. MacT had traded Gagner for a winger which meant moving a C for a W. Ultimately Gagner would finish with 41 points compared to Purcell’s 34 so it wasn’t just a downgrade positionally, it was a downgrade offensively as well. Even Dallas Eakins said the team had just two NHL pivots and some mud. It was foreseeable and avoidable. MacTavish has admitted the team could have acquired Roy early in the year but didn’t.

But the issues down the middle weren’t our only heartache in September. Let’s not forget about Tkachev. Poor little Tkachev. I have never before loved an undrafted Russian as I loved Tkachev and I believe I probably never will again. He was a star in the prospect tournament, signed by the team, and subsequently had his heart broken because the Oilers, the player, and his agent all failed to read the part of the CBA that clearly stated he was not eligible to be signed at all.

Crushing.

OCTOBER

The losing begins, but not before Marincin is demoted so that Brad Hunt can play on the backend. The team ices lineups that don’t make any sense at all. Wil Acton suited up for the Oilers in October. I bet you forgot about that. 

Here’s a GDB I wrote right after the Kings game where Eakins sat his best defenseman in the Press Box. I was a little fired up, but one could see losing was going to be constant for the Oilers if their decision making was going to stay the same. 

Five straight losses to open the year and brutal decisions all the way around. 

NOVEMBER

This is when things really got tough. The magic number for this month is two. As in, two wins the entire month. The fix for the team was apparently to send Marincin down to OKC to work on his battle level. I wont spend much more time on November because so many of you worked hard to repress these memories, but I’ll leave you with with the fact that Scrivens had an .878 save percentage in November…and that was actually just his second worst month.

DECEMBER

Eakins Bleach

Hey, two more Wins this month! Eakins was finally relieved of his duties but let us not forget the “Transition Period” where MacT thought he needed to go behind the bench for a couple of weeks to help out Nelson. The results before, during, and after that experiment were enough to prove MacTavish was more akin to the wicker basket on the bike than the training wheel. 

Other highlights include the team sending Jesse Joensuu to Europe and not telling anybody why as well as the ever ubiquitous “Craig’s on it” from the presser that Eakins had (that the Oilers hosted?) after he was fired.

JANUARY

The first full month with Nelson solo behind the bench also kicked off with the team trading the previous year’s leading goal scorer for *at the time* what looked like a pick that would be in the 27-30 range and a throw-in fourth liner Klinkhammer. As best as anyone can tell, the team felt his demands to play more minutes were unreasonable.

This was also the month when the Oilers sent Draisaitl back to juniour, but not before making sure he couldn’t play for his country at the WJC. He had failed miserably to produce offence under Eakins, although to his credit he was generating chances even if they weren’t going in.

FEBRUARY

I think there was hockey in this month. I can’t be sure if the Oilers participated much though. Injuries started to leave the team almost unrecognizable from the one that opened the season. The entire month seemed to be a gloomy lead in to the trade deadline. 

The most interesting thing to happen in February wasn’t even related to the on-ice play of the team. It was the Eakins interview with TSN that sparked massive debate and ended in accusations of lying, cover ups, and extreme media bias. Those were the good ole days.

MARCH

The Oilers traded their best Defenseman for a second round and a conditional pick that could go potentially be a third rounder but will likely be a fifth. In January I reported that the Oilers hadn’t begun any contract talks with Petry and they had told him they would trade him. In February Jim Matheson did the same. In March it finally happened. There was some nonsense about a last minute pitch of 4×4 Million but I have not seen that confirmed nor have I heard anything that makes me believe that was the case. They just didn’t want Petry.

Nelson salvages a lot of positivity from the wreckage of the month though. Nail Yakupov really looks like a player again. Eberle is incredible. Klefbom emerges as Edmonton’s best defenseman.

APRIL

Scrivens finished the season with an .800 save percentage in April and allowed 20 goals in just four starts. Season nine out of the playoffs ends and MacT stood in front of the press and said that next year will be developmental as well. Failure is the springboard to development and all that jazz. One final bit of bad news: Yakupov and RNH were held back from playing for their countries in the World Championships because of injuries.

MCDAVID

A season long series of misfortunes was suffered yet again by Oiler fans. No franchise has forced their fans to consume so much bad hockey year after year and they did it to us again. If the prize for all this was going to be Noah Hanifin or maybe even Dylan Strome I see myself saying something different, but when Bill Daly looked at the three card and announced that there was a winner all that suffering became worth it for me.

I’m not asking you if the management team that put the Oilers in a position to pick first in four of the last six drafts should be forgiven of all their sins. I’m only asking if all that pain was worth it for the right to select Connor McDavid.

We’ve been through so much…but…McDavid! 

So was it worth every excruciating second for you too?

  • Derian Hatcher

    Dear Craig, Scott, Kevin, Daryl, Bob and Pat:

    You have blundered your way into this incredible fortune. You can smile and pat each other on the back all you wish but you need to realize that an opportunity of a lifetime has landed in your lap.

    Now is the time for the organization to look in the mirror quit acting like you are the smartest men in the league. Lose the arrogance. Get rid of the attitude that it is a process. Many are skeptical that you are capable of putting the pieces together to build a winner. Please prove them wrong by completing due diligence in every move you consider. Do not go with your “gut” – do not take other teams’ castaways. Set the bar higher for yourselves, the players and the fans.

    This incredible gift from the hockey gods could, and should, be the start of something magical. The players deserve it, and Lord knows the fans (all tiers of fans – sorry Kevin, couldn’t’ resist!) deserve it.

    Katz – this is too important to let friends or boyhood hockey heroes “try” to build a winner Even though the current management has done little, if anything, to demonstrate they are capable of building a team, give them one season to surround this young man and the rest of the core with actual impactful hockey players who will contribute to building a winner. No more Belov’s/Grebeshkov’s/Actons/Nikitins/Hunts/Frasers, etc.

    Kevin, your comment that 29 other general managers would trade their roster for yours is finally true – no thanks to anything that you did!

    DO NOT SCREW THIS UP!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m more than a little concerned Lowe and MacTavish are the wrongs guys to oversee a group of kids such as this. 5 years into the rebuild, they’re still claiming years more are still needed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pumped as anybody Connor McDavid may soon be an Oiler. What I’m not so sure of is if the guys that contributed most to the entrenched losing culture, are still in charge of righting this organization. Is one kid suddenly going to change the way these guys do business?

    This probably has a lot to do with the underwhelmed look Connor had last night. He’s about to become part of an organization that is chock full of excuses, and zero commitment to winning. A week and a half ago Craig let 25 players off the hook as far as next season goes. Prepare yourself for another 82 game death march he told the fans.

    Welcome to hockeys answer to hell on earth Connor McDavid.

  • CMG30

    The Oilers have been depositing karma coins with the hockey gods basically since Gretzky was traded. So yes, we absolutely deserve this!

    I only hope we have enough change left left over to cover an upgrade in MacTavish’s decision making ability.

  • I have been an Oiler fan since 79/80 and last night’s moment was No.3 for biggest emotions with being behind the Oilers 1st cup, then Gretzky’s trade. All three times are extremely close to being number 1 moments over-all.

    Wow….. was driving home on highway after flying in from Dominican and it was euphoric!!!! BTW…many hockey fans were at resort….awesome trip.

    The prospect Camp and Penticton Tourney this summer are gonna be extra fun and special with the kids like McD, Nurse, Chase, Platzer, Roy, Betker, Khaira, Yakimov, Winquist, Laleggia (Hobey Baker finalist), etc, all being there.

    McDavid now makes Bob Nicholson have to put tremendous pressure on all scouting and management to do it right. Also,…there is no need to trade the core of forwards cause all are affordable together…especially wit Draisaitl, MacD on entry contracts, and Yak at $2.5 mill per year/2 yrs.

    Three top line kid centres at six feet plus!!!!!….(NUge “21 yrs”, McD “18 yrs”, and Draisaitl “19 yrs” makes this the best set in the league for years to come if all produce big time….WOW!!!!

    The Oil got Hall/McD as one pairing, with RNH/Ebs next, then Draisaitl/Yak…third. Most excellent!!!

    BTW….Gazdic better be ready to police and protect for this team big time.

    The trade bait assets for a top D and/or goalie just changed with maybe packages of any of Purcell, Gordon (Lander takes his place/Yakimov in the wings), then…. Ference, Nikitin (Buyout) and Schultz.

    These three defence-men are now very expendable as Klefbom, Nurse, Marancin, and Laleggia can provide passing/offense from backend…..

    With tradeable assets, the Oilers can now easily try to trade the next one to two first rounders (2016/17) plus also this year’s from Pittsburgh…. and/or even add other second to third rounders in packages so as to start getting that top 2-D/top 4-D, and/or top goalie.

    Anyways, I am still shocked, extremely hockey happy, and I’m drinking a few beers to celebrate all day today…. Yippeeeee Kayaaaa … Wow!!!!

  • Chainsawz

    Stage one of rebuild is in full swing with McDavid added . Fans need at least one more lucky move to move forward . A new GM to build properly around the youth , and with any more luck go for a third with a proven NHL coach to develop them . Time for the trifecta – being bold . MacT. is holding us back , relocate him if necessary .

  • freelancer

    No, it wasn’t.

    Look, I’m thrilled we’re getting McDavid. This is huge. It fixes centre depth, it lets us put Draisaitl on a wing if we want to, it gives us flexibility when negotiating with Derek Roy, it permits us to accelerate the rebuild and trade assets to prove this core can win.

    But it’s not worth it because it’s the same old management. The guys with some of the worst judgment in pro sports, the guys telling us Justin Schultz is a Norris candidate and that Nikita Nikitin was totally worth more money than Jeff Petry, the guys who thought Dallas Eakins is a better coach than Ralph Krueger (even though Krueger had made the first progress for the franchise in six years)… they’re in charge.

    And now when the stakes are so high – because failure with this group is now “anything less than the Cup”, arguably multiple times – now the stakes are so high and the idiots in charge bought themselves a lifeline for their careers but they’re probably just bad enough to not build a winner.

    It’s as if you’ve assembled the greatest army in the world through sheer pain, luck, and persistence, but you decided to put your 9 year old cousin with down’s and autism in charge.

  • Chainsawz

    Would be love to see MacT pull some Garth Snow-esque moves similar to his acquiring of Boychuk and Leddy along with Halak. If we could acquire two defensemen of similar quality for the a similar price (two second round picks for Boychuk, 3 mid level prospects for Leddy), and a goalie (Niemi?), next year could be really exciting.

  • Chainsawz

    We have been given a gift from the hockey gods. In the hands of competent management everything would be very, very rosy going forward. Most, but not all, of the obvious holes would be filled this summer and we would be on our way up. Unfortunately this management team has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they are profoundly incompetent by every reasonable measure. They can’t judge talent, they can’t judge coaches and they make snap decisions about players that are almost always wrong and are too stubborn to admit it against all the evidence. See Jeff Petry.

    So while I am thrilled to embrace MacJesus, I realize the core problems remain and are unlikely to be going anywhere soon. Our best hope, unlikely as it is, is that MacTavish is becoming a little less arrogant and has learned something from his grotesque mismanagement the past two years.

  • Derian Hatcher

    I think it would be silly to trade anyone right away. We finally have depth at center, this doesn’t mean trade Drai or avoid signing Roy. This allows Drai to actually play some time in the AHL and Roy can support the two young centers and let Lander play on the wing and he can replace Gordon when the time is right. Keep the depth at center for gods sake!!

    How do we get the pieces we need?? Draft picks and prospects and maybe swapping some roster Dmen. I’m personally ok with trading Schultz for a second pairing older veteran that can slide into the top pairing when required.
    Pittsburg’s pick plus will get us a Talbot or compatible
    We could maybe even package that pick, Schultz and some other prospects (musil or Mauricin) to relieve Chicago of Crawford and Seabrook.

    My point being leave the center depth and forward core alone and start using some picks and prospects plus free agent signing to fill some holes.

    Thank you draft lottery for changing everything!

    If for some reason our lacklustre management trade that pick for a package Im burning the city down!

    • freelancer

      I would actually like to see McDavid at least start the year on the wing. Yes game changer, generational talent, etc, etc. He’s still a kid. I’m still shaking at what this means. It was fun to make mock lineups with McDavid but now that it’s actually reality.

      I really think they will trade Eberle now. This team is unbelievably stacked with forwards. If Pouliot-Nuge-McDavid is a top line and Hall-Roy-Yak is your second… scary.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    It was worth it, of course only can I say that in retrospect.

    The kids need a mentor. I wonder what it’d take to pry Big Joe Thornton out of his no movement clause? I bet he could be had for Ebs, straight up. No?

  • freelancer

    It is worth the pain—IF we start from this point on to be positive!!! Forget the usual targets—-as MAC-T said before the Lottery: Some General Manager will get a whole lot smarter after the lottery draw and the Summer Draft.

    Lets allow him to get smarter and be smarter and forget the nit-picking. Lets start the new season in the Fall (The last at the old arena. Use the entire year as a Dress Rehearsal for the following year when the Oil will be in the downtown Entertainment Centre and we will be there to cheer them on. Here We Go Oilers! Here We Go!!!!

  • A-Mc

    I’m not sure if it’s worth it or not. I’m excited about getting McDavid but there is also a lot of hype around this kid and i want to see for myself, what he can add at the NHL level.

    If the Oilers management group meet and decide to pull the trigger on big moves this summer because ‘Now is the time’, then i will be excited. If MacT stays the course and nothing is added except more kids that need development, then… *sigh*

    McDavid is only 1 player, but if he affords another player to shake lose and be used to better the Defense, then i think good things could happen.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Listen… if the rest of the teams in this league want to bitch and moan about the Oilers winning the draft lottery, let them take it up with Gary Bettman, their local mathematician, or the designer of the lottery-ball machine.

    But, today, my conscience is clear. In my mind, the Hockey Gods finally stepped in for the Oilers.

    On a hot August day 27 years ago, hockey fans in northern Alberta were told that Wayne Gretzky had gotten too big for Edmonton. We were told that trading Gretzky to L.A. was, ultimately, “in the best interests of the league.”

    We were told that this needed to happen in order to “expand the game” to “untapped markets in the southern United States.” We were told to put up AND shut up.

    Save for a one last-gasp Cup win two years later, economics have forced the Oilers to play the smalltown, Canadian underdog role for the better part of three decades.

    Post-Gretzky-trade, hockey pundits in the U.S. and Toronto have been one-upping each other in its jeers and sneers of this franchise and this city. They tell us Edmonton simply can’t – Won’t! Shouldn’t! – attract top-end free-agents or hang onto its superstars because the city’s too small. The downtown’s too dumpy. The arena’s too old. Thirty-seven owners are too many owners. Our winters are too cold. There’s too much travel. No one in the U.S. can find the Oilers on TV … or Edmonton on a map.

    Instead of gaining recognition for the hustling, bustling, interesting capital city of one of the healthiest, wealthiest jurisdictions in North America, we’ve been derided as a “northern outpost” that should feel fortunate that it was allowed into the league at all.

    But, two and a half decades later, on a windy spring day in northern Alberta, the Hockey Gods finally delivered a long-overdue piece of payback for this franchise.

    We have much work to do and we must not allow poor management or bad coaching to waste this chance … but we must not apologize for getting it.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I think it was indeed worth it. I have not had this much hope for the team since the lockout year. Hall, Nuge and Ebs, had some experience under their belts. The Oilers had won the lottery and taken this Russian kid who seemed to love hockey, love Edmonton, and love scoring goals. And then they also managed to and the biggest free agent on the market that summer. All those guys then tore it up in the minors, especially the free agent. And then the season hit and Oiler fans realized that a few good players does not a team make. The rest of the squad was awful. And though Dubnyk wasn’t terrible that year, him and Habby kept letting in these soul crushing softies once a game.

    Well I was right to enjoy that year because that’s the best the team has finished in six friggin years.

    But all that pain, not even just this season, seems worth it now. I always said the Oilers did their rebuild completely backwards. Whereas other teams found their Seabrooks and Kunitz’s in later rounds, developed them, then got the Jacks and Kings when their was already a team in place, the Oilers started with stars and remembered they needed a team afterwards. Only now are we seeing the Landers and the Pitlicks and the Klefboms emerging. The team did such a bad job of drafting and developing, then compounded that with the hiring of Eakins, it really set the rebuild back.

    But, none of that matters now. The Oilers just got Sydney Crosby for nothing. Nothing! And the best part is the kid does not even need to step into the top line right away. I look forward to the days where he centres Hall and Yak, letting Nuge, Pouliot and Ebs to destroy second tier competition, but for now, if they resign Roy, he can come in and just play without expectation.

    If MacT can pull his head from butt and get this team some friggin defence this year, sky’s the limit for years to come.

  • Truth

    I believe this team has been tanking since they decided to fall for Hall. Now they have a year to get the ship pointed in the right direction – then give us some form of competitive hockey going into the new arena season.

    Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

    If this wasn’t their plan, Katz must replace the management group. Over the past 6, nay 9 years the Oiler’s have not shown anything that would lead me to think they know what to do now.