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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?