Winning the lottery means a lot of things for this franchise
that will now be buying rounds for every bingo caller for the rest of time. A few
random ping pong balls in the right sequence and the entire organizational
philosophy can take a 180 degree turn. A week ago we were talking about another
“Developmental year”. Now there would be no greater mistake than sitting back
and waiting for magic to happen on its own.
When Craig MacTavish gave his thoughts on the plan for next
season, after nine out of the Playoffs and six since the team started formally
rebuilding, he said, “For me, I would forecast it as another developmental year.”
Another year where the growth of the team would be largely
determined by the growth of the players already in the organization.
Forecasting just a few changes (goaltending being half of the changes), that
sounded like Oiler management speak for, “I’m not doing anything until the new
arena opens its doors.”
It sounded a lot like, “The mandate for this team isn’t to
actually win games and nobody will be held accountable if they don’t.”
For a management group that’s been mailing it in for years,
the plan set the bar so low that the risk of failure was negligible. When the
goal is to lose in a game where only winning matters there can be no
consequences. If you lose, you were supposed to. If you win, you’re a genius.
Then Bill Daly punches Edmonton’s Golden Ticket and
everything now has to change.
The plan to let the team go through another developmental
year was pathetic before, now it would be catastrophic.
The facts are plain. The Edmonton Oilers will have three years
of Connor McDavid on his ELC. He will probably hit all of his bonuses which
means he will earn 3.75M per season. After that I can’t envision a scenario
where he makes less than 7-8 Million dollars per season if he is as good as
advertised and that includes a discount. The Oilers have Hall, RNH, and Eberle
on 6 Million dollar deals and Yak will get two years of playing with McDavid
before he gets his next deal (he’ll be buying rounds for bingo callers for the
rest of his life too).
We haven’t even figured Klefbom, Nurse, Draisaitl, or Goalie
X into this equation. Then you need to figure the team will have to find a top
pairing player in the next 12 months and pay him too. The Oilers are going to
struggle to keep this core together unless people start taking sweetheart home
The truth is this club has been rebuilding for so long and
drafting so high that their window to succeed with the group they’ve assembled
isn’t very big. The cap is going to be a concern when McDavid earns his second
contract. They might be able to navigate it but there will be sacrifices.
That means this neglectful development plan has to be
The time to start going for it is now. This core cannot wait
for a miracle, they just got one.
It is not reasonable to expect this roster with minor tweaks
of supporting positions to make the playoffs. They need two defensemen and a
goaltender. They need Boychuk, Leddy, and Halak but instead of the maligned
Garth Snow making the deals it’s the maligned Craig MacTavish making the deals.
They will have center depth as of June 26th. They
have more than enough wingers to ice a decent team. They have young defensemen
in Klefbom, Nurse, and Marincin and two of those three are already better than all
of the veterans on the roster. They need two impactful defensemen and at least one
Most of all, though, they need the mandate to win now. They
need the organization to weigh every decision against whether or not the move
would help the team win today.
That means there can be no more of this “We are a few years
away” nonsense. The clock is ticking on the most productive years for the
majority of Edmonton’s young core and they will get just 246 games of McDavid
for less than 4 Million per season. Every game played in McDavid’s ELC that isn’t
done trying to win a championship is a complete and utter failure to recognize the
fleeting nature of these opportunities.
When Bob Nicholson was announced as the CEO of the Oilers
Entertainment Group, he spoke about how everything he did in Hockey Canada was
about trying to win championships at every level. Specifically, he said:
“Holding up this logo, the color of gold was always in my
past. With Hockey Canada our goal was to go after gold and to have gold medal
performances as we moved through every one of those championships.”
It is impossible to imagine that a plan to sit back and let
everything get better on its own resonates with the new head man in the
organization. Nicholson stressed that he was brought on by Katz to build a winner.
He spoke to how the gold background behind the Oilers logo had deeper meaning
for him. The landscape for the Oilers is set up for changes. Whatever plan was laid out a week ago can be thrown out today.
2015-2016 cannot be a developmental year. Not under any
circumstances can this organization drag its feet any longer. Connor McDavid
changes everything for the team.
The time to win is now.