When discussing the future of the
Oilers I am often confronted with the idea that the team should hold back on making big moves or mortgaging the future until their “Window to Win” opens. That
sounds very conservative. That sounds very safe. To me, it also sounds very
I have always been astounded by the sheer volume of people
who believe a window to win will magically appear for the Oilers, as if perhaps
the hockey gods will decide that now is their turn. It has not been my
experience in life, sporting or otherwise, that good things come to those who
wait. It’s a nice thing we tell kids so they can be quiet, but in practice they
are terrible words to live by.
The last six seasons of Oiler hockey have been predicated on
the belief that if you are terrible long enough that eventually you will be
good. They drafted first overall three years in a row (!) and nothing got
better. They sat back, providing about as much care to the roster as I do my
lawn, and waited for the magic to happen.
“No guys, for real. It’s happening soon!”
We waited. Oh, we waited. And waited. The club played a
little shell game with “when the rebuild started” that confused the issue but
they’ve been rebuilding since the 2009-2010 season. The rebuild has now totaled
six NHL seasons. Still, that damned window has not yet opened.
Sometimes it felt like we were at a fancy art show and
everybody was staring at a bunch of squiggly crap exclaiming how it amazing and
evocative it is and we just nodded our heads in agreement despite thinking
everything in the gallery was complete garbage. The Oilers were a terrible team
but still we all agreed they had to win eventually.
I think even the players bought into the idea that pretty
quick they would be a good team by virtue of destiny alone for a while. It hasn’t
worked out so well. I should mention that I don’t think anybody on the Oilers
believes they will be good without massive changes or upgrades now. Those
lessons have (or should have) already been learned.
The Edmonton Oilers’ window to win is not something that
will come on its own.
They did not take a number like at the deli of a Sobey’s and
are waiting their turn.
There will not be a window to win unless they make one.
That is why it is imperative that they stop wasting years of
service from players in the primes of their careers. All three of their
previous first overall picks are now finished their ELCs. They already
blew the opportunity to win while they were cheap.
Some random numbers granted Edmonton the best young player
in a decade. The team can’t afford to get caught up in the delusion that “their
window” is actually a real thing that they have absolutely no control over and
that exists in a mythical future.
The fact is that nobody is going to give Edmonton anything
they won’t take for themselves.
Everybody knows what the Oilers need.
They need a Goalie and at least one legitimate big minutes defenseman,
It makes no sense to hold back and not go after these pieces
for the sake of an imaginary window of opportunity that hasn’t imaginarily
opened. There is no opportunity to win without these players on the roster.
Safe is death and fortune favours the bold.
If the Oilers trade every single pick in the 2015 draft that
comes after Connor McDavid then I will be elated so long as the club finds at
least one goaltender with a reasonable chance of being their starter and a
legitimate 20+ minute a night defenseman.
Could that be Cam Talbot and Brent Seabrook? That sounds
like a pretty good “Best Case Scenario” to me but it could be countless other
combinations of an up and coming netminder and blueliner on a cap-strapped team.
If we can all agree that the Oilers need those things (two
defenders and a goalie) to win, then what
is going to happen over the course of this coming year or the following that
will change their needs?
The answer is nothing. There is nothing that waiting any
longer will do to fix the holes on the roster.
There was a time when the Oilers had no high end talent at
all. None. That’s how this rebuild started. They had to just lose and be
patient until the draft provided them what they needed. Now they have several
forwards that could not have been acquired by any other means. But, they have
transitioned from having nothing of value in general to nothing of value in
very specific positions.
The Oilers do not have two impact right-shooting defensemen in
the system that just need time. They do not have a goaltender who looks like he
might be ready to take over as the starter. There is simply nothing immediately
wrong with the Oilers that time will assuredly take care of.
If waiting around isn’t the answer then that surely means
the time to act is now. The window to win is a nice delusion but there’s
nothing behind it except blind faith that the hockey gods will make the Oilers
better. I don’t think Peter Chiarelli should sit around and wait for more than
what the hockey gods have already provided. It starts with current and future draft picks and moves up from there in order of willingness to move.
The real truth here is that window for waiting around is closed. Now is the time to act.