Well, we knew it was going to be bad, but the 2006-07 season marked the beginning of the Mother of all slides for the Edmonton Oilers. The downward slide began the moment Kevin Lowe traded Chris Pronger without securing anything resembling a replacement—thereby ensuring Edmonton would be shy defensively for years to come.
|The Record||Points||Standings||Goal Differential||Shooting %||Save %|
|32-43-7||71||12TH WEST||195-248 -53||8.8||.904|
The average NHL team scored and allowed 242 goals in 2006-07, meaning Edmonton badly under-performed offensively and was slightly below average in goals-against. Dwayne Roloson—added at the deadline and signed to a big money deal in the summer—helped spike the save percentage from the ghastly .887 in the year of the Stanley run.
Newcomers Petr Sykora and Joffrey Lupul gave Edmonton more offensive options up front—Sykora’s 25 power-play points were the equal of Ales Hemsky—but the dive in PP goals (88 to 53) helped make Edmonton a subpar offensive team.
The defensive group relied heavily on veterans Jason Smith and Steve Staios, but youngsters Ladislav Smid and Matt Greene took on a lot of the work, too. Part of the issue had to do with injuries to Dick Tarnstrom and a hesitancy to use emerging defender Jan Hejda.
Roloson was impressive in year one, despite an enormous workload:
- Edmonton’s Shots Against per game in 05-06 were 25.5, stingiest total in the NHL. Source.
- Edmonton’s Shots Against per game in 06-07 were 29.7, No. 17 in the NHL. Source.
The Oilers solved their goalie issue with the tandem of Roloson and Markkanen, with the starter well clear of his backup.
This is the trade that turned Edmonton from a Stanley Cup contender to an also-ran. The return didn’t include a veteran defenseman and that was an extremely poor decision. The young return, while substantial, was insufficient because none of the pieces could make up for the immediate loss of Pronger. The team spiraled downward in all possession aspects and the defense has never recovered.
One week after the Pronger trade, Lowe acquired a pretty damn good defenseman in Jan Hejda. He was destined to find his way in the NHL elsewhere, as the Oilers under Craig MacTavish were slow to recognize him and he was lost to free agency and spent the heart of his NHL career elsewhere.
This was a seemingly minor trade, defender for defender. That third-round pick, though, the one that was eventually spent on Kirill Petrov, ended up having a fascinating story. Here’s a teaser: The Oilers would trade FOR THAT PICK and give up a second-round selection (that turned into Travis Hamonic) for it. Why? Because they had to. More to come.
This was an inexplicable deal. I remember well Smyth’s comments in the summer of 2006 about ‘not taking a hometown discount’ but the Oilers let him cool his heels—perhaps as punishment for his G7 performance in the SCF—and by the time the trade deadline arrived the bitterness on one or both sides was so bad it ended with a trade to Long Island.
The Edmonton Oilers, at this moment, had simply lost their way. An addled organization, bleeding their best talent and getting futures in return. It was a dark period in team history.
And, in a real way, just the beginning.
FREE AGENT WINS AND LOSSES
- Signed F Petr Sykora from NY Rangers
- Signed C Marty Reasoner from Atlanta
- Signed D Daniel Tjarnqvist from Minnesota
- D Jaroslav Spacek lost to Buffalo
- R George Laraque lost to Phoenix
- G Ty Conklin lost to Columbus
- R Sergei Samsonov lost to Montreal
- C Mike Peca lost to Toronto
- R Radek Dvorak lost to St. Louis
This was a helluva draft. Seriously. No first-round pick but they grabbed a really good player at No. 45 overall, and Theo Peckham had a real chance to be a player, too. That’s a good, solid draft.
SEASON IN REVIEW
It was awful. Watching the 2005-06 Oilers being dismantled was as painful as the previous spring had been glorious. The club employed 14 rookie skaters. Source
That Edmonton Oilers team lost Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, Mike Peca, Radek Dvorak, Dick Tarnstrom, Georges Laraque AND THEN traded Ryan Smyth at the deadline. Incredible. And you know what? There was still a lot of talent left, players either in their prime or approaching. Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani, Matt Greene, Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert. Edmonton needed veterans, actual NHL players, but management decided to go in another direction.
Points: Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Petr Sykora: 53 points
Smyth led through to the deadline, and the other two caught up. Sykora was a pretty nice player, all told. Smyth was the heart and soul — really the hero of the story for the fans — but was sent away in a tear-filled day over what amounts to a weekend with the kids at the mall.
Goals: Ryan Smyth, 31
Can’t shoot, can’t skate, can’t pass, can’t get out of the way. What a wonderful player.
Assists: Ales Hemsky, 40
Terrific young player, if Regehr had been stopped even once 83 might have been healthier as an Oiler. 20 assists on the power-play — on this team, that was a miracle.
RE-THINKING THE 2006-07 OILERS
In your LIFE you couldn’t sell this script. No one would believe you! I think the season (and the decade) turned on three things:
- Pronger’s trade request
- Edmonton’s decision to deal Pronger without getting a veteran defenseman in return (or via free agency). This is very important, because not replacing him at all was not an option. The Oilers had to get someone capable of playing in that role.
- The Smyth trade. That trade was so unpopular management needed a savior, which led to the drafting, signing and pushing of Sam Gagner into a feature role, 2007 fall.
It never had to be this bad. Fin.