RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 2006-07 SEASON

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.

INDIVIDUAL SCORING

06-07 scoring

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.

06-07 goal

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.

TRANSACTIONS

PRONGER TRADE TOT

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.

hejda deal

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.

grebs trae

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.

smyth trade tot

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

2006 DRAFT

2006 draft

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.

LEADING SCORERS

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.

    • camdog

      “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.”

      Regehr is married to an old friend of mine’s sister. At my buds wedding somebody asked him which NHL player he hated the most, his response was Ales Hemsky. Earlier in their careers Regehr went in for a hit and Hemsky got him in the throat with the stick, he never, ever forgot.

    • CMG30

      “It never had to be this bad.”

      Truer words have never been spoken.

      With Pronger gone, they held out publicly for some other big name saviors, while failing to recognize that Edmonton was not a destination for free agents. With each public snubbing their reputation became worse. If they would have taken what was available and willing to come, they might not have been left out in the cold and been able to ice a decent team.

      Eventually, the Oilers decided to build through the draft. Fine. But, knowing what we do now, they didn’t have the system in place to properly develop those players nor did they have the patience to actually wait while those players developed. In a salary cap era, the Oiler have no excuse for still being the leagues’ farm team.

      In the end the brass just kept promoted themselves to positions they were not capable of, while the team and fans suffered.

    • Wow, serendipitously Megadeth’s ‘In My Darkest Hour’ started playing on my phone just as I started reading. Once I got half way through the article and I had to dig out my old divorce papers to cheer me up a bit before I could finish. Kevin Lowe in bunker mode was the most destructive force this team has ever seen. Memorably, Messier’s banner was hung from the rafters on the same night that they traded Ryan Smyth. Many boys on the bus were on hand, but Kevin Lowe showing his face would have drowned the cheers for Mess in boos. Worst decision ever, and you got to think that Lowe knew it.
      Hey, there’s no mention of the ugly jacket.

    • CMG30

      K.Lowe had to trade Pronger. The return was not going to be anything sock blowing.
      Smid had potential. Granted, Lupul was, is, and always will be a fairy. Plus, they got Eberle.

      Eberle now for a Pronger than(under the circumstances) was a good deal.

      P.S. Lupul is a really fairy. I met him at Iron Horse the night Hemsky scored to clinch Oilers the play-off birth.
      Drunk, I told him: “you should come play for the Oilers” he replied: Oilers Suck! I’d never play here.” I wanted to punch him in the head. Anyways, little later he gets traded to Edmonton.

      • In what way was losing Smyth worse than losing Gm 7 of the SCF? For me, it was so much more crushing to watch the Oil lose that game, knowing that they may not be back in that position for many years…

        • Keeping in mind I said “In some ways” but for me Ryan Smyth stood for what it meant to be an Oiler. He wasn’t just someone who played here, he wanted to play here his whole life. Edmonton was his home for more than just the months he was required to be here. Smyth was the soul of the team. Losing the SCF in game 7 was crushing, but I’m accustomed to loss. Losing someone that loved the organization with every fiber of his body over a quibbling amount of money was horrifying.

          • ubermiguel

            I’ll never forget the very same night as the Smyth trade was the Messier jersey retirement. Lowe was a no-show because the fans may have brought out the pitchforks and torches.

            In my mind Smyth was just one more player to leave the Oilers for greener pastures. After the Gretzky sale my heart hardened to players leaving. The Oilers have never had a single solitary player of note that has played their entire career here. No Lemiuex, Yzerman, Makita, Potvin, Sakic etc.

        • Yeah but there was no reason to believe after the loss that the Oilers weren’t going to be back for many years, in fact things looked pretty darned rosey until the trade request rumours started coming out. When they traded Ryan Smyth that was when they said that they knew they weren’t going to be competitive this year or next and they needed to make hard decisions to protect the team’s future. This whole season unfolded like some great big WTF!?! We had just been in game 7 of the final, how could things go so bad so fast? The Smyth trade was an indicator that they were not only bad now but they would stay bad for a while. Boy did they ever.

    • I would have loved to see the other offers for Pronger. Were there any? If so, who was offering what? Could the price have gotten higher? Lowe should have made Pronger sit (if they had to) and then traded him to the highest bidder. They should have gotten a better deal. I would have defended that move to the ends of the earth.

    • Lofty

      I love this quote:

      “Goals: Ryan Smyth, 31

      Can’t shoot, can’t skate, can’t pass, can’t get out of the way. What a wonderful player. ”

      Maybe ‘can’t get out of the the way’ should be the new trend rather than grit, hard to play against, truculence… etc.

    • Romance14

      The huge mistake was trading Pronger so quickly. They could have used the entire summer to start a bidding war. Instead they dealt him three days into free agency.

    • Randaman

      Will this series be done before the end of the month so we can all get into a more positive mind set in September for the start of the season.

      No offence but this is depressing.

      Rum anyone?

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      Wow! Imagine getting 71 points now! Or being all the way up to 12th in the West…Seems like a dream!

      That D core looks a lot better than what we started with in 2014-15.

    • Tikkanese

      You can’t blame the downfall on just Pronger leaving. The price paid for all those rentals (Spacek, Samsonov, Peca, Dvorak etc) that left really hurt as well, not to mention the huge holes in the lineup.

      • ubermiguel

        I think that if Lowe had found a way to keep Spacek and Samsonov (even though he seemed to tank after leaving)they might have been able to hold enough water to have made it back to the playoffs that spring, which may have in turn motivated Lowe to give in to Smyth’s demands (what were they like 200 grand apart?)and keep him around. Ugh. It’s a lot nicer looking forward than back these days.

    • Tikkanese

      Oilers are number 1 on sportsnet’s power rankings and if you look at last years power rankings the top seven teams made it to at least the second round of the playoffs. Oilers power ranking last year was 28th, we came in 29th.

      • ubermiguel

        Ok slow down there. First off Power Rankings, especially in the offseason are a complete joke. They can reflect the week that a team has just had, but they really offer no insight into the team’s future. Secondly the particular list you are referring to is about offseason additions and the article says that for adding McDavid and to a lesser extent Sekara and Talbot the Oilers are on top of the list. The article does not say that the Oilers are the top team in the NHL, only that they’ve had the best offseason.

    • vetinari

      That whole year was a rollercoaster of emotion. We sneaked into the playoffs the previous spring and came one game short of a Cup.

      I remember in the week or two that followed SCF G7 being sad and then perking up after the draft and thinking— “we’ll get them next year” and then the Pronger trade went down in early July and I can say that only the Gretzky and Smyth trades affected me worse but for different reasons. My first question was “Why? Didn’t this guy just get here and didn’t he sign a multi-year deal?” If it wasn’t for Eberle coming out of that trade, this would have been an incredibly lopsided and embarrassing deal.

      And then later that year the Smyth deal went down it looked like everything we had built was now gone and we were sending talent out rather than bringing talent in. In fact, there are few trades from 2006 to 2014 that I would say that we clearly won (such as acquiring Perron from STL).

      2006/07 was a hard year to be an Oilers fan. I think that the only season that was worse, at least for me, was last season– where we were suppose to be on the rebound and management just ignored glaring holes on the roster, gave Eakins a vote of confidence and failed to deliver on any bold moves. It was like the movie Groundhog Day where you knew what the end result was likely going to be in the standings.

    • MattyFranchise

      Does anyone remember the Oilers winning any games that year after trading Smyth? I think there might have been a couple but that trade lead to the definition of what it means for a team crater.

    • vetinari

      I have never understood why this fan base did not insist on Lowe’s immediate firing after the bungle of the Pronger situation.
      It was to foreshadow a wasted ten years of ineptitude.
      No reason for it. Pronger should never have been traded unless another team was offering comparable value.
      But Lowe showed he was abysmally incompetent.
      Yet he had defenders.
      Hard to tell who is stupider Lowe or his apologists.

      • Oilerz4life

        What exactly did you want Lowe to do?

        He had no choice but to trade Pronger, his hands were tied. That was probably the best deal he got. Just ask J.Eberle fans.

        I’m starting to think that most of these people that continue to carry a hate on for Lowe are just ones that carry a hard on for Burke.

    • Leaking5w-30

      This article has me thinking. What would a list of worst oil trades ever look like?

      1) Gretzky
      1a) Messier
      2) Weight
      3) Coffey
      4) Smyth
      5) Pronger

      I’m sure i’m missing a few more big ones… help me out.

      • Leaking5w-30

        Messier wasn’t that bad… Bernie Nicholls for Zdeno Ciger was bad… Ciger left for nothing was even worse.

        Satan for two defensemen that never played in NHL.

        Coffey and Weight were not that bad either…

        Pieces from the coffey and weight trade got us players that were usable in many ways…

        Ryan Smyth’s trade literally provided nothing to the team.

        • Oilerz4life

          Valerie Zelepukin for Daniel Lacroix was a bad deal…

          Oilers were trending up… Zelepukin was a good two way player… went onto score 16 goals with Philly after we dealt him…

          In 98-99 Oilers got swept by Dallas in playoffs.

          Oilers were a few points out from not having to meet Dallas in the first round and probably could have placed 7th or 6th and had some better results in the playoffs.

          I wasn’t a fan of the Boris Mirinov deal in 98-99… Always felt like we could have been a better team that year and maybe made a 3rd round appearance.

    • Leaking5w-30

      The sickest part of this season was the belief that Sam Gagner was worth the tank.
      One of the most over-rated Oilers of all time. A major contributor to the lost ten years.
      Embodying everthing that it didn’t take to win in the NHL.
      Arizona paid Philadelphia to take him off their hands.
      Says it all.

      • Oilerz4life

        I never understood why most people wanted to believe that S.Gagner was going to be something in the NHL.

        The guy was a Canadian L.Omark without the flare.

        I was crushed when they decided to keep him over A.Cogliano.

    • MattyFranchise

      I thought Daniel Tjarnqvist was decent addition to the team… As was Sykora…. Still boggles my mind that they dealt Smyth and held onto Sykora (could have gotten something for him at trade deadline also if they were planning to tank).

      Oh but wait, they picked up Nedved off waivers that year around the deadline….

      They could have possibly made the playoffs if they had kept Smyth and added another need at the Trade deadline….

      They tanked after the Smyth deal..

    • Oilerz4life

      Please no more reliving any more seasons after 06. We have lived through enough (survived, barely) as fans and are now trying to move on! It’s like reopening a wound and pouring salt on it. Why, just why?

    • Oilerz4life

      I want to share a truth bomb with all of you.

      What I remember from this season is how everyone talked about how our new forwards were so good. Heck, we got Lupul! He had scored some goals. Horcoff could score, Sykora could score, Smytty could score – everyone could. This was going to be an offensive juggernaut. Every game might be 7-5 but we would score.

      And we didn’t.

      Here’s the truth: scoring goals is hard, and it takes more than talented forwards. This is the first of 9 seasons where it feels like everyone forgot that. And keep it in mind for this upcoming season. The Oilers have been an average or worse offensive team lately despite having lots of forward talent, and they haven’t been scoring because it’s hard to do, and requires good defense. Remember ’07.

    • camdog

      on top of everything else on top of everything else apocalyptically awful about that season, The Oilers introduced those terrible “Star Trek” jerseys, by Reebok.

      So dull an d uninspired, it was like they completed the other 29 teams and ran out of ideas. I wouldn’t have accepted $250 to wear one, much less paid that much.

      I’m not much of a booster for Darryl Katz, but banishing those embarrassments was a Godsend.