When the dust settles on this 2015-2016 season there’s every
chance that my heart will be broken again if the Oilers miss the playoffs. Still, I write this on the eve of the season and I still hold out hope.
Hope is exactly what I’ve been sold for six long,
excruciating years now. The franchise committed to a tear it down rebuild and
at the time they said it would be a long process, but I don’t think anybody
imagined they would be a bottom feeder more than five years later. We all
expected gradual change that just hasn’t come. It has to be different this
time, doesn’t it?
There was a time when Hope was HOPE and it stood for Hall,
Omark, Paajarvi, and Eberle. Two of those players can’t even find NHL jobs in
2015. I really did have high hopes for young Magnus, though. I really thought
his 15-19-34 as an NHL rookie was going to be a springboard for him. Sadly it looks like it
was his ceiling. Omark has always been my Goat selection, so it hasn’t surprised
me that he never lived up to the hype.
It’s been Groundhog Day in Oilerville. Every time Phil
Connors runs the truck off the road, throws the toaster in the bathtub, or
jumps off the clock-tower, it’s the off-season in Edmonton and we’re talking
about all the reasons why this time it’s different. Play terrible, miss
playoffs, fire coach, select first overall, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
And maybe one of these times Andie MacDowell will fall in love with us and the
nightmare will end.
If it isn’t Groundhog Day then it’s certainly Lucy and
Charlie Brown with that damned football. This year I’m going to kick it. I
swear this is the time she won’t pull the football away. Charlie Brown, you block-head.
OF COURSE SHES GOING TO PULL THE FOOTBALL AWAY! MAKE BETTER LIFE-CHOICES! YOU’VE WASTED YOUR ENTIRE ADULT LIFE HOPING THAT THE OILERS ARE GOING
TO BE BETTER AND THEY’RE LAUGHING AT HOW STUPID YOU WERE TO THINK THEY EVEN
WANTED TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR!
But I really DO think they will be better this year. Maybe they
won’t make the playoffs but I really think they’ll be a lot better. Am I an
idiot? Are they going to pull the football away again at the last second and laugh
at how pathetic I am? I don’t think so. Not this time.
This time I believe the hope I have for the season to be
better is more than just the fever dreams of another Edmonton summer. This time
the Oilers have McDavid! And, yes, they drafted first overall three
other times in recent years. And, yes, that got them absolutely nowhere (though
not because those picks were blown). But Connor McDavid is not a normal teenage
hockey player. He’s not a normal first overall pick, and there’s
nothing normal about the kinds of players who go first overall!
McDavid is on a level above even them.
There is something special, bordering on fantastical, about
this young man who landed in this city based on the good judgment of some
randomly selected numbers. From that moment on this has been a rollercoaster on
a one way trip to respectability. No more Mickey Mouse management and coaching
decisions. No more messing around.
Bob Nicholson and the Oilers did exactly the opposite of
what everyone thought they were going to do by doing exactly what they said
they were going to do. They actually went through that internal audit and made
important changes to the structure of the club. Who knew they would have ever
followed through with it?
And so here I sit, on the eve of the Oilers 2015-2016 season,
prepared to watch, cover, and cheer for a team that has Connor McDavid playing
on a line with Taylor Hall, Todd McLellan standing behind the bench, and a
real-life General Manager in Peter Chiarelli watching from above. Here I sit,
unable to believe that this well of excitement is nothing more than a figment
of my imagination.
This time it’s real. This time the Oilers are going to be
better. This time it isn’t all hype.