Will next season be any different for the Edmonton Oilers? The optimist in me says it has to, because you simply can’t be this terrible for this long, but the crushing reality for Oilers fans and the players is there is no guarantee.
The fans have watched the lack of improvement in the standings, and a few players have lived the nightmare year after year. Every year there has been a different catalyst leading them to the bottom of the standings: inexperience, bad defence, inconsistent goaltending, lack of scoring depth, lack of competitiveness, inconsistency throughout the lineup, bad coaching, bad management or injuries.
During the past seven years it has never been just one of the above. Often, multiple factors aided in their demise, and as this season comes to end I ponder: will next year be better?
Gawd, I hope so. Covering a losing team for ten straight years is no fun. I know first hand there could be much more difficult jobs — I worked in the oilfield for eight years, and grew up on the farm, so I know what real physical work is — but constantly talking about losing is draining. It is equally painful for the readers and fans.
Having one playoff appearance in ten years isn’t asking for much. Heck, even a run to the playoffs late in a season to add some excitement seems reasonable, but the tire-fire known as the Oilers hasn’t been able to muster any sort of enthusiasm between December and April for quite some time.
The draft lottery should not be the most exciting day on the calendar year after year. When it happened the first time in 2010, Oilers fans were excited. It gave you hope the future would be better, but six years later it is still just hope.
We won’t know if next year will produce actual improvement until we see what the roster looks like in August. Peter Chiarelli wants to change his roster, but will he be able to find a willing trade partner or two, to aid in his quest to re-shape his lineup? Again, there is no guarantee he will, nor is it guaranteed the moves will make them a playoff contender.
Here are the Oilers rosters from game #77 during the past four seasons.
Whitney-Schultz (Nick) N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Is the foundation of tonight’s roster strong enough to build tangible improvements in the standings next year?
For the sanity of Oilersnation I sure hope so.
RNH and Lander are out, Maroon and Cracknell are in.
- Will the Sharks want retribution for Darnell Nurse, similar to how Florida did with Matt Hendricks earlier this season after he rocked Aaron Ekblad? It was a guarantee Erik Gudbranson was going after Hendricks, but Roman Polak isn’t Ekblad, and the Sharks don’t have a Gudbranson in their lineup.
At least they didn’t until they recalled Michael Haley today from the San Jose Barracuda. Haley has played in 10 games this year and has one goal. The 29-year-old has played 66 career NHL games. He’s a gamer, and is tough, but he’s only 5’10 and 205 pounds. It’s not like they recalled Fraser McLaren. I have no doubt Nurse will drop the mitts if Haley asks, just like Hendricks did. I will have a one small issue if Haley fights Nurse; the Sharks players who were so upset about his actions vs. Polak did nothing and let a career minor leaguer do it.
- Many might disagree, but I’m not sold yet on Jordan Oesterle being a difference maker. His best asset is he doesn’t panic with the puck, which is outstanding. He makes plays rather than just hammer puck off the boards, or fire it out of the zone. My concern is how he defends in his zone when he doesn’t have the puck, and the lack of velocity on his shot. I don’t see him quarterbacking your powerplay. Hopefully he can improve his shot in the summer. He has been a pleasant surprise, for sure, but when the Oilers come to camp next year he can’t be penciled in the top six. If he is battling for a spot that means they have depth. I’m intrigued by his play, especially his decision making with the puck, but I’m not ready to say the Oilers have uncovered another gem. I need to see more.
- I’m also much more bullish on Nurse than some. His numbers aren’t great, but how many other 20 or under rookies play 20+ minutes their first season? He isn’t dominating, and he’s made some rookie reads on the ice. His low point totals are a product of the coaches wanting him to focus mainly on defensive responsibilities for now, and once he is comfortable they will encourage him to create more offence. They don’t want to overload him, but when his main responsibility is defence and he plays on a weak defensive team, you shouldn’t be surprised by his unflattering numbers.
In the past ten seasons here are the rookie D-men who were 20 years old and younger and played 20+ minutes/night for more than 40 games.
2015: Aaron Ekblad and Damon Severson. Both on non-playoff teams.
2014: Jacob Trouba missed playoffs.
2013: Jonas Brodin made playoffs.
2012: Justin Faulk missed playoffs. Adam Larsson made playoffs. (only dressed in 5 of 24 games)
2011: John Carlson (played in AHL at 19) and Cam Fowler made playoffs. Travis Hamonic. No playoffs.
2010: Tyler Myers and Erik Karlsson made playoffs. Carl Gunnarsson and Victor Hedman did not.
2009: Drew Doughty and Luke Schenn missed the playoffs.
2008: Jack Johnson missed the playoffs.
2007: Marc-Edouard Vlasic made the playoffs.
2006: Dion Phaneuf made playoffs.
Every player’s path is different.
Doughty and Karlsson had decent first years, but exploded in their second season.
Faulk played 66 games as a rookie, but split the next season between the AHL (31 games) and NHL (38). He’s now a very steady and productive player.
Phaneuf scored 20 goals as a rookie, but since leaving Calgary he’s only score more than 9 once — 12 in 2011/2012.
Every player and every situation is different. It is rare for a 20 year old to play 20+ minutes and succeed. Nurse is having some growing pains, but I believe it is too early to make any sort of concrete evaluation on where he will be in two or three years. I like his skating, tenacity, competitiveness and puck handling. I believe he has more offence in his game and once he gets more comfortable at the NHL level the coaches will encourage him to be up in the play more.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
How’s Todd McLellan enjoying his first year in Edmonton? Not very much, according to Elliotte Friedman:
“Coach Todd McLellan’s exasperation with his forwards grows on a game-by-game basis. At this point, I assume the only untouchables up-front are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.”
According to friend of the blog Kevin Kurz, the Sharks have outshot opponents 125-75 and given up just two goals in their first three games without injured defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That’s definitely a small sample size, but maybe the Sharks are just benefiting from the Ewing Theory. Regardless, the Sharks need to keep this up if they’re going to gain ground on Anaheim and Los Angeles.
I wonder if James Reimer will get the nod in net tonight. He started the Sharks’ last game against Edmonton, and I’d imagine Pete DeBoer wants him to get one more start before the end of the homestand.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans add another layer to their thickly calloused heart as they watch a 4-3 loss.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nurse and Haley drop the mitts. Hockeyfights.com voting gives the Nurse the victory. And Baggedmilk has to explain to at least five people why he calls him Darryl.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Taylor Hall picks up his first multi-point game since January 18th vs. Florida.
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