Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

House Money

The Oilers are tied 2-2 in their series with the Ducks. They fly back to Anaheim and play a best of three to decide who advances to the Western Conference Finals. Oilers fans have heard ad nauseam about their team not making the playoffs for a decade and finally return to relevant hockey in April, but Edmonton has already blown expectations away at this point. This season is already a success regardless of the outcome against Anaheim in the second round.

Not many people had Edmonton in the playoffs. Only three writers at NHL.com predicted the Oilers to make the playoffs. The Hockey News had Edmonton in the bottom three of the Pacific and The Washington Post had them in the bottom five of the league.

Those weren’t really bad guesses either. There were a lot of questions about the Oilers’ depth and if the additions on defence were enough to push this team back into contention. Would Connor McDavid stay healthy? What about Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Could Leon Draisaitl put up another strong season sans Taylor Hall?

The Oilers surpassed expectations and made it out of the basement on the backs of incredible seasons from McDavid, Klefbom, and Talbot. Having their entire top-six forwards healthy for 82-games didn’t hurt either.

At this point, the Oilers are playing with house money. They’re just beginning their window of contention, which if things go right, should have them competing for the Stanley Cup for multiple years with the best player on Earth leading the charge for them.

Sure, you should always strive to win, and there are legitimate arguments to be made on whether the Oilers should have taken more advantage of the second last year of Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract, especially with how wide open the playoffs are. Edmonton has a realistic shot at defeating any of the remaining teams should they advance past Anaheim, and could easily put up a good fight against an injury depleted Pittsburgh team or the Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers. But next year is really key in terms of loading up for a Stanley Cup run. Afterwards, Connor McDavid gets a lot more expensive and things become a little bit more difficult, but having to pay Connor McDavid a ton of money is a great problem to have.

Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a third period goal by forward Milan Lucic (27) against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers should be able to field a more than competitive with McDavid, as well as Draisaitl, making big money. Their top three defensemen make just a little over $14-million combined, leaving them in a prime position to add a right-handed compliment for their top-four, while Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning anchor a youthful third-pairing. Milan Lucic’s contract could be a problem down the road, but the Blackhawks won a cup while Bryan Bickell was making $4-million, and the Kings won one while paying a declining Mike Richards $5.75-million a year (they’ll also carry a $1.5-million cap hit for the next four years due to cap recapture and contract termination penalties).

Peter Chiarelli’s moves can certainly be debated, but being general manager of a team with Connor McDavid is like beginning every game of Mario Kart with a golden star. He can’t burn assets going after another Griffin Reinhart-type trade, but he’ll need more cheap, useful additions like Patrick Maroon and Matt Benning to compliment the elite talent at the top of the roster.

The Oilers might not win against the Anaheim Ducks, but that’s okay. Chicago lost in round three the year before they first won with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Pittsburgh was ousted in the fist round a year prior to them going to two straight Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins gave up a 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia in 2010, then went on to won the Stanley Cup a year later. It’s very unlikely to go from a bottom-feeder one year to a Stanley Cup the next.

Edmonton still has to strike next year as that will be one of their most optimal times to win it all, but they should be contenders well beyond that. Their younger players are all just entering their primes, and their defence is starting to look like more of an asset than a liability. Things are a little more dire for the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Corey Perry combine for over $23-million of salary cap space, and while they do have a lot nice younger forwards and defensemen in their organization, the NHL Expansion Draft might force to part with one of those defensemen a lot sooner than they wish to. The Ducks need to take advantage of the good years from their big three players before they hit the question mid-thirties age of older players, and oh yeah, Corey Perry was just playing on the third-line for a long stretch of the playoffs until Patrick Eaves got hurt.

Of course, this isn’t to say fans shouldn’t enjoy the Oilers playoff run or cheer for wins. Cheer like hell and quench your playoff thirst, but also keep in mind that the best times are likely ahead. This summer will be a crucial point in turning the Oilers into full-fledged contenders and could be just as butt-clenching as the playoff games fans have been watching.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Hopefully not, but maybe this was the year they should have went all in…. Would have Boyle be able to contain Getz? It’s pretty clear that something should have been done about Ebs long ago…. lets hope that it doesn’t cost them the cup……

      • CaptainCanada94

        Can we stop with the US / Bettman Conspiracy theories? If there was any interest in ensuring the cup and playoff success stayed south of the border, they would rig the NHL draft… Think about the other franchises who think the NHL is rigged in the Oilers favour… New Rink… Connor McDavid… Talbot to Edmonton for lesser price than other teams offering…

        The NHL is not rigged and there is no conspiracy to have the Refs screw the Oilers… Bad/ Missed calls happen all the time, lets hope we dictate play enough over the remainder of the series to make our own breaks, and get our calls.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          It’s not a conspiracy theory if it’s actually happening. Pull your head out of the sand – Oilers are being robbed.

          But I agree that champions find a way to persevere regardless. If the refs are going to tilt the field the Oilers need to find a way to bring more effort to overcome it. Losers blame the refs. Winners find a way to make them eat it and then go home to fool around with the prom queen.

        • RMGS

          When you have a few minutes to spare, figure out the probability of a Canadian team not winning the cup for 24 years. Perhaps there’s no “conspiracy,” but there would sure need to be a whole hell of a lot of bad luck.

        • Johnny Zylon

          What do you think Bettman and the owners want? A New York-Anal-hiem final or an Ottawa-Edmonton final? An all Canadian final would rate zero in TV ratings in the US market. If it happened a couple of years in a row it could be disastrous in regards to US TV ratings. If there is a conspiracy, and I really doubt it, (but it is fun to imagine) all the owners would have to be in on it plus all the refs. The conversation would be something like: “How do we, as a league make the most money? A New York-California final? Ok…that’s it then. Refs….make sure it happens, you have been trained on how to influence the outcome of the game…go do your jobs.” The X-files team need to investigate.

  • corky

    I equate this to when Pitt went to the finals against the wings, lost and then went to beat them one year later. Sid and co got a feeling and a taste of what the playoffs are all about, just like the oil this year. These guys arent going anywhere but up for years to come.

    • MrBung

      This Duck series loss will definitely give the Oilers a good lesson for next year. But also from the organizational standpoint. Now they see which players were up for the battle and grew with the playoffs. And which one’s didn’t show any playoff growth (e.g. Eberle). The Oilers will also see how the Ducks depth made a difference. And how they might be able to deal with a player like Getzlaf that has dominated the Oilers this series.

  • fisherprice

    I mean, I get what you’re saying and if you told me back in October this is where the Oilers would be right now, I’d be overjoyed. But it’s not October, my expectations have changed and they better win the Stanley Cup or god help me I will run Gary Bettman over with a car, kidnap Ryan Kesler’s dog, take Johnny Gaudreau’s lunch money, and beat Randy Carlyle to a pulp with Connor’s Hart Trophy while wearing white gloves. Don’t ask me to be reasonable about hockey. You can say it’s all gravy at this point but I want all the gravy, nobody else gets any gravy!

  • tkfisher

    Not the time for this article. Everything we think, talk and whisper about should be about winning. Until we are out of the playoffs we shouldn’t be thinking about house money, and just being happy where we are even if we lose. It’s a losers mentality to be content with your achievements in the middle of the war. Leave all distractions and talk of house money for the day we’re done. Ideally with a cup a few weeks from now.

  • Stallions #35

    Just reading some of these comments about this series loss would be a great experience or lesson moving forward. Here I am in Malaysia, a full 13/14 hours ahead and even then I still see there are at lease 2 maybe 3 games left before the loss of the series will bring a downfall of experience.

    We are in a dog fight to advance to the Conference finals when 8 months ago, we would have been happy being in the playoofs. Enjoy the moment, we have at lease two more games if not more to watch our Oilers turn heads and overachieve. Why so negative?

  • Nick Khron

    This team is on the way up while many others in the West are on their way down. Drai, McDavid, Klef, Larsson, Nurse, Benning, Slepy, etc are only going to get better. We cut some dead weight from this roster like Ebs, Letestu, Pouliot and so on and we are a force for years. If you told me we’d be in the second round tied 2-2 at the start of the season, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

  • Johnny Zylon

    My expectations have changed too, I want somebody to hit Getzlaf so hard there’s whirlpools in his pee. And I want to see most of Kessler’s face smeared on the glass behind the Oilers net. And I want the Oilers to win, win, WIN. Remember Dan Marino, made to a Super Bowl during his second season and never made it back. I hope they destroy Anal-hiem.

  • slats-west

    House Money defn =money that was given to you easily, or stumbled upon by chance or with little effort…. Not sure this means what you think it does.

    Did we happen to stumble into 102 PTs on the season? Beat the Sharks in 6 was just given to the Oilers? MCD Hart winner was acclamation? Coach of the year a nominee …. etc etc.

    This team got this because they’ve got talent and they earned it. Getting into the playoffs was not easy if it was why did it take 11 years?.

    To be honest I hope the Oilers players and coaching staff read this article, get royally pi$$ed off and kick the crap out of the Ducks…. then come find you….ha

  • Anton CP

    Something that I’ve learned from this series is that the Oilers are too young to know how to react when the other team play with desperation and willing to do anything to win. The Ducks were dirty not just by trying to get away with little things that they are literally challenge refs to dare to make calls. To be honest, this series is more like 3-1 Ducks advantage instead of 2-2 tie due to the unbelievable plays by Talbot at game 2.

    One of the thing that Carlyle managed to change from game 1 to the rest of the series is that he neutralized Draisaitl by having Kesler+Getzlaf to counter McDavid+Draisaitl. He identified the weakness of lack of offensive production from the supposed second line and he did not use shut down line to match up the second line at all. Normally it is tough to blame any individual for team’s failure but in the Oilers case that one stands out above anyone else that would be Eberle.

    What do you do with him anyway? He is not producing or even play defense but he is also too expensive to be sitting at pressbox. You have to start him due to the money that he is making but at the same time that he cannot fit into any lines whatsoever.

  • DannyGallivan

    How about “Lets worry about next year when this one is done” (see McDavid’s RH Shooter). Lets talk about how we shut down Getzlaff, who is creaming the Oil right now, and win this series. While I am happy we have made it this far that doesn’t mean I would be happy if we were out.

  • Bryan in SK

    Yes, I’m happy that we are where we are, but for now, it’s still duck season. Two weeks from now, I fully expect to be hunting sabre-toothed predators (most likely scenario).