There will be plenty of time to look back at this profoundly joyous season. We’ll do that later when we have time. We’ll break down trades and signings as they happen. There will be a time to examine what went wrong in the playoffs in the coming days and weeks. This article isn’t about any of that. It’s about winning a Stanley Cup.
It is now impossible to deny. There is no amount of delusion, self or otherwise, that can dissuade the management, coaching staff, players, and pundits from coming to this now inescapable conclusion: The Edmonton Oilers are in the phase of their development where they must compete for the Stanley Cup.
To put it another way, the window to win the Cup is now. Every year that passes without seriously challenging for it is a waste. The Oilers have the best player in the NHL. Leon Draisaitl is a top 10 scorer in the league at 21 years of age. There’s the making of a solid, though still not yet dynamic, defence lead by Oscar Klefbom. They have a goaltender who can handle both a massive volume of games and a massive volume of shots against in those games.
The Edmonton Oilers have now officially crossed over from a joke of a franchise to a team to be reckoned with. We’ve bypassed that “team on the rise” garbage completely. If the Oilers next season can be described as a “plucky group with flashes of brilliance” then there has been a catastrophic failure somewhere along the line.
Every single move. Every single trade, extension, free agent signing, or hiring by the franchise from now until McDavid is out of his prime needs to correctly answer a single question: Will this help the Oilers win a Stanley Cup?
That is where the team is at right now.
The Edmonton Oilers blew the socks off most of our expectations this past season. That’s awesome! However, they also only won one round in the playoffs. There are huge questions about secondary scoring, doubts about how to improve the blueline persist, and there are issues with the ways the Oilers have allocated their Cap dollars. Changes are coming and I welcome them.
This is it. This is what we waited for. When we tacitly agreed to this rebuild in 2009 we didn’t think it would take eight years and four 1st overall picks including a generational talent, but we didn’t agree to it so the Oilers could make the playoffs. We wanted the Cup.
Losing in Game Seven to the Ducks was a damned bitter pill to swallow and I don’t like it one bit. I’m pissed right off about it, if we want to be honest. But when I think about the Oilers it isn’t disappointment that washes over me. I can’t help but smile. I can’t help but get excited. I can’t help but think about a time not so far in the future that Nugent-Hopkins can actually grow that moustache when Connor McDavid is lifting the Stanley Cup over his head.
It’s going to take some shrewd moves (I’m almost certainly not going to like all of them!). It’s going to take improvement from players who are already Oilers today and the addition of players who aren’t Oilers yet. The club wasn’t good enough to win that Cup yesterday but it sure as hell can be good enough tomorrow.
There is only one thing for this team to focus on. One. Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Pitlick, Russell, McDavid and Draisaitl’s next contracts, the second pairing, the third line, the 2017 entry and expansion drafts – they are all about one thing.
It’s all about the Cup.