To say the Edmonton Oilers have been a disappointment this season is to understate in the extreme. While I don’t think the Oilers are as bad as they’ve looked to this point as we’ve watched things go sideways, that’s cold consolation with the playoffs almost certainly out of the question now. The ugly bottom line is the Oilers haven’t been good enough.
Given how the Oilers raised expectations last season by reaching the post-season for the first time in a decade with 103 points and going two rounds before losing in seven games to the Anaheim Ducks, it’s no wonder fans are frustrated with that they’ve seen. I wonder, though, if those pre-season expectations were realistic. With the benefit of hindsight, and with the slumping Oilers sitting at 18-22-3 as they take on the Nashville Predators tonight, I’m not sure they were.
A lot of people, me included, were fooled by what we saw last season. A lot of us expected the Oilers to take another step, to improve on what we saw in the 2017 playoffs, maybe win the Western Conference and make the Stanley Cup final. They could even win the damn thing. Bottom line, we got fooled. Worse yet, it seems obvious now GM Peter Chiarelli did, too.
Take a look at some of the predictions that were made, some by MSM outlets, others by blogs, during the pre-season. A lot of relatively smart people here.
WE BOUGHT IT
At Post Media, two of four local panelists picked the Oilers to win the Western Conference. One of them picked the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup final over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
At Sportsnet, seven of 16 pre-season prognosticators picked the Oilers to win the West and two of 16 picked Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup. Three panelists had Todd McLellan winning the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year. Across the street at TSN, Frank Seravalli picked Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup.
At NHL.com, the Oilers were picked by many to win the Pacific Division. They got four votes to win the Western Conference and one vote to win the Cup. At the Sporting News, all three writers doing their 2017-18 season preview picked Edmonton to win the Pacific Division.
I picked the Oilers to come out of the West and meet Pittsburgh in the Cup final. Jason Gregor picked the Oilers to win the Pacific Division. Cam Lewis picked the Oilers to win the Pacific Division. On and on . . .
At the Hockey Writers, Kelowna-based writer Larry Fisher picked the Oilers to win the division, the conference and the Stanley Cup (over Pittsburgh).
Justin Cuthbert of Puck Daddy over at Yahoo Sports picked the Oilers to come out of the West and lose to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup final.
It’s worth noting as well that every one of these predictions was made after Chiarelli dealt Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome in a salary dump deal that weakened the right side and knowing that Andrej Sekera would miss the start of the season recovering from knee surgery. Even factoring that in, I thought the Oilers would be fine. So, obviously, did Chiarelli. Wrong and wrong.
What about you? How many of you who are mad as hell now saw this coming? How many of you had the Oilers finishing outside the top three in the Pacific Division and outside of the top eight in the Western Conference in the pre-season?
WRONG WAY, PETE
Remember the story from 10 years ago or so about the guy who started with a paper clip and, through a series of several trades, ended up with a house? You can read that here. It seems to me that Chiarelli is headed in the opposite direction with trades he’s made in consecutive seasons, giving up talent to fill a specific need.
I wasn’t surprised Chiarelli had to overpay to land Adam Larsson, giving up Taylor Hall to make the deal. I thought the price was a bit steep, but the way Larsson played last season took some of the edge off. Chiarelli also gave up the most talented player last summer, swapping Eberle for Strome and cap space that he hasn’t chosen to use as of now. Now the Oilers lack scoring on the wings.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Brent Seabrook? No. Too old. Too expensive.