I talked earlier about the legendary 2006 trade deadline (well, few weeks leading up to the 2006 trade deadline) that ultimately netted the Oilers Dwayne Roloson, Sergei Samsonov, and Jaroslav Spacek which propelled the team on a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
But as memorable as that year’s deadline was, the rollercoaster took a massive dip south the following year. Sorry in advance for bringing this up.
I think about what fans of the Ottawa Senators are going through right now, going from one goal away from the Cup Final all the way to possibly dealing Erik Karlsson, and it brings me all the way back to that year-and-a-half as an Oiler fan. The rollercoaster ride was ridiculous.
There was a full-year lockout, the implementation of a salary cap that ultimately helped make this small market team competitive, the acquisition of Chris Pronger, the up-and-down season nearly derailed by bad goaltending, the wild trade deadline, and the subsequent run to Game 7.
Then the drop. Chris Pronger asked for a trade, it happened, the team struggled. Then another drop. Ryan Smyth and the Oilers couldn’t agree on an extension and he was sold at the deadline to the Islanders for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, and a first-round pick (Alex Plante). None of them panned out.
This was even worse than losing Pronger. Smyth was the heart and soul of the team, the guy who truly resonated with the fanbase. The team absolutely imploded after he was dealt, struggling on a level even worse than anything we saw over the Decade of Darkness (and this year). They won two of their last 19 games and slid from sort of near a playoff spot to tied for fifth-last in the league during that stretch.
Thankfully, Smytty ended up coming home in June 2011 to play three more seasons with the club before retiring. But still, letting go of Ryan Smyth due largely to an inability to meet salary demands was terrible and it set the Oilers on a disaster course for the following years.