For the second straight season, the Oil Kings finished with just 52 points and came dead last in the WHL.
I’ve been saying it all year, but the struggles were expected. Anyone familiar with major junior hockey knows that teams go through cycles. You compete for a few years then you accept mediocrity, or worse, with a chance to win a title in the not so distant future.
Still, even though everyone involved knows what the plan is, the losing still stings.
“We got punched in the face a few times this year and sometimes it takes a lot of resiliency to pick yourself up and answer the bell, and we did that,” said Head Coach Steve Hamilton in his year-end availability, “It’s a game that’s based on wins and losses and when you’re not winning it’s difficult to see the fruits of your labour”.
There was no shortage of tough stretches this year, but learning how to overcome those and pick yourself back up after a defeat is an important lesson that this group learned.
It’s obvious that the organization wants to put this year behind them and move forward with hopes of once again becoming a dominant team in the league, one big question mark remains, however, and it’s centred around the future of the coaching staff.
Hamilton wasn’t in a position to comment on the status of his job but did say that’s he going about his days with the assumption that he’ll be back for the 2018-19 season, even though he hasn’t spoken with the club.
My opinion is that Hamilton is a good coach who did a great job developing this group. I believe that Steve Hamilton deserves to start next season as the Oil Kings Head Coach, and I think he can lead them into the playoffs.
With that said, a lot of times the coach that gets an organization through a rebuild isn’t the coach whos’ there when the team starts winning. It’s unfair, but it’s a reality of the sport.
Regardless of who’s the coach, the future is bright with this club and that’s something General Manager Randy Hansch acknowledged in his year-end availability.
“We started taking some steps, we knew it was going to be a process. It takes time and it takes patience. We were starting to see some growth in guys in some areas of our organization and we’re going to continue moving forward,” said Hansch.
There is an identifiable core with players like Trey Fix-Wolansky, Matthew Robertson, and Jake Neighbours. But still, those players are young and need help if they want to compete in a league that’s predominantly ran by 19 and 20-year-olds.
Hansch is in a great spot to make some big moves this summer with no 20-year-olds on the roster and the chance to pick early in the CHL import draft.
“You’re always going to have change, the timing of it is unpredictable,” said the Oil Kings GM, adding that “the next few weeks are important”.
While a lot of hockey fans in Edmonton are anticipating a busy offseason for the Oilers, the exact same could be said for the junior club, as they seem eager to end their skid of losing seasons.
The next big date for the team is May 3rd, the WHL’s Bantam Draft where the Oil Kings will have the first overall selection.