While the leadership of the Oilers and Senators are seemingly engaged in a battle to see who can produce the biggest public relations nightmare in the media this week, the actual Oilers and Senators will play a matinee hockey game in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon.
1. It seems like a lifetime ago that there was a possibility the Oilers and Senators could have played against each other in the Stanley Cup Final. Back in 2017, the Sens came within one goal of reaching the Final, losing the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. They were that year’s miracle team, pulling off countless comebacks and shockers led by amazing play from Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson. The Oilers, of course, lost to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the second round, blowing a 2-0 series lead and a realistic chance to make it out of the West through a banged up Nashville Predators squad. Oh, the good old days.
2. Everything has gone wrong for the Oilers and Sens since their playoff runs in 2017. Everything. I don’t have to explain to you what’s gone on here, as the Oilers have flopped in back-to-back seasons. In Ottawa, the Sens went all-in, acquiring Matt Duchene in a three-way trade that involved them getting rid of the thoroughly-solid Kyle Turris and a first-round pick that could very well net the Colorado Avalanche top prospect Jack Hughes at this summer’s draft.
3. Since then, the Sens have completely blown up their team. Mike Hoffman was dealt to San Jose (and hilariously flipped to Florida immediately after as the Panthers easily worked around Pierre Dorion’s policy of not trading within the division). Right before the season, captain Erik Karlsson, who stated he would love to re-sign in Ottawa, was also dealt to San Jose. Prior to the deadline, the Sens unloaded impending free agents Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingle, and Mark Stone (despite the fact he, like Karlsson, said he would sign an extension). The only notable players left from that playoff run are Bobby Ryan, Craig Anderson, J-G Pageau, and Cody Ceci.
4. That’s just scratching the surface of the drama. If you want a really good look at what’s gone down in Ottawa, check out this incredible twitter thread by Ryan Classic. To paraphrase, since the Sens went to the ECF, beloved former general manager Bryan Murray passed away, owner Eugene Melnyk threatened to move the team, Melnyk fired the Senators’ CEO and appointed himself, Karlsson and his wife were allegedly bullied and harassed by Hoffman’s girlfriend in regards to the couple’s stillborn baby, and multiple players were caught on camera in an uber laughing about how bad the team is.
5. The soap opera continued on Thursday when Melnyk went on radio to call out, uh, everyone. He tore into the local media for “bush league” reporting, he tore into the city of Ottawa for not fully supporting his new arena endeavours, he tore into fans for the trending #MelnykOut hashtag on Twitter, suggesting that the organization was only going to focus on real fans moving forward.
6. I think the disaster in Ottawa than it is in Edmonton. As embarrassing as Bob Nicholson’s random criticisms about Tobias Rieder was on Thursday afternoon, Melnyk straight up going on the radio to blast fans, the city, and local media takes the cake. That coupled with all of the other drama surrounding the Sens over the past couple years? Nothing beats it.
7. Since blowing the team up at the trade deadline, the Sens are 3-8-1 and have a four-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for dead last in the league. Of course, finishing last won’t do anything for the Sens as the Avs own their first-round pick.
8. As bad as things are for the Sens, there’s still some reason for optimism. They have a very good record at drafting and developing players in later rounds, like Mark Stone for example, and they’ve had a handful of young player put together strong seasons when given an opportunity this year. Thomas Chabot, drafted in the middle of the first round in 2015, currently leads the team in scoring with 49 points in just 62 games, and Brady Tkachuk, last year’s fourth-overall pick, leads the team in goals with 17.
9. With Thursday’s 4-1 spanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Oilers have themselves within five points of a playoff spot again. They would basically have to go undefeated in their final eight games to make the playoffs. The five points are one thing, but jumping over Vancouver, Chicago, Minnesota, Arizona, and Colorado is the real task.
10. With eight games remaining, things are also getting tight for Leon Draisaitl and his pursuit of 50 goals. He has 43 right now and would have to operate at nearly a goal-per-game pace to reach the half-century mark. Can he do it?
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/23/2019 – 7:00 am MT