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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Pulling Positives

Another Oilers season is coming to a close and it is another season that will not be looked back on very fondly by fans. The team failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season and we had to sit back and watch the organization waste away another year of Connor McDavid’s prime.

It’s tough to find anything to really be positive right now and despite the fact, I don’t want to give the organization credit for anything, because they continue to show that they are an incompetent group. However, as I sat down after the teams embarrassing loss to the Anaheim Ducks, I found myself just sick of the negativity. Again, it’s warranted negativity and if the fan base doesn’t show when they’re upset then nothing will change, but I just wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about some positives from the season. I found five things that should make Oilers fans happy when they look back at the 2018-19 season:

5 – THE BOYS IN BAKERSFIELD

Bakersfield Condors forward Cooper Marody

For the first time in a long time, there is something to be excited about when it comes to the Oilers minor league system. The Condors clinched a playoff spot earlier in the week and they’re closing out a wildly successful regular season.

The part about this current Condors squad that is encouraging is that they’re being led by a core of young players in their first few years of professional hockey. This isn’t a ragtag group of journeymen. This is an exciting, skilled young core that will be pushing for NHL jobs over the next two years.

Tyler Benson leads the team with 61 points in 61 games played. He hasn’t been sheltered either. He regularly takes on tough matchups in a very tough league. Cooper Marody is second on the team with 57 points. Those two rookies have both taken big strides forward.

The teams two leading goal scorers, Joseph Gambardella and Josh Currie, have been up with the big club for the last few weeks and are looking like players who could push for bottom six jobs next season.

There’s also Kailer Yamamoto who has battled some injuries but still scored ten goals in his 27 games.

On the back end, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and William Lagesson have emerged as three young defenders who will all be looking to make the jump to the NHL over the next 12 to 18 months.

4 – CAREER YEAR FOR NUGE

Jan 14, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you’re an Oilers fan or not, you have to respect what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has gone through to this point in his career. He’s sat through a seemingly endless run of coaching and management changes during his time in an Oilers jersey and not once has he publicly shown any sign of frustration with the organization. Simply put, he’s been a trooper.

That’s what made his success this year even more enjoyable because he’s one of the guys on this team who really deserves it.

This year he set a career high in goals (28) and points (65). While Connor McDavid was his most common linemate at even strength and he did get a lot of powerplay time, he remained fairly effective away from McDavid too. He never really had a consistent linemate when he wasn’t with McDavid. He spent over 100 minutes with ten other wingers throughout the regular season and most of them have either cleared through waivers or seen significant time in the American Hockey League this season.

He’s defensively responsible, he kills penalties, contributes on the powerplay, and really just does whatever the Oilers need him to do. He’s their swiss army knife and it was great to see him find the offensive success he did this season.

3 – A MEANINGFUL(ish) MARCH

Maybe I’m reaching on this one, but there were some moments over February/March where this team still had a realistic shot at the playoffs and after watching this team fall out of the race in December/January for ten of the last 13 seasons, it’s always nice to have a few important games on the schedule in the final 20 games of the season.

They went on a 7-2-2 run between February 19th and March 11th and while most acknowledged they would need to keep up that pace if they wanted to stay in the conversation, it wasn’t exactly unrealistic.

Then, of course, they lost to New Jersey, got blown out by St. Louis, then dropped an OT decision to the Senators. At that point, it was clearly over. But there was that brief moment of belief at the beginning of March and that’s something to be happy about.

2 – MORE McDAVID

A career year for McDavid, but that should hardly surprise us. He’ll no doubt push for 120 points over the final few games of the season which will be exciting to watch considering the Oilers have only had four players do it in franchise history. Gretzky did it nine times, Coffey reached it three times, Kurri did it twice, and Messier was the last one to do it, accomplishing the feat in 1989-90.

I don’t need to go into detail about how much of a treat it is to watch McDavid play every year because we all know. Still, whenever you can sit back and appreciate his greatness, you need to do it.

1 – 100 FOR LEON

I put this at number one because, for a while, Draisaitl was a polarizing player amongst Oilers fans. There is hate about his hustle, his body language, and the fact that he can’t produce without Connor McDavid. His 100 point season has quieted the hate.

I don’t care how many minutes you play with McDavid, hitting 100 points and scoring nearly 50 goals is impressive. For all the talk about how the Oilers need more scoring wingers, it’s important to not forget that they already have one in Leon Draisaitl and his best years are still ahead of him.

That’s a big part of the reason I’ve been against trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. As long as Nugent-Hopkins in playing on the second line, the Oilers can keep running with the most dangerous duo in the entire NHL. There’s no reason that Connor and Leon won’t continue to be one of the most productive duos in the league for the next five seasons if they stay on the same line. That’s very encouraging for the future of the franchise.

  • OldOilFan

    Peak years… usually occur in a player’s early 20s.

    Connor and Leon aren’t getting any younger. So, in this sense, the mandate in Edmonton is pretty much “win now.” Not five years from now when Leon is 28 and Connor is 27.

    Mgmt has to assemble a team around these two guys SOON.

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    Mcdavid is 22. He is just starting his prime. And generational player will have a prime from 22 to 29. So we didn’t wastes another year of his prime.

    We did waste years of him on an ELC

    • OilerForLife

      Problem is most people today have short term goals. Instant gratification, we have to move forward and don’t look back. Bashing the team will do nothing but hurt it. As long as they make no more stupid moves moving forward, things will get better- over time. There is no quick way out, rash moves will only lead to the end of this franchise. I for one is not ready to throw in the towel.

  • corky

    Two positives. First was the Nation Donair Tour. Second is the feeling that this city is finally getting fed up with incompetence of the braintrust. Bobby Nicks can’t smooth everyone over with another bs presser like last season and so many other past seasons. Maybe this year we get another full page spread from Katz. The fans are getting wise to these stunts.

    • Rick Stroppel

      Corky, I agree on your second point. I think we may look back on this season as the beginning of the end of the OBC. That would be tremendous! On the other hand…if the Oilers come back in September with Hitchcock as HC, K. Gretzky as GM, Nicholson as POHO, all the old clowns in their clown suits…I will take it back and say there was nothing really positive about 2018-19. I actually think that McDavid and Draisaitl would agree with that. What they REALLY want to do is win Stanley Cups.

      • corky

        That’s what I’m afraid. Management saying they’ve learned so much through all this but staying with the status quo. The perfect example is Bob Nicholson saying the new GM should fit in with the culture. Like many have said there’s the perception that these guys think they are the smartest people in the room. Seems pretty evident now. Maybe we can all hope for a steep drop off in the renewals to push Katz into action.

    • GK1980

      Fans
      2007-2015- Tough stretch, rebuilding and patience by all
      2016-2017- made playoffs! Team is on the rise
      2017-2018- maybe this was a fluke down season
      2018-2019- last year wasn’t a fluke, 2016-2017 was. WTF happened?

  • Gravis82

    Didnt read. There are none. This was a cup year based on the performace of our best players, but management couldn’t make it happen when really all they had to do, was do almost nothing at all. Chiarelli may have taken away 2 Stanley cups from this city.

    Draft Chabot, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Debrincat and don’t trade hall or Eberle. Those three pics were soooo reasonable also. None of them are a reach.

    how many extra goal would that be this year? 125? For probably the same or less cap hit. LOL. We are so bad at decisions its incredible.

  • Todd the electron rod

    “The team failed to miss the playoffs for the second straight season…”
    The team actually succeeded (with honours!) in missing the playoffs.

  • Oiler Al

    Boys from Bakersfield:
    Cave 29 games- 3pts
    Currie 18 games-5pts
    Gamberdella 12 games-3pts
    Pool Party-46 games 9 pts [should be on Bakers.]
    Small sample size, but hope this isn’t a preview of things to come.
    This team needs guys who can score and not just play tiddly winks along the boards.

    • Datsyukian

      It looks like the AHL guys are playing too timidly and cautiously. Maybe they are afraid of the coach, afraid to make a mistake? Instead of dumping, chasing and grinding along the boards, why not take the game in your hands (even at the risk of making a mistake), take the opponent head on, try to make a bold move into the slot, dangle around a couple of players. Show off your skill (if you have it)!

  • J.P Michaels

    Who cares if they did a 7-2-2 run between Feb 19-March 11. They didn’t make the post season. Great that 29 and 97 got the points they got, they still didn’t make the post season. Good that Nuge and Cgaisson are in their respective posituons and that they didn’t trade Chaisson @ the deadline. And by the way Hall and Eberle, both got more points this season individually than the overpaid #27. The only positive I pull from this season is they let Chiarelli go. Maybe a bit too late tho

  • GK1980

    “ The team failed to miss the playoffs for the second straight season and we had to sit back and watch the organization waste away another year of Connor McDavid’s prime.” I wish, failing to miss the playoffs would be super!

  • Darcy yaceyko

    These writers in Edmonton must think the fans are dumb. Ya let’s find a positive in another losing season!!! What do they expect of us? Bend over and pretend all is well?!?!?!?!? What a joke!!

    • HockeyRooster

      Did you want him to write another article about how bad OBC and Bobby N is? Guess I skipped over the part where he said these five points are better than playoffs. Move along if you don’t like the article. There’s a team just south of us full of bandwagoners. I’m sure they wouldn’t even notice you hopping on.

  • Clayton

    The Oilers have the best offensive player in the world. The Oilers have once again wasted another year of a young star’s career. There is no positive except we are another year closer to Connor demanding a trade to a real NHL organization so we can see him enjoy some effective coaching, competent management and well deserved success.

    • NickL89

      This Connor demanding a trade stuff is getting old and only comes off as ignorant. The Lindros “I’ll decide where I’ll play” attitude is so childish and comments like these saying that Connor would pull a move like that is plain old insulting. He has a contract. He’s a professional. Keep dreaming.

  • madjam

    We were close to being a very good playoff team except for the poor season on defence and goaltending . Fix this teams lack of backend and the team will fly next season . Leave it much the same , and we will be pushing the cellar of league once again . Lack of defence and their ability to move and join the offence destroyed us once again .

  • Datsyukian

    “The team failed to miss the playoffs for the second straight season” – lol, we would all be ecstatic if they indeed failed to miss the playoffs. However, they did NOT fail to miss the playoffs. They missed them.

  • Ted

    I didn’t read TY’s article as I have trouble with TY to some previous comments! Any I see peeps are looking for positives! Ha! There no positives! Wake up! 13 years of Katz! Who has no clue!! …. WHY AM I STILL TRYING TO BE A FAN! SUCH AN EMBARRASSING FRANCHISE!

  • CityofWhat

    Look what he did for Maroon and even now Kassian both having career years. Don’t ever question McDavid’s ability to lead or to make others better, if you do your lacking hockey knowledge big time.

  • RJ

    What a surprise. ON bloggers ignored Nurse’s career year. If Mr. Glass Klefbom had set a new career best in points, we would have seen a dozen articles by now.

    Nurse outscores Klefbom’s best with games in hand and….crickets.

    As it relates to Nuge, it’s about time he set a new career best. All of the opposition’s best are focused on McD and Drai so he should be producing more. It also helps that he is on pace to play just his second complete season. More games should mean more opportunities to score.

  • RJ

    What a surprise. ON bloggers ignored Nurse’s career year. If Mr. Glass Klefbom had set a new career best in points, we would have seen a dozen articles by now.

    Nurse outscores Klefbom’s best with games in hand and….crickets.

    As it relates to Nuge, it’s about time he set a new career best. All of the opposition’s best are focused on McD and Drai so he should be producing more. It also helps that he is on pace to play just his second complete season. More games should mean more opportunities to score.

  • toprightcorner

    Lots to cheer about over the final few games

    – 3 goals for Draisaitl to reach 50
    – 2 goals and 5 points from Nuge to reached 30 goals and 70 pts
    – Connor hitting 120 pts. He likely won’t try catch Kucherov but hit 120 and he very likely wins the Hart.

    • cityofchampions

      McDavid won’t win the Hart as Oilers didn’t make the playoffs and the Hart is a bit of a team award (most valuable to their team). The Lindsey have evolved into “best player” and McDavid will probably win that one again. Kucherov will probably win Hart even though he’s surrounded by talent. I think either of McDavid or Kane would have won Hart if they could have dragged their sad-sack teams to the playoffs.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Yeah it is tough to think of positives this year but having two players break 100 points really is something we all should be stoked bout. Throw in Nuge, Kassian and Chaisson having career years just adds to it.

    There’s a lot of negatives thanks to the OBC but let’s not lose the good stuff in the mix. That’s totally right.

  • OilCan2

    Career years for our top three forwards. I’ve cheered for the Oilers since the 70s and I’m not about to break my ankle jumping off the bandwagon this week. Just for reference the leafs are still looking for a drinking cup since 67 and the rangers have ONE in the last 70 years.