My birthday wish

Zach Laing
11 months ago
Another trip around the sun for me today.
And much like every time you get to blow out candles with numbers, it offers the chance to look back and reflect on the past year, and the one upcoming. Funny enough, for some reason I swear that I’ve done this article every year on my birthday. But when I looked into it, I guess I’ve missed a few years only doing it in 2020 and in 2019. That’ll change moving forward.
In 2019, my wish was for organizational consistency. To a certain extent that’s come, and the latest hiring of Jeff Jackson will only add to it, too. In 2020, I wished for “a scoring 3C, a top-six scoring winger, and a goaltender not named Mike Smith.” That’s fun.
To be frank, it’s hard to wish for anything beyond a Stanley Cup this year. Is that too much to ask for? Maybe? No? Kind of? I don’t know, but it’s where we’re going with it. Truth be told this isn’t really an egregious ask.
We’re entering year nine of Connor McDavid and… *rubs eyes* …year 10 of Leon Draisaitl? What the hell! Suddenly, I don’t feel like it’s too much to ask for this season.
The truth of it all is that this becomes a critical juncture for the franchise. On one hand, the addition of Jackson to the organization brings a lot of hope as to what the future holds. It makes me feel like there’s more reason to be patient and optimistic. On the other hand, it’s been nearly 20 years since the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup finals. That’s not acceptable, and neither is getting bounced in the Western Conference finals, either.
The Oilers need to win, and they need to do it now, and they still have work to do. Evan Bouchard needs his new contract. Let’s hope it’s a two-year deal around $3.5-m. That would be excellent and it would afford the Oilers to make one league-minimum signing to add to the team. Sam Gagner, anyone? That would be fun.
Brandon Sutter, should he be able to be healthy after his long-COVID battles — something I’m going through myself — could make an interesting option, too. He’s been strong in the faceoff circle in the past, and can kill penalties, too. His health is the biggest question mark here and as Jason Gregor mentioned yesterday, the Oilers will probably put him through some rigours in the pre-season to see how his body responds.
Beyond that, the Oilers will have the chance to rack up some salary cap space heading to the deadline with Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom now off the books. I’m looking forward to the Oilers making another big space at the deadline this year.
But most of all, I’m looking forward to my birthday wish coming true.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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