This past offseason has been an eventful one if you’re a fan of the team from the province of Alberta…Plenty of things to look forward to, other than a guy named McDavid.
By Patrick Comia
It’s been nine seasons since the Edmonton Oilers made the postseason.
The last time we saw them was in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.
For a team that has seen success in the past, having witness the rise of an NHL phenom in Wayne Gretzky, and five championships, they have fallen off the tracks and become the laughing stock of the NHL. It’s become a home where NHL players wither and become a shell of their former selves.
This could be attributed to the losing atmosphere of the product on the ice, settling for losing ways to get the top pick in the following year’s Entry Draft. Chaos and confusion have riddled the front office that it’s hard to make sense of what the heck is going on.
Past Oilers greats have attempted to right the ship and get the team back to its winning ways. Kevin Lowe and Craig McTavish were met with limited success, trying to inject the past championships in the organization.
The only positive result was an appearance in the above mentioned Stanley Cup Final.
In fact, they have gone through three general managers since 2000, none lasting more than eight years. That’s a far cry from the original architect of the championship Oilers of the 1980’s, Glen Sather. In his 20 years as Oilers general manager (1980 to 2000), the team saw five Stanley Cups.
They have gone through six head coaches, including McTavish who lead the Oilers to a 301-252-47 record, which included that Stanley Cup Final berth.
It’s been a while, since the Oilers had respect in the NHL, but that might be starting to change.
Respect and winning success may have come in two managerial positions: general manager and head coach.
As previously mentioned, Oilers have been lacking in these departments since Glen Sather left the position in 2000.
The talent was there, but the right persons to oversee their development has been lacking. Enter Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan.
They bring immediate respect to the respecting posts in the organization, based on their past successes.
For Chiarelli, he has been an NHL executive for over a decade. He has served two years as general manager for the Ottawa Senators, and most recently the Boston Bruins. He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) August 5, 2015
Will his success carry over to Edmonton? Time will tell, but he instantly brings a hard-nosed, no-nonsense attitude to a front office that has been soft in appearance.
The same thing could be said for the man behind the bench. It’s been a struggle for the person to get the best out of a roster that’s been chalk-filled with highly-talked about players. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakapov, and Jordan Eberle all were former first-round draft picks, including three players taken number one overall.
No matter who was behind the bench, they could not unlock these players’ potential. With the hiring of McLellen as head coach, the Oilers management made a statement that enough was enough.
He is a proven coach that has over 430 games under his belt. He served as the bench boss for the San Jose Sharks for seven years, leading the team to six postseason appearances, including a President’s trophy in his first season as head coach.
Mclallan also served as an assistant coach to former Detroit Red wings head coach Mike Babcock from 2005 to 2008. He would be part of Babcock’s Stanley Cup winning staff that in 2007-2008, coaching the forwards and managing Detroit’s power play. Under his guidance, they would rank as one of the most potent teams in the NHL in power play efficiency in two of his three years.
You would have to think that the potential for the Oilers roster to score has been increased with his hire.
In with the New
Several players have been added to the Oilers, this past offseason. The funny thing is, they wanted to come. Or so, we are led to believe they signed on their own free will.
I am talking about the additions of defenseman Andrej Sekera and center Mark Letestu. These two players are great pick ups for a team that needs more veteran presence.
Sekera is sure to help with the young blue line and provide more leadership, assisting Andrew Ferrance in that department.
And, he’s going to need it. As the elder statesman, Ferrance is up there in age. Sekera is 29 and will help take the burden off of Ferrance and provide a younger, yet seasoned presence on the ice.
Chiarelli has invested the next six years into the defenseman, so the trust is there. But, will the player’s production meet the expectation?
With the addition of Letest for the next three-years, the depth down the middle of the Oilers should be reinforced. Especially in the bottom six. If things go according to plan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid should occupy the first and second scoring lines, leaving Letestu most likely on the third line.
He brings a tough attitude to Edmonton, which they have been in need of. He won’t be leaned upon in the scoring department, which allows him to concentrate on his game and playing his way.
To help out in goal, Cam Talbot was acquired via a trade with the New York Rangers. Even though he doesn’t have a large track record of wins, he has proven himself to vie for a starting job for a team.
With the Rangers, there was no chance of that behind Henrik Lundqvist. Talbot was only going to see time in the crease, if Lundqvist was injured or needed a night off. And knowing the Swedish goalie, he enjoys playing the game too much to let anyone take over.
With Talbot still coming into his prime, it was only fair for him to be given an opportunity with another team, in this case the Oilers.
However, it raises a question if Talbot is able to come into the Oilers organization and provide the same strong goaltending he provided in New York.
The defense he will play behind is not the same he had with the Rangers. However, there is hope that the players in front of him will be able to find their stride under new management and provide good-enough structure that will take the burden off Talbot, and not have to stand on his head each and every night.
The Connor McDavid effect
Will McDavid be an impact for the Oilers, as he has been touted? Is he the next Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby, a generational player that can turn around the fortunes of a franchise?
That has yet to be seen on the ice. It is hard for anyone to make that comparison when the player has not set foot in the NHL.
It’s a different game from when Gretzky came into the league. The players are bigger, faster, and stronger. Players just entering the league can be thrown out like yesterday’s garbage in a instant.
That’s why it will be important for McDavid to adjust quickly and make the proper adjustments to fit into today’s game. Fortunately, he has proven leadership in Mcllelan and Chiarelli that know the game and provide a structured environment.
Also, his teammates have years under the belt and can pass on any advice to the youngster to aid in his progression.
Edmonton is starting to become a well-Oiled machine again. That doesn’t mean they will make the playoffs or take the Western Conference next season.
No, but they are making the right moves towards respectability again. A nucleus is being formed that the team needs to build around in the coming years. But, they still have a long ways to go to get on their level.
Yet, there is a good feeling starting in Edmonton, making it cool again to root for the Oilers.Photo by Kris Krug
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