Dead last! Cellar Dwellars! Laughing stock of the league!
Any way you name it, the Edmonton Oilers have nowhere to go but up.
The Oilers have hit Rock Bottom!
The club’s oft-spoken about “Dynasty Years” seem ancient now, blurred by the lingering smoke of its lady luck run to the Cup finals in 2006.
The Oilers descent below mediocrity didn’t simply occur with the 2009-10 season. It’s been a sordid work in progress for several years now.
Some might call it “The Pronger Factor”, suggesting the wheels came off when stud defenceman Chris Pronger and his wife demanded a trade out of E-Town following that dream season in ’06.
Nonetheless, the knife continued turning this year for the copper and blue, and their loyal fans, as injuries accumulated quicker than Tiger Woods’ public apologies.
A total of 531 man-lost games to injury says it all! Incredible really, especially when heart-and-soul players like Ales Hemsky, Sheldon Souray and Nikolai Khabibulin spent much of their season on the IR. Getting to the bottom of this team’s chronic injury problems must take priority this summer.
In part, the issue is staring the front office in the eye: Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Mike Comrie and Taylor Chorney.
Poodles in a league filled with pit bulls!
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini readily admits that his club must get bigger and stronger to compete, which had everything to do with the arrival of 6’3”, 210-pound D-man, Ryan Whitney, from Anaheim, at the trade deadline, in exchange for talented – but small blueliner – Lubomir Visnovsky.
A dubious month of January exemplified an entire season for Edmonton, which compiled an embarrassing 0-10-0-2 record. Head Coach Pat Quinn must surely have been longing for an Arizona golf course and a cool bevy. Instead, he was greeted with a frosty northern Alberta winter, and a locker room of professional hockey players struggling to incorporate the new systems of a new coaching staff.
Tambellini is looking to introduce a “new culture”, a “new attitude” into his locker room, and one that breeds success, not only for a few years, but long into the future.
The house cleaning has begun, with the exodus of players like Steve Staios, Kyle Brodziak, Denis Grebeshkov and Visnovsky. The Oilers still have significant salary cap issues ($5M cap room), which Tambo must address for this team to move forward in its rebuild.
Some of this will undoubtedly be resolved with the potential departure this summer, of roster dead wood including captain Ethan Moreau ($2M), Fernando Pisani ($2.5M, UFA), Nilsson ($2M) and Jason Strudwick ($700K) and goaltender JD Deslauriers ($625K).
There is merit in keeping Strudwick in the fold, but Deslauriers, for my money, will be the odd-man out, as the team’s third string goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, has shown consistency and flash between the pipes this year.
And with those moves, roster spots open up for young budding offensive stars like Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, Jordan Eberle and possibly, down the road, highly touted defensive prospect, Jeff Petry.
The rebuild is on in Edmonton, and fans will look to the future now, while clinging tenuously to the past and the glory years of the Boys on the Bus.
On June 25 in Los Angeles (NHL Entry Draft), the future for this once proud western Canadian hockey franchise will begin to look bright again.
Tambellini has my respect for determining this difficult, but necessary path for a franchise that has seemingly lost its way.
The present is unquestionably painful for Oilers Nation, but the fans of this hockey-rabid city are now seeing the birth of a new era.
In the meantime, keep your chins up, and your sticks down Oiler fans!
About the Author
Written by Scott Pattison
Scott is an award-winning sports writer whose career spans more than 20 years. He's proudly covered the Oilers since moving to the Alberta capital in 2000.