It has been an eventful 72 hours here in Oil Country, starting this past Saturday where at around 1pm MST Twitter blew up with the news that the Oilers had a press conference set-up for 4pm. This set-off a chain reaction of speculation including, a big trade, Taylor Hall announced as captain, an associate coach being named & 3hrs later as it turns out it was Ralph Krueger relieved as head coach. As surprising as it was to Ralph, is it really that surprising giving the circumstances surrounding this organization, I don’t think so but there’s always mixed feelings when it happens. This is a typical move by a new GM ultimately designing his team the way he envisions it to be successful.
Craig MacTavish was appointed GM not 2 months ago & promised change, so far he’s lived up to his word. In a refreshing change to what Oilers fans have been used to, MacTavish has been, blunt, to the point & extremely candid in the direction this team is heading. With the announcement of Dallas Eakins today & the dismissal of Ralph Krueger on Saturday his message is clear, this is my team & I’m the guy in charge. What I got from the press conference today announcing Eakins (pronounced Ehh-kins) as the Oilers their 12th head coach in club history is that he’s an in-your-face kind of guy who will undoubtedly hold everyone & anyone accountable for their lack of commitment, on & off the ice. The seasons of coddling these “young players” is over & as many have said before, this is a results driven league. With a tri-fecta of #1 picks the Oilers should be more than equipped to make that next step towards the playoff goal, or are they? June 19 will mark exactly 7yrs since the Oilers last played a playoff game & only 3 players remain from that club, Ryan Smyth (who was gone for 4yrs only to return 2 seasons ago) Ales Hemsky & Shawn Horcoff. The 2 latter names I will get to later. It has been too long since we had a competitive roster & even today there’s still question marks in regard to this. With a questionable blueline corps, questions in goal & a group of forwards, some of whom MacTavish describes as “being a non-factor most nights” changes are imminent & a guarantee.
Note: This will be Sam Gagner’s 5 coach in his 1st 6 seasons. At this point I’m still searching to see if this is a record to start an NHL career.
Potentially out are Khabibulin, Smithson, Fistric, Peckham, Petrell & Whitney in is newly acquired, Anton Belov. Added to that are long serving foot soldiers Horcoff (who has since sold his house) & Hemsky who MacTavish coached himself back in 2008-2009 but who now thinks would be best for the team if they could be traded, thus leaving no question marks as to where they sit on the depth chart. That being said, MacTavish made it known that if the return wasn’t feasible, they could return. That leaves 7 players for MacT to replace (8 including Hartikainen below) by September, a daunting task as any thus testing the Oilers pro & amateur scouting alike, who in both categories have struggled mightily bringing in competitive talent
Who will step up from the Barons?
Is Klefbom ready?
Which UFA’s will arrive?
Only time will time.
Added to these 8 players is Teemu Hartikainen who announced Monday that he will be KHL bound for next season. Hartikainen looked hesitant, slow, inconsistent & was non productive in 23GP with the Oilers this year. With 1g & 2a he fell in to MacT’s “non-factor” group of players previously discussed & although has had success offensively in the AHL, still struggled with consistency at times. With the KHL being arguably the 2nd best hockey league in the world, this might not be a bad idea for Teemu & will give him a bigger opportunity to play more against stiffer competition while giving the Oilers possibly another look from within or from a UFA. It’s also important to note that the Oilers are not in a position to offer Hartikainen the type of money the KHL will. All in all, this was a smart move by him.
While the Bruins & Blackhawks both square off for their 2nd Stanley Cup within 4yrs, the Oilers have some real question marks in regards to their 1st round 7th overall pick. So what should the Oilers do? Do they package a deal to trade up to at best, get the #4 pick which will arguably be Alexander Barkov? Do they trade down & receive a quality roster player that can step-in next year to fill one of potentially 9 spots? Do they just keep the pick & let him develop over time? So much speculation, most of which deserves its very own blog & it’s my belief that MacT will make a deal, if the right one comes along. If the last 2 weeks are any indication, this should be yet another, exciting, playoff free summer as an Oilers fan.
Trip Down Memory Lane
On that sad note, I present to you this. It was 7yrs ago that the Oilers were last in the playoffs. Thats 7 Junes of no playoff hockey & it was 7yrs ago today that the City of Edmonton was a buzz coming of the heels of a 2-1 Oilers must win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. In light of this day, I’d be a poor blogger if I didnt present some visual eye candy to take us back down memory lane.Chilling stuff, gives me goose bumps thinking about it.