It was a rocky one, but the preseason finale is behind us and no more games remain before the Oilers begin their charge towards the post-season once more. 156 days after the doors closed on another failed season, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in a 30-way tie for first place. They will have the opportunity to begin the regular season before 24 other clubs on tuesday when they host the Jets, but hopefully this budding club will see the significance of this new start.
One new GM. One new Head Coach. Nine new teammates.
They will know that if they don’t make the playoffs this year, it won’t mean a fire-sale in their dressing room. They will know that if they don’t make that benchmark, players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle won’t be on their way out of town. They will know that the pressure is on themselves to bring the spirit to win and not the fear of losing to the ice.
They are professional hockey players. This isn’t a game to them anymore. For the top end players, young and old, hockey became a way of life for them when they left their families at age fifteen to billet in cities they didn’t grow up in, move away to leave family and friend alike behind, all in pursuit of a life they love in a game they love in a world that revolves around a 35 pound piece of silver. For some, all of this may seem like madness, but for those top end players that the Edmonton Oilers have earned with all of their failures this has to be yet another day to stand in front of the world and announce their readiness. This has to be a day of clarity, where the instinct to ask for respect is superseded by the desire to reach out and take it.
1993 was the last year the Stanley Cup was awarded to a Canadian team. Since then, the cup tours the great white north in the summers visiting all of the canadian players that win the trophy in the name of their adopted american homes. It’s a close second that gives insight on the narrative that is our great nation’s relationship with our neighbours to the south. It is a role many Canadians can take pride in, but it is not one that any Canadian wants to see last forever. The Edmonton Oilers have the ability to become Canada’s team, to break the pattern of providing the pieces to an American victory. To transcend who they are individually, what they are on paper and become something greater, something that every Canadian is proud of. It may not be this year, or next year, or the year after that but this team has all of the most important pieces to a puzzle that only comes together once in a generation. Many have stopped asking if and begun to ask when, as if creating a winning team out of thin air under the pressure of a starving fan base on a hot plate of vicious media is a realistic goal.
Many have stopped asking if and begun to ask when…
If ever, why not now? There is the math of the NHL, experience breeds consistency, too much youth translates to long losing streaks, size and grit is key to winning the close games, strong defence is essential to the transition game required in a high offence system. But there are other factors at play here. The NHL has never seen a team of such raw talent assembled. Youth may sometime be foolish in the endeavour, but it cannot be ignored that sometimes youthful energy can give great strength to a team as emotionally charged as this one. The NHL has never seen a team with more to gain. The Stanley Cup has never been absent of our homeland longer than right now. There are new rules in the NHL and no one can foresee their effects. There are simply too many factors to see what this year will have in store for this team.
The Oilers are growing, they took their first steps as a team late last season moving up six standing spots over the previous campaign. It will be upon them soon to take a few more steps, with this pressurized fan base ready to pounce on any indication of failure. On tuesday evening, the puck will drop like a bomb at Rexall Place. The Edmonton Oilers will have a chance to rise up and seize their fate, one game at a time. They will be given their chance to unite, but, make no mistake, there is a storm coming upon them. The NHL is full of teams ready to feast upon the Oilers’ inexperienced, injured roster. They have the talent to overcome any challenge; it will be a test of will, a siege on the strength of their character that will fall upon them on October first.
Do I think the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup this year? No, everything I see indicates they won’t be close. Do I think the Oilers will make the playoffs this year? It will be difficult. I’m not ready to endorse or condemn this group of players.
Is there a chance they will make the playoffs?
Is there a chance they will win the Stanley Cup this year?