The 2013-14 season of Oilers Hockey is the make or break season for this generation of players. The City of Edmonton has been home to some truly great, world class teams. The Gretzky era featured likely the greatest team ever to play the game. The CFL Eskimos have also been a team for the record books, what with the nearly four decade playoff streak, and the five straight championships during their perennial reign as post-season threat. The standard for this generation of fans is nothing but excellence. They still taste the sweet, delicious flavor of victory, with 2006 dancing in their minds. That’s why the current state of affairs in Edmonton sports is a bitter pill for fans to swallow.
The Eskimos are toiling in one of the franchises worst seasons ever. The Oilers are coming off several seasons as bottom feeders and well, frankly, fans have had it. The front office of the Edmonton Oilers has been missing the mark in its management of the team over the last twenty some years. Draft picks like Zach Parise were left on the board, while they whiffed on multiple miscues in many drafts, particularly in the 90′s . Players of high quality were regularly shipped out of town, for little return. Recent examples would be Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Smyth the first time we sent him packing. Meanwhile, driftwood like Patrick O’Sullivan would waltz onto the team. Oh, and then there was the embarrassing Heatley courtship. God help us.
Craig Mactavish, Dallas Eakins, and the Edmonton Oilers have a lot to prove this year. It’s time for the hotshots on this team to start playing more sacrificial hockey, foregoing the fancy play for solid teamwork, and accurate passing and shooting from many angles, with a fierce back check propelling the team first mentality. The weight of the passion of the Oilers faithful rests heavy on this squad, and I think the team desperately wants to win. However, fans have been treated to selfish puck possession, with players clogging the neutral zone, while the shiny new draft pick dipsy doodles like Kurt Browning, forgetting to actually make a sound decision about where to pass or shoot.
Dallas Eakins spoke on Sunday about the team needing to learn new habits. The players need to compete on a consistent level, and sacrifice stats for wins. Coach Eakins has to be a hard ass, and still be approachable. And Craig Mactavish has to be more proactive about areas of weakness. A better defensive and bottom six core could be had, but he, too, has sat on his hands a little. Regardless, this is a team that has enough raw talent to win. If it can be catalyzed into energy and grit, night after night, there is nowhere to go but up. Still, an Oilers fan can barely hold in his or her’s cursing, when the play is so rife with amateur errors that have no place any longer here.
This team may not make the playoffs this year, but if this season is sunk by a lack of heart and commitment, the exodus may begin from the suite boxes and season tickets line up. Growing as a team is one thing. Stagnating together is another entirely.