Fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been chiding the team as of late for its winning record in the final third of the season. In past years, there has been an understanding that there was an intent to gut the team and draft high to secure essential talent. It’s an age old practice in the NHL, and one Oilers fans have been getting used to witnessing. But are the fans a bit to blame for the losing culture?
Firstly, let us establish that the responsibility for the state of the Edmonton Oilers rests squarely on the players and the organization. The fans haven’t been the ones strapping on the skates and bringing us the results that have been fed to us since the start of the rebuild with the drafting of Taylor Hall. But with the campaigns that have arisen once the standings indicate the Oilers are out of playoff contention do in fact become a part of the overall culture of the team.
“FAIL FOR NAIL!” “BAD FOR EKBLAD!”
Fans have engaged in sloganeering often in this way, and frankly, it needs to stop. On an annual basis, fans decide that since the team isn’t making the playoffs, they may as well lose as many games as they can to ensure a high pick at the draft. Some get quite upset. But isn’t the whole point of the rebuild to win? Why would anyone want any team to intentionally lose? Each year, at the close of another painful season, players should be of the mindset that some strides were made, another piece of the puzzle is set and that they are that much closer to being a winning entity.
Instead, the strong breeze of fan discontent has been filtering down to the players. You aren’t a good two way player? Why haven’t you been sent in a package for Shae Weber? We’re eliminated mathematically now? Okay, lose em all. This is an attitude among the fan base that helps to breed a losing culture and in my mind, is a reason among many teams here in Edmonton fail to gel.
The Oilers are 10-4-3 in their last 17 games, and in the Top 10 for NHL teams since before the Olympic break. Jordan Eberle (who had a sensational game against the Predators last night) spoke the other day about how the team had the Calgary Flames in their sights, and were looking “to pick off the other teams above” them. That is exactly the sentiment fans ought to share.
Instead of the relentless negativity, let’s feed the team’s success with heaps of fan electricity. Instead of losing a streak of games that leave the season on a sour note, with a long protracted off season of moves and musings, why not encourage the Edmonton Oilers to eviscerate their competition. The Oilers only have about a dozen games left. If they win say 7 of the 12, they will have gone 17-9-3 in their last 29 games for 37 of a possible 58 points—well over .500. This would represent a gradually emerging stability for a winning foundation in Edmonton. The team will still select high in the draft, but perhaps the feeling among the team will be pride and excitement, rather than uncertainty and a sense of failure.
The fans can be a huge part of that. Or we can find a way to stall the progress being made so we can draft first. Time to get off the fence.