In a season in which not much went right for the Oilers, the O.K.C. Barons’ successful bid to gain a berth in the A.H.L. playoffs is not just a welcome turn of event for a beleaguered fan base. It’s not just yet another strong entry on the growing resume of Head Coach Todd Nelson, who pulled this off despite having to dress 55 different players in 2013-14. But it promises to have a significant impact on the entire Oilers organization.
It’s hard to get too excited about the A.H.L. playoffs, while the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is raging. But if you’re as tired as I am of people constantly whining that Colorado’s re-build has gone way better than the Oilers has, then at least the Baron’s story has some bearing on next year. How? Because it’s a chance to turn their youngest prospects into “winners”.
I define a winning team as one that makes it to the post-season. You won’t, and can’t, always win The Stanley Cup. But surely the greatest measure of an organization’s success is a berth in the playoffs, just as it is the ultimate measure of a player. In fact, I’d argue it’s the single, most important thing that Corsi does not measure.
In the eight years that have passed since the Oilers have made the post-season, the fan base has constantly (and often correctly) complained that the Oilers don’t know how to “play the right way”, how “they can’t close out games” and how they “don’t match up well with teams that can bring significant push-back to their games”. All true. But did you seriously expect them to?
Think about it. Those are all traits of winner players, on winning hockey teams. On the last game of the season against Vancouver, only 6 Oilers on the roster had played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. Andrew Ference has 120 career post-season games; Ryan Smyth (now retired) had 93. Boyd Gordon (hurt) has 52, Matt Hendricks 34, David Perron 19, and Mark Fraser 5.
Going by my definition of a “winner” player, the Oilers will only have 5 “winners” on this team next season, assuming Fraser makes the club out of camp. Even if they add some playoff experience through UFA signings and/or a trade or two, it won’t be THAT much better next year. That’s why it’s so vital for Todd Nelson to have conjured up this little miracle.
When your entire roster combined has played about as many career NHL playoff games as Jaromir Jagr has all on his own (202), then your culture is missing those priceless intangibles which The Stanley Cup Playoffs provide; which gives your locker room a winning atmosphere.
No, the Calder Cup is not The Stanley Cup. But this experience will make Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Anton Lander, Mark Arcobello, Tyler Pitlick, Roman Horak and hand-full of others who have a shot at making the Oilers next year way better professionals…way better winners.
And that’s worth a lot.
Tags: Edmonton Oiiers