The Edmonton Oilers definitely took a step forward this season
Losing sucks. I know it, you know it. But when it comes to success in the NHL, you gotta walk before you can run. You gotta lose before you can win. The Edmonton Oilers are, by and large, with a few exceptions, still a pretty young team learning to win in this league. They may have the 2 best forwards in the league, a solid if unspectacular D corps, ditto for the goalies, and a decent bottom 6 forward group, but it doesn’t matter how good you are, you’ve still gotta learn to win as a team.
Right now the only guy who has a Stanley Cup ring on the team is Alex Chiasson, who won with Washington in 2018. James Neal has come close as he was in 2 consecutive finals – 2017 with Nashville and 2018 with Vegas, coming up empty both times. Other than those 2, you have most of the roster composed of guys with some playoff experience but none in going that far, or in many cases none at all.
We already have the history of this as a franchise. Most people remember the Oilers of the 80s as a dynasty that won 5 cups between 1984-1990, but what’s rarely talked about is the journey to get there.
The Edmonton Oilers have a history of getting back up when knocked down
And there was losing required to get there.
Even a team with the lethal firepower upfront of Gretzky, Messier, Anderson, Mactavish, et al, a D corps with Coffey, Lowe, Smith, and Gregg, and 2 starting goalies in Fuhr and Moog, they still had trouble beating the strong teams of the early 80s from the time they got into the NHL in 1979 to the time they won their first cup in ’84.
From ’79-83, the Oilers routinely got beaten in the playoffs by stronger teams of the day in Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston, and of course, Calgary also gave them fits being their rival.
Then they got in their first cup final in 1983 only to get their butts kicked by the more experienced New York Islanders who went on to win their 4th straight cup by sweeping the Oilers in 4 straight games.
After that, they learned how to elevate their game in the playoffs and then after that, it was the Oilers that did the butt-kicking in the NHL. The losing led to winning, through the tough lessons of the NHL. You’ve gotta feel the heartbreak of losing before you feel the sweet elation of winning.
The Oilers of 2020 are learning this lesson now. Trust me, they’ll remember the heartbreak they suffered now so that it doesn’t happen again next year. Eventually, they’ll get to the Stanley Cup final, where if history has anything to say about it, they’ll lose the 1st time and then get back to it eventually and win it the next time.
The window to win has just opened now, so there’s lots of time left in the careers of most of these guys to bring the cup back here. No longer are the Oilers the laughingstock of the league, languishing at the bottom of the standings year after year after year, collecting high draft picks like they’re going out of style, never seeming to improve year over year.
Those days are over. Now IMO we’re playoff contenders. Not cup contenders, mind you, not yet, but playoff contenders. That’s a step in the right direction. Oh sure, players will come and go, players will be drafted, and some will be great players and some will be busts. Trades will be made and some will be won and some will be lost. Free agents will be signed, and some will live up to their contracts and some won’t. That is the way of things in the NHL.
But through it all, the lessons of winning will be learned. You know, I once saw a video of Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky being interviewed together by GQ Sports – it’s here if you have the 24 minutes to watch it. In it, Gretzky tells McDavid “You’re too good to not win the Stanley Cup.”
This is true, and I 100% believe Gretzky is right. It’ll take some time, but eventually, the cup will come back to Edmonton. 2020 is just the first step on a long journey.
You know what’s bullplop?
That’s right, the NHL in their wisdom has ruled that despite the fact that James Neal did not meet any of the conditions in the trade he was acquired for, that we still have to give up a 3rd round pick to the Flames because of projections and bla bla bla.
Why? It was the NHL’s choice to suspend the season early, and at the time James Neal only had 19 goals (the condition for the draft pick was if Neal scored 21 goals and if Lucic had 10 less than that that the Oilers owed the Flames a 3rd round pick) and hadn’t scored a goal in the 2020 calendar year.
There was only a month left in the season, and the NHL chose to end the season in March. Neal was pretty snakebit at season’s pause. Maybe he would’ve gotten those 2 goals, maybe not. But the NHL chose to end the regular season when it did and thus all statistics for the regular season were final.
And the FINAL statistics at the regular season mean the condition on Neal’s end in this trade wasn’t met. Final means FINAL. Not some arbitrary change in the rules for 1 particular trade. Yes, it’s only a 3rd round pick which is unlikely to yield a player of consequence and yes the team gets to pick between the 2020 and the 2021 3rd rounder, but that doesn’t make it better.
The bottom line on this is the Oilers got screwed by the NHL. Period. We shouldn’t have to surrender anything in this trade, except for Milan Lucic.
Of course, the NHL has a history of making stupid decisions in their executive suite. Remember the glowing puck to try to appeal to American TV audiences? How about the decision to expand to the Sun Belt, which has produced for the most part teams that simply hemorrhage money for their owners? When Tampa Bay won the cup in 2004, most of the city had no idea the cup final was going on.
How about the decision to grant an expansion team in Atlanta for the 2nd time? That was 2 tries, 2 failures (1 team moved to Calgary and became the Flames in 1980, the other moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets v 2.0). How about being late to the party for concussion protocols? How about the stupid rule that teams that hire coaches or GMs that were fired by other franchises had to surrender a draft pick as compensation? That rule conveniently went away when the LA Kings hired Todd Mclellan away from the Oilers after we fired him, so they got screwed there too. Endless playoff format rewrites? The plague of inconsistent officiating?
Anyway, this is just another in a long line of ridiculous decisions by the NHL that hose the Oilers. For shame, NHL. You’re supposed to be a professional league, run yourselves like it. /rant