Thursday, 9 June 2016

EDM Oilers: What's Going So Wrong?

When the Edmonton Oilers got the 2010 first overall pick, it was a sign of something good. The Oilers had not made the playoffs since 2006, when they were SCF runner ups under Dwayne Roloson & a good team that pushed the heavily favoured Hurricanes to 7 games. Since then, a terrible set of jerseys, not replacing Roloson with a better goalie as he aged, the Khabibulin experiment gone wrong, and flashes of brilliance from decent players like Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner & Sam Ganger being few and far between as like Phil Kessel, they are best as contributing players, not no.1. The team needed help, and with the choice of Taylor Hall & Tyler Seguin, the team couldn't chose a bad player, and could build a team around their new star....whomever they draft this year with the #4 overall pick, under the Leafs, Jets & Blue Jackets.

Oilers fans are getting a nice new downtown arena, and who knows? Maybe they will break this cycle next year....but how does a team with all these pieces go so south

1. Goaltending

If there's one position the Oilers should have traded one of those picks for, it is goaltending. After 2010, the Oilers had two young goaltenders, Devin Dubnyk & Jeff Deslauriers, both of whom were mediocre at best and while Dubnyk is now one of the best goalies in the NHL after 2 great seasons in Arizona and mainly Minnesota, Deslauriers hasn't played in the NHL since 2010. Both young goalies at the time, Dubnyk & Deslaruiers lacked experience to take on a rebuild....and that trend continued with the addition of former Leafs & Kings backup, Ben Scrivens, who was turning heads taking over for an injured Jonathan Quick. Scrivens, like the two previous starters, was not experienced enough as a starter, got massively outshot against by most teams, and had no defence to help him. He was replaced by current starter, Cam Talbot, and Scrivens was shipped to Montréal to help a team with no direction and an injured Carey Price. Talbot has the same issues as Scrivens, but has only played 1 full season as an NHL starter, and backstopped the Canadian World Championship team to Gold in 2016, with Taylor Hall. As for why I mentioned Khabibulin, after backing up Cristobal Huet in Chicago, Edmonton took on the former 2004 Cup winner and all-star....leading to a DUI incident, and playing some of the worst, most uninspired hockey from a 30+ goalie I've personally seen.

2. Aside from the picks.....not much to work with

The Oilers have fallen for the trap of drafting these great picks, and then filling the team with mediocrity. Andrew Ference is the best example I can think of, but picking up players like David Perron and expecting them to be no.1 players doesn't help your team. Justin Schutlz was a bust before leaving the city, and keeping Shawn Horcoff & Ales Hemsky long past their prime didn't help the team at all. More busts in the early 2010s from Linus Omark & Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson further forced the team to let go of dead weight with no replacement. When the team got rid of Ryan Smyth in 2007, they made the right choice. He was a very productive player and deserves accolades for his tenure in Edmonton for sure. However, aside from the emotional ties to the player, he was not worth bringing back by 2011 and keeping him 2 years beyond he was productive. 2011/12 was a great season for him, but he scored more points that season, than he did the next two

3. Not trading the 2012 #1 overall pick

Nail Yakopov is not a horrible player, not even bad; but he is NOT a no.1 overall pick, and Edmonton must have had some idea they didn't need him. The rest of Edmonton's draft picks since 2010 have been productive, but not Yakopov. The team could have gotten a starting goalie better than any of the previously mentioned goalies in 2012 for that pick. They could have gotten some much needed defence or a package deal to get some of all their needs.

4. The Coaches weren't bad choices...but they couldn't do much

Craig MacTavish is a good coach when he has a good team to work with, similar to Paul Maurice, but he's a coach you should have when the base for the team has been laid, not when you're trying to lay that base. Ted Nolan is by far the best coach to have in this scenario and the Oilers passed him up. Dallas Eakins was a fantastic AHL coach with the Marlies...but didn't have the experience to work at an NHL level and get the team to the point they should have been, not to his fault though. Tom Renney was not the best choice as a coach in hindsight, but in 2010, with Taylor Hall and then Nugent Hopkins on the way, it made sense to give him a chance to run the team disciplined. The rest of Edmonton's coaches, including the great Pat Quinn, were interim coaches. Their current coach, Todd Mcclellan, is a good coach, and left San Jose under little fault of his own and more so a disconnect between the players and management, with him caught in the middle. His problem, like Renny, is that he should be on a team that is mature. Having Marleau & Thornton is a luxury discipline wise, while having this young team, with the task of making the City of Champions great again.

5. Building a Disciplined & Winning Environment is not easy with guys who don't know what it's like to win!

This is an all sports problem. Taylor Hall is entering his 6th NHL season next season, with plenty of good IIHF experience and no real winning experience in the NHL. Ryan Nugent Hopkins is entering his 5th, and again, without no real winning experience. There are few if any contributing winners on that team with experience. The current Florida Panthers team has a lot of young players, who until last season had little playoff experience. With the addition of Jaromir Jagr & Roberto Luongo to help give the young guys some guidance and motivation, Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad and the youth of the team learned and continue to better themselves. Who does Taylor Hall have as a team role model? Who did he have in 2010? He is now the role model to his teammates younger than him, but he lacks that playoff experience, it's the only thing he lacks!

Bonus: Crappy jerseys until 2013

While the Oilers have beautiful jerseys now and finally introduced a orange throwback, before 2013, they had the worst jerseys to fall victim to the Reebok Edge template. While people will always prefer the bright orange and blue jerseys of the past, the 1996-2007 jerseys were not bad for the time. The edge jerseys, introduced in 2007, were such a mess of colours and half striping, and became a symbol of the team's play: UGLY! The white jersey (worst of the two) was scrapped by 2011, but the blue jersey stuck around an extra season. Some of you are thinking "well why do jerseys matter with regards to team play? Teams have won the Cup in ugly jerseys." That is true, however, crappy jerseys and crappy play create an ugly team image all around and will drive players/fans away.

In short, the Oilers have a lot of work ahead of them, some trades to make, and room to grow. The mistakes of the past have been made, and the team needs to get its head on straight, do what they need to do and bring the playoffs back to a city that had it for decades 

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