The Edmonton Oilers last won the Stanley Cup in 1990. The last time a dynasty ruled the National Hockey League. Since then the Oilers have missed the playoffs thirteen times and counting. The last time they made the playoffs in 2005-2006 they did so with 95 points in the regular season. They ended up losing the Stanley Cup in game seven to the Carolina Hurricanes… a fact that still does not sit well with this Oilers fans. The Oilers had no reason losing to the Hurricanes in the finals. I’m not going to get into the reasons but the Cup was theirs for the taking. The team has not skated on playoff ice since.
Now to set the record straight I’ve been an Oilers fan since their first NHL season when I was barely old enough to stand. I’ve seen the good times and bad times, and I am a die hard Oilers fan. However I am truly questioning my allegiance to the orange and blue. I simply cannot continue to be an advocate of the futility that is Oilers hockey. What is it five coaches in six season? Brutal. Although I liked Kevin Lowe as a player, as a hockey manager I’m not so sure just how great he is. Same with MacT. The Oilers fired him as coach and now they bring him back in a more powerful position. Now I will say this that MacTavish is a close friend of Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz and I know that MacT was recently battling some health issues so I can cut some slack there. I also know that MacT tried to land some size and goaltending in the off season… but he failed on both accounts. The Oilers have become the kicking post of the league.
So what is wrong with the Edmonton Oilers? Well I feel as qualified as anyone to discuss this topic. I, as have all Oiler fans, have endured some brutal hockey in the past twenty years. The last seven years tops it off though and enough is enough. In fact there is a ton of Edmonton Oilers jokes out there that perhaps are justified:
10 Things Wrong with the Edmonton Oilers: A Fan’s Perspective
There are probably more than ten things, but this is a list of the more obvious areas that the Oil need to address and address soon if they are to retain their overly loyal fan base.
- Goaltending – I actually like Devin Dubnyk but he is not a starter, at least not for the Oilers. After watching his performance this past Saturday where the Oilers had a 5-4 lead late only to see Dubnyk give up a couple of soft goals allowing the Leafs to pull out a 6-5 victory, I actually directed some foul language at the television. Brutal his performance was, just brutal. If you are asking the guys in front of you to score six goals a night to get the win, you are in trouble. The Edmonton Oilers need a starting goaltender and they need one fast. And no Bryzgalov is not the answer.
- Lack of Size up front – with realignment, you look at teams in Edmonton’s division and you see teams like the San Jose Sharks, The Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. Check out the size of their forward lines and then check out the Oilers. The Oilers lack size up front… at center and on the wing. They need a power forward or two to make some room for the high flying kids. Yes MacT tried to land David Clarkson, but the fact is he was unable to. Until the Oilers get some size up front their not going to be able to complete at the level they need to.
- Lack of Size on Defense – their size is average but if you watch as many Oilers games as I have in the past seven seasons you know how easy they are to play against.
- No respect from the League – the Oilers, being from the West and being as bad as they have been have not received a lot of respect from the NHL. Not in game seven vs. the Hurricanes in 2006 and not in the seasons since. I don’t know how many times the Oilers kids get run and worked over and the League turns a blind shoulder. As a more recent example how many of you saw the three on one that the Leafs had in overtime where they went and scored the game winner. Did you by chance see the play that started that rush? Of course their was some interference and roughing by the Leafs that somehow went unnoticed. Had it been reversed you can bet that there would have been an Oilers penalty. I get that the good teams (see Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh) get the most respect year in and year out but at some point you have to show a little love to the small guys. There are always two teams out there guys. Officiating has not worked in the Oilers favor in recent years. Don’t even get us started about the inconsistency of the NHL officials.
- Egos need checking – there are some Oiler “big-wigs” that really need to check their egos at the door. Yes Kevin Lowe, you are one of the few that I am referring to here. The Old Boys on the Bus was 25 years ago. Time to move on.
- The Boys on the Bus are Retired – again the country club atmosphere that has surrounded this team for way to long needs to be retired as well. I like what Dallas Eakins has done with the dressing room. It is time for a paradigm shift with this team.
- Failure to use players properly – I am a firm believer that teams must grant ice time to the players that are delivering results. Case in point, Ryan Smyth. Yes the guy is old, yes the guy is not the fastest skater on the ice. But Ryan Smyth is passionate, drives to the net is strong on the puck and can contribute on the PP. He scored two goals for the Oil in the last game and has three in his last two games. This guy can deliver with quality ice time. Same thing with the young guys like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. When those guys are going they should be double shifted. They are too creative to ride the pine.
- The Fans in attendance – the Oilers have it good from a box office perspective. No matter how bad they suck their stands are still full. Well Oilers fans who attend games, perhaps its time to make a stance and stay away for a few games. Are you truly entertained by all of these losses and last place finishes of the past few years? The Oilers have become the laughing stock of the NHL. Why should Oilers fans let their teams get away with such poor play.
- Inconsistency – this team needs to gel. Its difficult for the players to play with different linemates every second night. This teams needs consistency at all positions and with the coaching staff. The goaltenders have to be better. The defense have to play bigger and the forwards have to capitalize on their opportunities. I’m so sick of the Oilers having to trade players that don’t want to be here or that the Oilers could not pay. The Prongers, the Weights. the Guerins, the Messiers, the Coffeys. Ice a consistent product, become a winning franchise again and players will want to play in Edmonton. See the Red Wings or the Black Hawks for example. The Oilers are not even close with their inconsistent effort. The team needs to play a solid 60 and on some nights a solid 65 minutes of hockey each and every night. Perhaps if the salaries were performance based we’d see a better effort on a more regular basis. Wasn’t this what Craig Mac Tavish and Kevin Lowe were known for? Why settle for less?
- Lack of Accountability – so Nail Yakupov is being benched for the second consecutive game tonight? Bravo Dallas Eakins. These players, stars or not need to be held accountable for their efforts and their play. Players are paid to win and deliver and entertaining product on the ice. Right now the Oilers are failing to deliver on both accounts. Dubnyk has cost this team three wins in this early season. With the parity in the league a few more of those types of losses and your season could be over. He needs to be accountable just as his goaltending coach needs to be, just as Kevin Lowe, Craig Mac Tavish and Dallas Eakins need to be.
I’ve played hockey, officiated hockey, I write about hockey and I watch a lot of hockey. I also have a degree in business and marketing I am a true hockey fanatic. Yet I cannot believe that the Oilers have failed to address the areas above. I am really at a loss for words with their performance out of the gate this season. I think there have been a few bright lights in the play of Ryan Smyth, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Boyd Gordon and the fourth line. As a hockey fan of the Edmonton Oilers I simply cannot take much more of this. I do not know if I speak for many or any Oilers fans, but it has not been fun to watch. The efforts have been weak and inconsistent. A once proud franchise is now the laughing stock of the NHL. Perhaps having the great Mark Messier as an advisor is a great step in the right direction as this team needs:
- better defensive play
- better goaltending
- better consistency
- more size
- more wins
And isn’t that what it is all about? If you are not winning you are losing. If you are not first, you may as well be last. That is a position that the Oilers know all to well. Let’s see if the Oilers can get out of their seven year funk. Right now it is not looking very well.