The Edmonton Oilers, back in 2006, was a franchise that boasted a talented lineup. Edmonton, for starters, had Michael Peca, Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, and a host of other talented players. Behind what was a star-studded lineup, Edmonton made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final before losing in a seventh game to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The next offseason saw many of the players that helped Edmonton make their deep run leave town, most noteably Pronger. Since that time there hasn’t been much to cheer about in Edmonton, especially in the post-season, as the Oilers have not qualified for the playoffs post-2006.
However during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, Edmontonians did have something to cheer about – although not on the ice. Off the ice, Edmonton won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery and, consequently, they hold the option of taking Connor McDavid first overall later this year. That’s very important because McDavid is widely considered to be a once-in-a-generation type of player – on par with talents like Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky.
The fact that Edmonton hold the option of selecting McDavid, an option that they are incredibly likely to take, is the main reason why Edmonton should be considered Western Conference favorites. However there’s other reasons why Edmonton should be on the short list of favorites to win the 2016 Stanley Cup outright.
1. Craig MacTavish has been demoted
Craig MacTavish had no proven track record in hockey operations management when he became senior vice-president of hockey operations a few years back in Edmonton. A few years later, he still has no proven track record in hockey operations management. You could argue that MacTavish was a decent coach since he was behind the bench for the 2006 Oilers, however even that is debateable. With him demoted, the Oilers finally have a chance to get the fresh perspectives that are needed for future success.
2. Peter Chiarelli is President of Hockey Operations and GM of the Edmonton Oilers
In Peter Chiarelli, the Edmonton Oilers now have off ice leadership that does have a proven track record. Chiarelli was part of the Boston Bruins hockey club that won the 2011 Stanley Cup. Him calling the shots upgrades Edmonton’s hockey brains significantly.
3. The Oilers appear to be serious about getting a good coach
Dallas Eakins was a terrible NHL coach the day the Oilers hired him. As coach of the Oilers, he did nothing to improve my opinion of him.
With Todd Nelson, the jury is still out as far as coaching skills go however he did not seem to be that bad in the time he spent behind the bench last season. Nelson aside, currently there is plenty of buzz in Edmonton surrounding who the coach of the Oilers will be next year. The buzz includes Mike Babcock’s name, the longtime and highly successful coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Whether Babcock, the winner of multiple Stanley Cups as a coach, will head the Oilers is not clear but that the Oilers are willing to go out and get someone capable of winning the championship is clear.
4. Taylor Hall and other young players are still improving
The 2015/16 Edmonton Oilers are not going to be a one-trick show. Connor McDavid should have plenty of support as the Oilers have a deep roster of young talent. That young talent is still improving and a more-than-just-solid core promises to keep the pressure off of McDavid.
If it’s true that below average coaching and poor hockey operations were inhibiting player development in the past then the changes taking place in Edmonton may lead to numerous players having breakout years.
I think the Oilers would be a playoff team without McDavid, based solely on the other changes they’ve made in recent weeks.
5. Better goaltending should be coming soon
The Oilers have not had a great goaltender since Curtis Joseph. However I doubt that Edmonton, having put so much effort into improving their office personel, will just leave the net to a below-average keeper in 2015/16. Ben Scrivens is not below average in my opinion but, in order to stay in Edmonton, he’ll need to improve on his 2014/15 stats. I think with the players in front of him, with better coaching and strategizing coming from behind the bench, and with better overall hockey operations Scrivens will post numbers more like the ones he had in Los Angeles. If he fails to do that then I think he will likely be traded.
In conclusion, the problem with the Edmonton Oilers post-2006 has not really been with players for the most part. Mainly, the problem has been with management and I think those problems are all going to be resolved before the opening of the 2015/16 season.
Edmonton fans should not worry about whether McDavid goes through growing pains or not. Instead look for the slightly older recent draft picks to all have breakout years. Come this time next season, I fully expect Edmonton to be in the second round of the 2016 playoffs will as good of a chance as any to win the Cup.