Over the years of this "rebuild", the words used to reassure Oilers fans have added up to something like this:
"We need to be patient. There are no short cuts here. We want to build a team that competes for more than just 8th place. I mean (chuckle, chuckle), you don't want to be like Calgary, do you?"
I know that that is an imaginary quote, but it sums up some of the things I've heard over the last few years regarding the Oilers, especially from management.
It's all come down to some mysterious, unseen goal that, if we do nothing long enough, just like Chicago and Pittsburgh did, we too can have a success hockey team competing year after year.
The theory goes, just wait and the longer we wait the more successful this team will be. People are already talking about a 2nd dynasty. And, may I add, they are pretty happy and with the clever little comparisons of Hall with Messier, RNH with Gretzky, and Eberle with Kurri. As if a dynasty couldn't exist without overblown comparisons to those 3 particular former Oilers, legends, and hall-of-famers.
It makes me feel uneasy to hear that the management is shooting for more than competing for 8th place, and that fans have bought into it. Why? Well, over the years, how many teams are in this category? How many teams never have to compete for 8th?
I did a little research and came up with the top 5 finishers from each conference over the last 10 years. I figured that this would give us a good idea of which teams, as of late, don't have to worry about slipping into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Which teams are so good that they are always competing for the President's Trophy? This is, I am assuming, what Tambellini is shooting for.
From 2001-2011, a span of 10 years because of the lock out, the Detroit Red Wings are the cream of the crop. They have finished in the top 5 in the Western Conference a flawless 10 times! Here are the rest of the elite teams and the amount of times they've finished in the top 5 over the last 10 seasons:
San Jose (9)
New Jersey (7)
I was a little surprised to see San Jose so successful over the last decade. Though, upon closer inspection it turns out that 3 of those 9 years they finished 5th in their conference. 5th isn't exactly a secure playoff position these days.
In the last 10 seasons the Oilers have finished in the top 5 exactly zero times. In fact, the last time they even came close to competing for top spot in the West was in 1989-1990. Which begs the question... are we in the middle of year 23 of the rebuild?
I know my theory is flawed in probably many ways, but I basically wanted to see how easy it is for a team to stay at the top for a decade. Pittsburgh has had Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, yet they've only been in a comfortable playoff position 5 times in the last 10 years. Of course, once Crosby joined the fold the team vaulted up and out of mediocrity into a continuous contender. Would it be horrible if the Oilers turned into a team like the Penguins? Of course not. Should our goal be to compete for the Conference title every year? In theory, yes. Is it possible? Not likely.
I, for one, am fine with competing for eighth. Before, if the team lost in the first round we would be saying so long to Dougie Weight. The team would essentially need to make significant moves every season in order to sneak into the playoffs the next year.
Now, we are living in different times, my friends! With a Billionaire owner and a salary cap, if the Oilers finish eighth one year they can go out and make a move or two to try to move up in the standings the next season. Heck, they've got great young guys already. Add a defensemen or two and a goalie and we could be talking about making the playoffs as soon as next season! Isn't that what we want? Or, is that too impatient?
We don't need to be afraid of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leaving because we can't afford them. I guess the salary cap could cause us to worry about losing them for different reasons. But, all that this idea preaches is that this team needs to start to try to win games starting right now, this week, not 3 years from now.
Unless your team's name is Mr. Detroit Red Wing, you should probably just be telling yourself (and the fans) that the goal is to make the playoffs. In order to make the playoffs, you need a good team. This team is not good. I am patient, but if the goal is to rebuild until Detroit II happens, we could be waiting a very long time.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this FanPost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the staff.