I hate it, but no matter how much the Oilers disappointed me the season before, by mid August I start to get excited about and to look forward to in the new season. The 2007 Death March was bad, but now the team had Sam Gagner (Teenage Saviour #1) and things would be different the next year. They weren't. Even in the summers of 2010 and 2011 when the team had just finished dead last and it was obvious that they would again be among the NHLs worst teams in the coming season I could find something to get excited about - Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
This year though things are different. Part of this has to do with my wife and I expecting our first kid at the end of September; I've so much to do right now that I don't know where to start and I'm sure that thinking about the Oilers isn't it. But it goes beyond that. For the first time since at least 2005 I won't be going to the Oilers' home opener, and I'll be going to fewer games this season than during any year since the first lockout. And I know that I'm going to have some new responsibilities that would have made it tough to go to 35 plus games this season, but when I went through the schedule to decide what games I wanted to sell I was shocked at how few I really wanted to attend.
Finally, the losing seems to have caught up to me.
There is some optimism among fans that the Oilers can make a significant jump in the standings but I can't see them finishing much higher than 12th. If five or six things go right for the Oilers this season I can picture a scenario where the Oilers get themselves up to 10th, I'm not sure that's a realistic expectation though. And unlike years past there isn't even a first overall pick to look forward to, instead we've got another teenager who's going to get dropped into the deep end. It's tough for me to look at all of this and get excited.
Still though, I thought there must be something I'm looking forward to. And then I saw a comment of Derek's and it clicked.
12 points this year and 12 points next year gets them a battle for 8th. Let’s all hold our breath for Hall’s health…
No, I'm not looking forward to seeing if Hall can stay healthy - although that would be nice. I'm looking forward to seeing how much closer the Oilers are to the playoffs when this season ends. But maybe not for the reason you are. You see, when the Oilers miss the playoffs this season they will tie the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils and California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons/Minnesota North Stars for second place on the NHL's all time longest playoff drought list, just one season behind the Florida Panthers.
If the Oilers don't take a significant step forward this season then it starts to look more likely that they will (at least) tie the record. I take a lot of shots and the Oilers and still this is not something I would want to happen. So this season I'll be looking at the Oilers "improvement" in an entirely different light. Not a player, not the the playoffs, but how much closer to the playoffs the team can get in an effort to avoid history. After eight seasons without playoff hockey that's what I'm looking forward to.