Today is the start of March Madness and this means brackets, brackets, brackets, and more brackets. I don't know anything about college basketball, I probably haven't watched 10 seconds of any game this season, but that doesn't stop me from making a bracket and hoping that my completely uninformed picks are superior to my wife's completely uniformed picks.
What I don't know about college basketball, I more than make up for with my knowledge of losing Oilers seasons. My first full year as a season ticket holder was in 2006/07, the first year of the Oilers' ten year run without playoff hockey. Two last place finishes. Four draft lottery wins. Rebuilds of rebuilds. Yes, I think I know a little bit about losing if that's ever a concern. And so I thought we should combine these two things - the Oilers decade of failure and brackets - to figure out which season was truly the worst.
For the purposes of ranking the teams I simply used the percentage of points earned; ties were broken (there are three 62 point seasons, remember) by the total number of wins. But a season is so much more than the point total at the end. To really get a feel for a season you have to start at the beginning with free agency, this is where expectations are set. Then the season starts, there's inevitable crash near the midpoint, and then the draft. Taken together, that's what makes up a season. And with your votes we're going to figure out which season of the last decade has been the worst.
A new match-up will be posted on every non game days between now and the end of the month, voting will remain open until the next match-up is posted at noon. So let's get started with the first match-up, a play-in game of sorts between the #8 seed from the lockout shortened 2012/13 season and the #9 seed from 2008/09, the last Oilers team to finish above the NHL's fake 0.500 mark.
Click here to enlarge.
#8 -- 2012-13 - 45 points (19-22-7)
Goal Differential: -9 (21st)
Power Play: 7.00 GF/60 (7th)
Penalty Kill: 5.51 GA/60 (11th)
The Oilers came out of the NHL's most recent lockout ready to turn their rebuild north. Ralph Krueger had replaced Tom Renney behind the bench, the team now had three first overall picks in the lineup (Nail Yakupov had been drafted the summer before), and the free agent every team had coveted, Justin Schultz, had chosen the Oilers. There was a lot of optimism in Edmonton when the season finally started. Having watched Schultz, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle light up the AHL only added fuel to the fire.
Prior to the lockout the Oilers had agreed to terms on extensions for both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, seven years times $6M for Hall, the same annual salary for Eberle but a year less. The Eberle deal was questioned by many at the time but has turned out to be an excellent value for the Oilers. There was less debate about the extension signed by Hall but there were still some who didn't think it was money well spent (click that link at your own risk). Steve Tambellini made a lot of mistakes during his time as the Oilers GM, these two contracts weren't among them.
In the end Oilers did about what many expected them to do, they took their first step towards being something other than a basement dweller. Finishing 24th the Oilers improved five spots in the league's overall standings. With the seventh overall pick in the draft the Oilers selected Darnell Nurse. In that draft the Oilers also acquired Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, and Greg Chase. 2012/13 was also the final time we got to enjoy watching Nikolai Khabibulin play in an Oilers uniform.
#9 -- 2008-09 - 85 points (38-35-9)
Goal Differential: -14 (20th)
Power Play: 5.65 GF/60 (23rd)
Penalty Kill: 7.38 GA/60 (26th)
Year three of the Oilers' post Stanley Cup retooling saw the team slip slightly in the standings, finishing with 85 points, three fewer than the team had finished with the season before, but still only six points removed from a playoff spot. The team's failures in the 2008/09 season were ultimately what cost Craig MacTavish his job as the team's head coach; MacTavish had been behind the team's bench since the beginning of the 2000/01 season. But with a new General Manger at the helm, Steve Tambellini took over from Kevin Lowe before the season started, MacTavish likely knew his days with this Oilers were numbered, even before the season started.
Buring the offseason, in his final days as the team's GM, Kevin Lowe made a number of moves designed to help get the Oilers back into the playoffs; Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene were traded to Los Angeles for Lubomir Visnovsky; Joni Pitkanen and Erik Cole switched places (Cole would be gone before the end of the season); as did Raffi Torres and Gilbert Brule. It wasn't enough to turn around the team's fortunes though, and by season's end it was becoming increasingly clear that the Oilers did not have the players necessary to turn the ship around.
At the draft the Oilers would select a couple of players who have gone on to have NHL careers; Magnus Paajarvi (9th overall) and Anton Lander (40th overall) who were taken with the team's first two picks. The Oilers also made ad deal at the draft, trading Kyle Brodziak and a sixth round pick to the Wild for a fourth and fifth round pick - Kyle Bigos and Olivier Roy.