Your votes have made it very clear, the Oilers’ 2011/12 season was a worse than 2007/08. I can’t say that I’m surprised by the result, but I thought that maybe the mess that was July of 2007 might get that season a few more votes. And I guess maybe it did sway a voter or two, but nowhere near enough for it to beat out a season that would end with the Oilers winning their third consecutive draft lottery, a season which won the match-up with a whopping 88% of the vote.
In today’s match-up we see two of the Oilers’ more recent seasons go head-to-head: Dallas Eakins’ first with the team in 2013/14 versus the current edition, who officially became the tenth Oilers team in a row to miss the playoffs.
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#4 -- 2013-14 - 67 points (29-44-9)
Goal Differential: -67 (28th)
Power Play: 5.73 GF/60 (20th)
Penalty Kill: 5.72 GA/60 (9th)
Like many other seasons in our March Sadness bracket, there was a decent amount of optimism surrounding the Oilers as the team embarked on the 2013/14 season. A new man sat behind the desk in the General Manager’s office, that was Craig MacTavish, and Dallas Eakins was the team’s new head coach. During the summer the team had traded Shawn Horcoff to Dallas, and had acquired David Perron and his white skates from St. Louis in exchange for Magnus Paajarvi. The team brought in a couple of free agents as well, Andrew Ference, signed to the four-year, $13M deal, and Boyd Gordon, who was signed for three years and $9M.
That optimism was short lived though as the team fell out of the starting gate, winning just four of their first 21 games. These were the days of the team’s "swarm" defence, a system that Eakins tweaked and then abandoned after it became clear that his players had no idea how to execute the system he wanted to play. By the swarm was only one of the team’s problems at the start of the season, goaltending was a significant one as well, with the team posting an 0.875 save percentage through the first quarter of the year. It doesn’t matter what defensive system you play, you can’t win with goaltending like that.
With the season slipping away (alright, a lost cause) the Oilers did what they always do, they started trading away players. Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov were sent packing as the team looked for a solution to its goaltending problems; replaced by Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth. Scrivens’ early results with the Oilers were enough to earn him a two-year, $4.6M extension and the job as the team’s number one goalie. Also gone before the end of the season were Nick Schultz and Ales Hemsky. The latter specifically being a player who deserved a much better fate here in Edmonton.
More March Sadness
#5 -- 2015-16 - 65 points, On Pace For 71 (29-39-7)
Goal Differential: -38 (28th)
Power Play: 5.94 GF/60 (18th)
Penalty Kill: 6.55 GA/60 (20th)
There are some similarities between the current Oilers and the 2013/14 version. Once again the team has a new coach and General Manager. And once again the team stumbled out of the gate, going 7-13-1 over the first quarter of the season. As disappointing as that record might be, it is 50% more points than the 2013/14 team got over the same period. Goaltending was again a problem in the early going, with the Oilers goaltending duo of Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson combining to give the Oilers 0.895 goaltending through the first quarter of the season. For a fan base starved for signs of progress, this certainly felt like more of the same.
The current Oilers do have Connor McDavid though, and the only time he’s been slowed down all season was when he missed three months with a broken collarbone. With only 38 games played, McDavid is fifth in rookie scoring with 40 points - 14 goals and 26 assists - and is fourth league wide in points per game. He’s also been named the NHL’s rookie of the month in both months that he’s been healthy. The Oilers have three other first overall picks in their lineup, but McDavid is a different class of player, he’s a superstar; the kind of player that you have to believe that any team can build a winner around.
Potentially concerning for Oilers fans is that pesky feeling of déjà vu that I for one cannot shake. Like so many other seasons in our March Sadness bracket, the defence is complete train wreck. And worse, this was obvious to anyone who cared to look closely at it before the season started. There is no depth, players are consistently a pairing higher than they should be, and others are tossed into the deep end as the team continues to employ a sink or swim development philosophy. Until this is addressed will the team ever move forward? There are reasons to be optimistic right now. And there are just as many reasons, maybe even more, to be pessimistic.