In the closest match-up of our March Sadness bracket so far, the Oilers' 2009/10 season defeated the 2006/07 season. The failure that triggered the team's rebuild was ultimately deemed more disappointing than the season that ended with the first, and unfortunately not last, death march. With the #3 seed now through to our Final Four we turn our attention to the #2 vs #7 match-up, a battle between back to back seasons, 2010/11 vs 2011/12. Will it be season that ended with a first overall pick or another season that ended with a first overall pick moving on to the next round?
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#2 -- 2010-11 - 62 points (25-45-12)
Goal Differential: -76 (30th)
Power Play: 5.02 (25th)
Penalty Kill: 8.42 (29th)
How you feel about the 2010/11 season probably has a lot to do with how you feel about a team that tries to lose. With Taylor Hall now a member of the Oilers, he had been drafted first overall in June, this was the first full year of the Oilers' rebuild and the goal of this year was to be bad enough to secure another high pick at the 2011 draft. The previous year management had steered the team into a wall when it was clear that they were going nowhere, this year they were trying to be bad from opening night.
Joining Hall in making their NHL debuts were Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, both of whom were in the team's opening night lineup. In December they would be joined by Linus Omark and the rise of HOPE. And there was reason to be hopeful because these players could do some very exciting things, be it Eberle's first career goal or Omark's shootout goal in his first NHL game. The on-ice results weren't there but the results weren't supposed to be there this year, this was all about the rebuild.
Even though the team was rebuilding, the Oilers were more talk than action on that front, and didn't do much to try and clear out any dead weight or bring in draft picks during the season. The only trade of consequence that Steve Tambellini made during the season was the trade that sent Dustin Penner to Los Angeles for Colten Teubert and two draft picks (a first and third round pick). Other than that it was just a whole lot of waiting for the draft lottery and that next piece of the rebuild puzzle.
More March Sadness
#7 -- 2011-12 - 74 points (32-40-10)
Goal Differential: -27 (23rd)
Power Play: 7.15 GF/60 (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 5.74 GA/60 (13th)
How they got here: Defeated the 10th seeded 2007/08 season in the second play-in match-up.
This was the year that the rebuild was supposed to turn a corner. The Oilers had not one but two first overall draft picks in their roster, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the team had added Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, and Darcy Hordichuk during free agency. The distraction of Sheldon Souray playing in the AHL instead of with the Oilers was now a thing of the past, this was the year that things would be different. Things weren't different.
Devan Dubnyk assumed the role of the team's number one goalie, playing in 47 games; Nikolai Khabibulin would see action in 40 games. Between them they provided the Oilers with goaltending near the league average: 0.912, the league average was 0.914. But average goaltending wasn't enough to propel the Oilers up the standings, with 74 points the Oilers still missed the playoffs by 21 points. 74 points was an improvement for the Oilers though. It was 12 more than the team had accumulated in each of the previous two seasons and was enough for them to finish nine points ahead of the last place Columbus Blue Jackets.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, they would be the unlucky team that would fall to the second spot on the draft after the Oilers won the lottery for a third time after the season ended. The Oilers would select Nail Yakupov with the first overall pick at the draft in June. This was also the draft where the Oilers used a second round pick to select Mitch Moroz.