Voting is now complete on our last March Sadness match-up and it's given us our first big upset, with the 2011/12 season knocking off the second ranked 2010/11 season, one of three 62 point seasons in our bracket. In the end intentional failure is bad, but not quite as bad as trying to solve you're teams problems by signing Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, and Darcy Hordichuk.
With three spots in the Final Four now set, we turn our attention to the final match-up of this round, with another 62 point season - one that we're all very familiar with since it was last season - taking on the 2008/09 edition of this team.
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#1 -- 2014-15 - 62 points (24-44-14)
Goal Differential: -85 (28th)
Power Play: 6.10 (16th)
Penalty Kill: 7.84 (27th)
The Oilers kicked off the 2014/15 season with three free agent signings on July 1 - Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot, and Keith Aulie. The team also re-sgined Luke Gazdic to a two-year deal that day and would soon reach an agreement with Jeff Petry on a one-year, "show me" deal. Just prior to the start of free agency the Oilers dealt Sam Gagner to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Teddy Purcell, effectively awarding the team's most recent first round draft pick, Leon Draisaitl, a roster spot. These were the moves the team made to improve from a 28th place finish the season before.
Under better circumstances, in some alternate universe, perhaps this would have worked, but the lack of depth at centre and on the blue line, coupled with terrible goaltending was too much for the Oilers to overcome and the team struggled to start the season, winning only seven of their first 31 games, a record poor enough to get Dallas Eakins fired as the team's head coach. With Todd Nelson - the Oilers's sixth coach in seven seasons - behind the bench, things improved for the Oilers in the standings as they went from a 50 point pace under Eakins to a 69 point pace under Nelson. Still far from a good total, or even a decent total for that matter, but an improvement, as sad as that is.
Now at nine years and counting of their team going nowhere fast, and worse, showing no signs of improvement, the fans in Edmonton were getting more than a little unhappy. Jerseys were being thrown onto the ice at a fairly regular pace and almost nobody had a single nice thing to say say about the team. The pleas for patience were falling on deaf ears. Until April 18th. That night the Oilers won the draft lottery for a fourth time in six seasons and instantly everything changed. Within months the team had a new man at the top, a new General Manager, and a new coach. And with those things in place the team then drafted Connor McDavid first overall. Four lottery balls changed the way this season looked in a hurry.
More March Sadness
#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.
During 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.