We started out with ten seasons, each terrible in their own way, but in the end there could be only one. One season that was bad enough to rise above the failures of the last decade and stand out as the shining example of this team's ineptitude. And that season was the Oilers' 2013/14 campaign. And it wasn't even close. On the way to their championship, 2013/14 wiped the floor with the current edition of the team, then blew past the 2014/15 squad, before finishing with a decisive 75% of the vote in the final match-up against the 2009/10 season.
I liked this team as a dark horse right from the beginning, but as we worked our way through the bracket I found myself rooting for 2009/10; for whatever reason that season seemed like a slightly harder kick in the junk. But my personal thoughts aside, there can be no denying that the 2013/14 season is a a deserving March Sadness champion. We expected
great things not completely terrible things for the team in 2013/14 but almost before the swarm was abandoned any hope that there had been was dead. That makes for a long and very painful season, one that now, rightfully, can lay claim to the title as the worst season of the Oilers Die-nasty.
Take a couple minutes to relive it all one more time and then try to forget it forever. You'll be much happier if you can do that.
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March Sadness Champions
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.
WHY THIS SEASON IS THE WORST
On January 20th, with just 15 wins in 51 games, the Oilers find themselves in 29th place overall, a mere 23 points removed from a playoff spot. Since they they have 36 points at this point in the season, that gap is probably going to be tough to close in the final 31 games. So of course this is a good time for the owner to let us know his thoughts on the state of the team. Some of the highlights:
Yes, we hoped and expected to be better this year – there’s no question about that. But we’ve also been more active than any team I can think of in rebuilding our organization from bottom to top by supporting player development in OKC and Bakersfield, revamping our scouting organization, naming a new GM and a new coach, signing free agents like Justin Schultz, Boyd Gordon, Andrew Ference, Anton Belov and Ilya Bryzgalov, and trading for players like David Perron, and now Ben Scrivens and Matt Hendricks. And we’re not done.
I hear a lot from fans about accountability, so let’s be clear. We are all accountable. That includes me, Kevin, Craig, Dallas, every player who wears our jersey, and every member of our staff. I know Kevin is the target of a lot of personal attacks right now, and that’s really unfortunate. Kevin is a big part of our organization, and it’s not just the Oilers that value his knowledge and perspective. He is consistently chosen, year after year, to play a leadership role with Hockey Canada. But when it comes down to it, this is Craig MacTavish’s team. He is the GM. He makes the calls, and he is accountable for building a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup -- year in and year out for years to come.
This letter is a no win move by Katz. There are still fans that have faith, this letter isn't directed at them though. This is directed at the fans who aren't happy with the state of the team, and anyone frustrated by the team's seemingly direction-less rebuild is not going to be won over by this. All a letter like this is going to do is piss people off, which is exactly what it did. And it's worth noting that none of the people identified as being accountable were in a different position when the next season started. Perhaps we have a different definition of accountable.