If the Oilers win tonight against the Los Angeles Kings, they’ll have clinched a playoff berth for the first time in eleven years. Eleven years is a long time. In a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs each and every year, it’s forever.
Edmonton’s last playoff appearance was in 2006, and what a time it was. The club took down Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim en route to the Cup Finals. Ryan Smyth was the face of that club. Jussi Markkanen stepped in when Roloson went down. Ales Hemsky’s heroics, Fernando Pisani’s incredible overtime goal on the road while in overtime against Carolina. Gator. It’s been forever.
It’s almost impossible to think about what the fans have been through after the fact. Pronger. Souray. Osteria di Medici. Khabibulin. 2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016. Selecting number one overall on four different occasions (although that McDavid kid is alright). Trading established NHL stars for chum. I’m trying to keep it under a thousand words. You get the idea.
The Oilers are a win away from starting to wave goodbye to the past. The Kings are out of the ring when it comes to the playoffs, and all the Oilers have to do is keep it on autopilot. Getting into the playoffs for the first time in eleven years isn’t going to immediately wash away the stink of failure for the last eleven years, but it’s an air freshener and some deodorant on the road back.
It will come as an immense relief. I can’t tell you what I’m going to do when it happens, but I can guarantee it’ll be a great feeling.
I asked Twitter what they were going to do when the now seemingly inevitable happens, and many of the responses involved an adult beverage or two. Or twelve. Many recalled what they were doing eleven years ago, or how their young kid(s) have grown so much. Some recalled great memories, some not so much. Some responses wished a loved one could still be around to see an event that some thought would never again happen.
This season has been filled with more good than bad. The Oilers have a phenom in 20-year old Connor McDavid. They’ve been relatively healthy all season. Cam Talbot has played out of his mind. The defence has room to grow, but it’s been better than it has been in many years. Seemingly everything that can go right for the Oilers has gone right so far, and the Oilers are on a crash-course for the second season.
It might not happen tonight, but it will happen soon if it doesn’t.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when it happens?