Tonight’s game saw one of the league’s best take on one of the league’s worst, in a matchup between one of the league’s best, and one of the league’s worst. These two teams both play hockey, and you would know that if you watched even a minute of this game. So far, as I tune into David Anber navigating his way through a highlight pack, I can confidently say that I have not done that. Who would, given the choice?! To be honest, I didn’t really have a choice. Like, yes, the Oilers won a game the other day. But it’s still over. In January. On the 13th of January. Not even late January. It was obvious I was never going to watch.
So, instead, let’s talk about three other periods. Of time, I mean. Not from this game tonight. As if McDavid isn’t reading the Spearmint Rhino FAQ on the bench between shifts anyway. It’s a big day for him. Happy 21st birthday to our Young Pope.
2008-2013. Steve Tambellini. The First Period of this game that has been the last decade of Oilers bullshit. It’s 2018 now, we’re into the actual tenth year since his hiring. What’s changed? What’s different? What’s new, and exciting?!
So two years prior, the Oilers made the Stanley Cup Finals. We know this because we’ll never not know it. Because not knowing it would mean having missed it, or forgotten it, and no proper Oilers fan (read: true, or good, ironically) would ever be confused for doing either. Chris Pronger took this city on his back and that City reporter on hers (I don’t think this is true but I humbly request you fucking let me have this) and we went on a pretty wild ride. Easily the funnest Oilers experience I can remember. The city came alive. People were high-fiving (and rioting a little) up and down Whyte Ave. Cars and trucks were obnoxiously honking well into the stop-honking-you-dicks hours of the evening, and everyone was happy. It was tangible. You really could feel it.
We know what happened next. Pronger had to leave, and Kevin Lowe spent the next two seasons shitting his pants before failing up, and hiring Steve Tambellini. Yep, he failed his way into a promotion. Imagine?!
He proceeded to steer the Oilers directly into the ground. The Oilers experienced their actual worst years as a franchise under Tambellini, but his tenure did see the Oilers draft Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, in that order. So I guess that’s a coincidence that happened.
Dallas Eakins. Yikes. Remember?! Remember Dallas Eakins?! Remember when the Oilers let this guy experiment at the NHL level, entirely pissing away a season and a half that saw the club win 36 of 113 games under his watch, before Todd Nelson came in to steer the Oilers into the best possible position to win the lottery. He did just that, and the Oilers pulled a real Kevin Lowe, failing forward into the rights to select Connor McDavid.
During the Eakins years, the Oilers managed to trade away a capable top-4 RHD in Jeff Petry, and a Vezina-calibre goaltender in Dubnyk for what amounted to possibly enchanted beans to regular, in-molasses style beans, respectively. From a can.
They still had Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins. They also had Yakupov, who was fresh off tying for the league lead in rookie scoring under Ralph Krueger when Eakins was brought in. Eakins proceeded to treat that Russian like Don Cherry would treat a Russian, and eroded any hope he had of finding success here in Edmonton. I still have very real beef with Eakins and the Oilers for how Yakupov was essentially set up to fail and then punished for failing. I miss you, Tatar Tot.
This, of course, was a franchise-altering move. Bob Nicholson was brought in to tell Kevin Lowe what to do. Peter Chiarelli was brought in to replace Craig McTavish, who I’m pretty sure is one janitorial assignment away from working EVERY JOB in the Oilers Entertainment Group, and Todd Nelson was swapped for Todd McLellan. Which is weird, because I think there are only two grown men named Todd, and it is weird that the Oilers have paid them both to coach their NHL team.
Oilers fans rejoiced. Even though Chiarelli had just finished trading Tyler Seguin for literal dogshit and tinkering his Stanley Cup winning roster right into mediocrity, he was a fresh voice. An outside hire. Kind of. I mean, I don’t think they interviewed anyone still - it was just one of Bob’s friends - but at least it wasn’t one of Kevin’s, right?!
Post-McDavidism. We’re through the looking glass, people. I don’t know what that means, but it feels very Threat Level Midnight-y, and it’s provocative.
Turns out Chiarelli is a big idiot. Tinker, Taylor Sold-For-Nigh. General Disappoinment. We’re in the third part of a post-game review that hasn’t even mentioned the game yet. It’s January 13th. McDavid is turning 21, in Vegas, on the cusp of the Oilers’ bye week. They are third-last in the division, but also third-last in the conference. They are tied for the 5th lowest points total in the league. With more games played. They have the reigning Hart, Art Ross, and Pearson winner on their team. On an entry level contract. The last such year before said superstar starts to make $12.5MM per annum.
It’s bad, everyone.
The Oilers are getting mostly outplayed by an expansion franchise (who has admittedly been doing that to most teams this season, in Vegas anyway), three years into Chiarelli’s tenure that saw him inherit a roster with McDavid (basically), Hall, Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Oscar Klefbom. He was able to draft Jesse Puljujarvi after an injury-riddled first year allowed a sneaky talented Oilers team to finish near the bottom of the heap in McDavid’s first season.
He traded Matthew Barzal+ for Griffin Reinhart, who I’m not even sure is still alive, to be honest. Barzal had five points today. On a line with Jordan Eberle, who had four assists. He also traded Jordan Eberle, who is currently fifth on the Islanders with 34 points in 44 games, for Ryan Strome, who has a paltry 17 points in 45 contests.
He traded Taylor Hall, who is currently T19 in the league with 42 points in 39 games. In New Jersey. Adam Larsson, whom Hall was traded for, has 5 points.
He acquired Pat Maroon for a song, OK, and got pretty great value from the Cam Talbot deal. Last year, anyway. But still. He has unquestionably lowered the ceiling of this group while simultaneously making it harder for them to improve upon it given their cap circumstances. He’s currently watching acres of cap space this season sit idly while his team’s chances evaporated over the winter months. Do you know how hard it is to evaporate something in Edmonton during the winter?! It’s basically impossible. It gets very cold there. But, our Pete. He did it.
OK so, I actually watched the second period. And the third. So I’ll actually cover them as I remember them. Lazily. I had to kind of bail on what I was doing earlier so if all three of those sections are incomplete and kind of rambly to you, that’s really actually your problem, and I don’t care what you think.
So in the second period, Vegas scored twice. Two times. The Oilers scored once themselves. First, even.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hurt his shoulder after Brayden McNabb hit him. Hard. Zack Kassian took exception and fought him. It was over quickly, and Kassian’s hand was bleeding. It didn’t stop Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from getting hurt in the first place, but it also hurt Kassian. So there’s that. RNH did not return. That is not good.
In the third period, the Oilers found one within the first five minutes. It was a beautiful goal. Some slick passing between The Young Pope and Patrick Maroon saw the puck find Drake Caggiula, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury and tied the game at 2-2. The rest of the game saw some chances for both teams, but neither could cash in. This one would need overtime.
In overtime, Caggiula found a streaking Darnell Nurse, who continued his renaissance season - and recent run of offensive form - and sniped home to Fleury’s left to win the game for the road team. Happy birthday, Connor.
Up next, the Oilers have their bye week. They don’t play again until next Saturday against the Canucks. In the meantime, get outside! Live life! Enjoy a full week of not having this team disappoint you. Remember, even with the two-game heater, they’re still done. It’s over. Do not get your hopes up.
Even if they do get in, do not let them convince you that that’s good enough. It’s not. This season has been a disaster, and people should be losing their jobs over it already.