Not The City Of Champions

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By Dave Cunning

Things are not getting better for the Edmonton Oilers.



The only shred of optimism they have to cling to these days is that they didn’t finish dead last in the NHL again, and are eligible for another high draft pick. In reality though, they’re just really lucky Columbus was terrible to begin with, in addition to having an internal meltdown between their players and management this year.

BetOnHockey_Taylor_Hall_Draft.jpgAt the forefront of the Oilers’ woes has got to be their showpiece, Taylor Hall, whom the team suffered an embarrassing last place finish and won a lottery to get in the 2010 draft, and who was supposed to turn things around for Edmonton. And how has he turned out?

Well, his first two years have concluded with season ending surgeries (ankle, shoulder), and Hall has yet to play a full 82 game season – the past two seasons have only seen him dress for just over 60, paralleling the major junior schedule that he became accustomed to and thrived on when he was still eligible to play at that level. Even the point production of the game’s best players began to wane after major injuries (Gretzky – back, Lemieux – back, cancer, etc), and that was usually well into the prime of their careers – Hall’s only been through two. Going into his third NHL season in 2012-13, Hall will be two seasons removed from experiencing a full regular season (not to mention a potential additional 4-28 games if the Oilers were ever to make the playoffs again). Completing 82 games doesn’t even seem plausible for Hall at this point. Is his body going to be able to survive ten seasons? Or more? Or less?  

Additionally, Hall’s been bested in points by Jordan Eberle both seasons (to be fair though, he did finish second both seasons), and wasn’t even nominated for Rookie of the Year. Also, he got his face stomped on with a skate this season, and people think he resembles a horse.

Worse for Hall yet, his nemesis draft counterpart, Boston’s Tyler Seguin, is injury free, playing plenty (75 games this season so far) playing for a good team, has tripled his output from last year (22 pts) and is currently leading said team in scoring (70+ points), and already has as Stanley Cup to his credit. As of press time, Seguin has not been facially compared to any known livestock either.

Focusing on Edmonton as a whole, the Oilers did start extremely strong at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, largely because of the production of their young stars: the afore mentioned Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Hall (who finished 1-2-3 in team scoring this season), but it was pretty obvious that the tandem ran out of gas around the halfway mark – and that brings us to now, which sees the Oilers 17 points out of a playoff spot, and 14 points away from being dead last in the league, the spot they’ve owned the last two consecutive seasons. Neither these kids, nor their old guys, seem able to survive an entire NHL season yet.  

BetOnHockey_Oilers_Top_Line.jpgForget the little reality show this team has, when do the Edmonton Oilers get a real Oil Change, and clean house in the organization? The Tambellini and Renney administration is dead in the water, is it not? They’ve drafted all the young talent available and possible to get, brought in grizzled veterans (Khabibulin, Smyth, etc), to balance them out, and still this team is awful. What else is there left to do?

The Montreal Canadiens just fired Pierre Gauthier from his General Manager position, and this is the only the first time Montreal hasn’t made the playoffs in the last eight years. And that organization has won more Cups than anyone else, ever. They might have a nose for this sort of thing by now. If you follow the Chicago Blackhawks model, the year they promoted Stan Bowman to GM was the same season the franchise won their first Stanley Cup in 50 years – and that was after floundering around with young, talent and potential laden players like Toews and Kane for three seasons prior. The Oilers already have good hockey players -- how many more seasonal failures is Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz going to endure before he acknowledges the need for a major front-office shake-up to make the machine work properly?  

Katz is the CEO of the Katz Group (who own Rexall Pharmacy and a pile of other pharmacies; and operates Rexall Sports, which runs the Oilers, the WHL’s Oil Kings, and an Edmonton baseball team), who held Oilers fans and the city of Edmonton hostage only two years ago when he was threatening to move the Oilers out of Edmonton if his team didn’t get a new arena after 2014. Of course, having a franchise as
historic as the Oilers cease to operate in Edmonton would be rather tragic – and so probably for many reasons, Edmonton city council agreed last year to build the Oilers a new home for $450 million. Of that
price tag, Katz puts in $100 million, while the city (code for taxpayers) will put in $250 million, and they’re BetOnHockey_Edmonton_Oilers_New_Arena.jpgnot sure who’s going to pay the remaining $100 million (also code for taxpayers).

So what do Edmontonians get in exchange for their cash, besides a shiny new sheet of ice that should be able to land on the moon for how much it costs? They get the Oilers staying in town for 35 years – the lame duck Oilers, a shell of the dynasty-days self, who haven’t had a decent season in six years, nor won a Cup in 22, and despite all the hype and potential of their young high-draft pick talent cannot seem to pull it together for anything. I know the true fans will weather the dark times, but man their flashlight batteries have got to be nearly out of juice by now. Good thing Rexall Pharmacies sell Duracells. Twitter: @davecunning Twitter: @CunningAthletix



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