Depending on who you ask the Edmonton Oilers have either endured the longest, most clueless rebuild in the history of the NHL, or one of the quickest, most efficient turnarounds that can be imagined. That statement alone would be enough to split an already fragile fan base who already spend countless hours arguing over the (perceived) successes and (apparent) failures of Peter Chiarelli.
Let me preface this with a few points:
- The Edmonton Oilers were a dysfunctional organization for the better part of a decade between trips to the post-season in ’06 and ’17;
- They are more lucky for the loyal and passionate fan base who, for reasons that can’t be logically explained, stood by them while they tossed and turned in their proverbial sleep than they are for the four #1 overall draft picks they have been blessed with over the last seven years;
- The point of this blog is not to absolve them of ownership for the years of ineptitude that I highly believe no other fan base would allow (“allow” as in you do what you want but I’ll be over here NOT buying your overpriced game tickets and merchandise). It is simply to share with you my point of view as to when this (latest incarnation of a) rebuild actually started. This is solely to demonstrate that what we are seeing is a real thing, an actual NHL team, which likely will become a perennial Stanley Cup contender if it’s not already.
Although the claim was made by Darryl Katz himself back on a cold day in February of 2010, the Edmonton Oilers were not rebuilding then. I get it that the team was tanking, picking up picks for real NHL bodies at the deadline, and were mere months away from drafting their first in a continuous series of high first round draft picks, that is after already grabbing Sam Gagner at #6 overall in 2007. What they were doing was collecting players and hoping they simply would turn into a good team. There really wasn’t an identity, and if they had a plan other than simple hope, it wasn’t working.
Don’t be mad at them for pulling the wool over your eyes back then; they didn’t realize they were joyriding an NHL franchise themselves.
So, when did the rebuild start? Is it the gold McDavid card we all saw with utter disbelief, the Bob Nicholson hiring, the Peter Chiarelli hiring? Those are valid guesses and it definitely was around then. The rebuild, in my opinion of course, actually began on November 2nd, 2014, and here is why.
To me, the measure of a successful season is a berth into the playoffs, full stop. For teams that have championship windows that are closing, a playoff appearance only to be sent packing in the first round can cost a coach a job, but overall I think playing hockey on or around April 15th should, for the most part, be considered success.
There are currently five teams in the NHL which I would consider “consistently successful”; the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St. Louis Blues. These five teams have all made the playoffs each of the last five years, and these five teams all have a core group of players, as many as 8 (Minnesota) and as few as 5 (Pittsburgh). Huh? How did I come up with that? Well, for that part, I tried to keep my views out of it as I am predominantly an Oilers fan and don’t pretend to follow the other teams.
To me it’s simple; any players that have cap hits which exceed 3 million dollars and was a member of their team for the 5 consecutive years to me would be a part of their core. And, to be honest, that’s about as objective as it gets. Oh, and by the way, I simply don’t include goaltenders in the conversation of core group. Not for any other reason than to make the comparison of team to team simpler to consider. Is Cam Talbot a major reason for the Oilers’ success this season? Absolutely. Was trading for him somewhat of a shot in the dark? I think so.
So, who are the 5 to 8 players on the Oilers that are the core? Well, they currently have 10 skaters that have a cap hit over 3 million (not including Mark Fayne or Andrew Ference of course) but I don’t believe all 10 will be here when this team is a powerhouse. Some will be moved, some will simply not be resigned when their current contract is up. In my opinion, the Oilers core is Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, and Darnell Nurse. All 5 of these players are 24 or younger and generally fit into the mold I believe Peter Chiarelli envisions for this team; fast, talented, big and tough.
Until McDavid was gifted to us I always remarked that the biggest problem with the “rebuild” (again, just because you call something a rebuild doesn’t make it so) was that they built it backwards. Defensemen take longer to develop than the soldiers up front and drafting Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, etc. without revamping the defensive core is just gathering players and hoping for the best.
So, why November 2nd, 2014? A rebuild starts when a team’s core begins to be built, and on that day the recall of Oscar Klefbom for the final time, as we look back on it now, signifies the beginning of what we’ve all been waiting for. And finally, the day the rebuild started was the day their #1 defenseman became a permanent part of the team. So, no backwards rebuild in the end, just an up and coming defenseman that fits into the age group of the rest of the core.
Oh, and by the way, in the end, Oscar Klefbom cost the Edmonton Oilers Tyler Myers, Justin Schultz (oh the irony), and Kirill Petrov draft picks wise. I’m doing that 7 days out of 7, how about you? Looks like, even in their darkest hour, the Edmonton Oilers fell ass backwards into a cornerstone defenseman. I guess the sun does shine on a dog’s behind once in a while.
**From time to time we get requests from our fans to do a guest post and we’re very happy to accommodate the BLH following in this regard! You can follow Andrew Taylor on Twitter (@drewtaylor1978) and I suggest you do so, he’s a bright mind with an excellent online personality.**