The Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 Season Is Over

Unless something of biblical proportions happens, the Edmonton Oilers have been officially eliminated from the NHL playoffs.

They are now ten points behind, not from the Western Conference leader, but from the eighth and final playoff position – and it is not even the end of November.  They are not coming back over that mountain.

They are now on the level of the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres, who deliberately tore their team apart, the injury-riddled Columbus Blue Jackets, and the talentless Carolina Hurricanes, all which are no longer playing for the Stanley Cup but rather for Canada’s next hockey phenomenon, Connor McDavid.

But what is horrifying about the Oilers is that they have none of the excuses the above teams have.  They were supposed to be contenders – many years ago.

The Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 Season Is Over

Teams usually go through cycles in their history like a bell curve.  They start rebuilding, climb up and hit a peak, and  then slide back down and have to rebuild again.  But when you STAY down year after year and draft number one pick after number one pick and never get any better then something is seriously wrong that has deep roots.

Today, even the long-time downtrodden Calgary Flames, rebuilding Nashville Predators, and lacking of talent Winnipeg Jets have kissed the Oilers goodbye in the review mirror.  The Oilers are supposed to have more talent than all these teams.  When that happens, fans in Edmonton have good reason to be alarmed.

During this period, the Oilers have changed general managers and coaches – frequently – in an effort to get going in the right direction.  Since their last good year, the Oilers have gone from Craig MacTavish to Pat Quinn, to Tom Renney, to Ralph Krueger, to Dallas Eakins.  So maybe it is time to admit what everybody has refused to admit:  change the players.

The one statistic that is frequently mentioned every year is that the Oilers cannot or will not play defense.  This year their goal differential is -25; only the Buffalo Sabres are worse.

Number one draft picks are no good in and of themselves unless they produce.  Does anybody remember Greg Joly?  He was the first number one pick of the Washington Capitals ever.  Billed as the next Bobby Orr, he lasted only a few undistinguished seasons in the NHL.  There are many more like him.

The current Edmonton Oilers are not a hockey team, just a glob of talent that has rotted.  It has not helped that the best of the bunch, Taylor Hall, has been injured frequently.  But even with Hall in the lineup, the results are still embarrassing.

The leading Oiler in this year’s race for the Art Ross Trophy is Jordan Eberle – ranked 76th.  That’s not how top draft picks are supposed to perform.  Players like Hall, Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, etc. are supposed to be stars in the NHL – NOW!

These players are either like Joly, not good enough, or have been mishandled in their development.  Nobody knows why.

Still worse, with all this “talent”, none of it has gelled  together to be a team.  Just as there is no team defense, there is no team chemistry.

There may be a secret “spiritual” problem that is hard to detect;  Players who blot out the coach’s instructions about playing defense;  Players who have grown comfortable with defeat;  Players who believe that since they were the first overall pick, everything would be just as easy for them to dominate in the NHL just as it was in junior hockey;  Players who want the glory of scoring goals and refuse to do the inglorious work of digging for the puck, checking their opponent, and staying in their proper position;  Players who will not do the  subtle extra “little things” that  can make the difference between victory and defeat.  The Oilers need spiritual master Vince Lombardi, not more first overall draft picks.

Then there is the shadow of the Gretzky years.  When Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers joined the NHL, it took only a few years for everything to gel and for them to become Stanley Cup contenders.

With this amount of accumulated talent, it was expected that the same thing would happen again in Edmonton, but what is truly horrifying is that the current Oilers can’t even contend for the last playoff position but remain at the bottom of the NHL standings.

As noted above, next year the worst NHL team gets a chance to draft McDavid.  One shudders at the thought of him being drafted by the Oilers and rotting like the rest.

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