GAME DAY BITCHES!!!!! Here we go! Another day to roam around in Orange and high-five random strangers and honk my horn and drive with my car flags flapping proudly. Here we are, in the middle of April, a legit contender. Up 2-1 against the defending Champions of the West, dominating them physically, backing down from nothing, our best player doing very little in the way of offense and being led by a reclamation project and being backstopped by Glen Sather’s last favour to the Oilers.
The reality of the playoff possibility for the Oilers sunk in for me about 2 weeks ago. But last night, as it became official, joy and relief swept through my body. I have been defending Chiarelli and his moves since the beginning. The moves I liked, the moves I didn’t like, the moves I understood and the moves I didn’t understand. And now, here we are.
Since the transition to the Bob Nicholson era, things have been heading in the right direction. The hiring of an experienced GM coupled with an experienced head coach was a signal that the Oilers were going to do things the right way. A statement by the new CEO that everything hockey would report to him. McTavish and Lowe are still in the wings and while at times their fingerprints are visible on some of the moves that are made, the reigns have clearly been turned over.
Halfway through last season I wrote a blog about changing the culture of the team and it looks as though Chiarelli and McLellan have done that through trades, expectations and most of all – winning. We don’t need to re-hash the trades and the moves. There were some winners and there were some losers. But, they all came together to make the recipe that is a team going to the playoffs. Some difficult decisions were made and there was some blood shed, but here we are, on the way to the 2nd season.
Since coming off a bad weekend 8 games ago, the Oilers have really stepped on the gas. After dropping that 4-1 to Montreal, they Oilers have posted an impressive 7-1 record, including 3 games where they scored 7. We haven’t seen a stretch like this since 39 was patrolling the middle. It is perfect timing and the Oilers are picking up steam at the right time. With two games left against San Jose and one against Anaheim, their fate rests solely in the hands of the Oilers. The remaining 3 games are against bottom feeders LA and Vancouver and should be winnable games. Even if they finish 0.500 – they will still have finished the season with an impressive 10-4 record. Calgary has a similar finish to the season as does Anaheim and San Jose. So, it will come down to the interdivision games that make up the next week and a half. Trying to predict who will finish where is a difficult task and no matter how it shakes out, it will be a difficult road.
Hot Talbot, the League’s top scorer and 4 lines that are all chipping in…anything is possible. In 2006 I had one mantra that I said over and over in the dying days of the season and the first couple of playoff games – Believe! Believe in this team until they give you a reason not to.
This may not be what any Oiler fan wants to hear but…I think this offseason tinkering is done.
The Oilers got fleeced. They got their man, but they paid dearly. But, clearly that is what the market was for a minute-munching right-handed defenseman capable of handling that kind of workload. I trust that Chiarelli dangled Hall in front of the 16 GMs out East and came to the conclusion that this was the best he was going to get. Need for need, the deal makes sense. But, when I first heard it was Larsson, I was expecting Smith-Pelley, a draft pick or Sevenson to be the rest of the package. Even when the dust settled yesterday I was still expecting the Oil to get a sweetener out of it. I had heard NJ was a possible trade partner but I thought it was going to be a lesser deal. Certainly not one that involved Hall.
You know what I liked about the Leafs last few moves? They aren’t hanging onto a losing culture. They traded away a 40 goal scorer and perennial top 20 point getter and their captain with no regrets. They moved on. The management didn’t get attached to the players and made the moves they had to make in order to put the plans in place to sign their own players and build the team the way they want it built.
What if the Oilers can put together a string of wins and points to make a serious playoff push to end out the season in the final days of Rexall Place? Why not? The Sens did it last year at the end of the season, finishing 23-4-4. They did it on the back of amazing goaltending by the Hamburgler and some good bounces and solid team play. The Oilers made a late surge in 2006 to squeak into the playoffs and it was magic. What if?
A guy can dare to dream, but there was one point of view that struck a chord with me last night while I was scrolling through the Twitterverse. What if the Edmonton Oilers change the way the game is played? What if we don’t need another defenseman? What if we are just able to keep scoring so many goals that it doesn’t matter? I know that this flies in the face of everything that the 90’s to 2000’s have taught us…but, what if? What if we are watching the team that is about to change the way the game is played? What if we don’t need to trade Eberle or RNH or anyone, for that matter? What if this is the system where spare parts like Teddy Purcell can thrive? Every generation in every sport has a team that changes the way the game has been played. What if we are watching the beginning of something special? What if we are watching the reinvention of the game?
If a team is facing Draisaitl and Hall followed by McDavid followed by RNH and Eberle…does it really matter who is playing defense? Of course the answer is yes, but…what if? What if a D corps that features Nurse, Sekera, Klefbom and my drunk uncle is good enough to get it done with those forwards? What if?
In the NFL you are supposed to play good defense and run the ball. That’s how you win. Tell that to Tom Brady and Bill Billichek, who haven’t had a consistent running game in a decade yet have won more than any other team in that time. Sometimes, the right people can make it work. What if it’s Edmonton’s time?