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.