NHL 15: Edmonton Oilers Guide
Written By: OddSpellingOfPhreid
Year in Review:
The year is 2013. The month is June. The shortened season has just ended and the Edmonton Oilers have suffered another year out of the playoffs. Craig Mactavish has assumed control of the club’s management under Kevin “El Presidente” Lowe after a falling out with precursor Steve Tambellini.
As the summer rolls on, the Oilers, led by Mac-T begin to remodel the team. Big acquisitions include defensive center Boyd Gordon, former Bruin Andrew Ference, back-up goaltender Jason Labarbara, project players Denis Grebeshkov, Jesse Joensuu and Anton Belov as well as controversial hire David Perron who was accquired in a Mac-Trade by sending away fan sweet heart and defensive winger Magnus Paajarvi.
The Mood is Hopeful. After recent breakout seasons by wingers Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, goalie Devan Dubnyk and an astonishing rookie campaign by Nail Yakupov, it looks as though our forward core and goalie may be able to hide our defensive shortcomings well enough to carry us down the stretch not unlike the previous year’s team didn’t.
Preseason begins and the Oilers are dominant. Shedding a glimpse of what may be in store during the season, new captain Andrew Ference leads the team to the best preseason record in the league. Us fans can hardly wait for the season to begin. In hushed whispers the fan base begins to speculate: Is this our year?
After what seems like days, the season finally begins. It opens to the Winnipeg Jets visiting Rexall Place for the first time since it was called the Edmonton Coliseum. The game is fast paced and suspenseful. Finally, fans get a taste of Dallas Eakin’s now famous Swarm Defence. The fancy stats are off the chain and most stat savvy bloggers love it. The fans not so much. The decision is dropped five goals to four but we take our licks with pride. We looked good, we got some bad bounces, once our tending is figured out we’ll be right in the thick of things.
Game two begins against the Vancouver canucks. This one is less encouraging. This time, goal tending is simply one of many issues as Dubnyk backstops us to a 6-2 defeat. Although a late surge nets us two points against the Devils, we continue to drop decisions as games 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 all go to the opponents. It’s clear that defence is an issue but we all already knew that. What’s clearer is that we no longer have a goaltender who can cover up their mistakes.
On November 8, MacTizzle brings in reinforcements in the form of league enigma Ilya Bryzgalov. It comes at the expense of fan favourite hard nosed defender Ladislav Smid for the sake of cap relief. Although his departure is a tough pill to swallow, it’s his landing in rival city Calgary that outrages fans. It’s the first of many in-season changes to come.
It’s been hardly a month and the Oilers are already sinking hard. It becomes obvious that this season is simply another stop on the journey out of the basement. Tension in the fan base boils over on Saturday, December 21st as the Oilers suffer a sixth straight loss to the St. Louis Blues in a six goal shutout. A frustrated fan takes it upon himself to represent the emotions of all of Oilers Nation and tosses his jersey onto the ice in what became the infamous, oft replicated jersey toss.
The trades come fast and furious. Out of the blue and late in the evening, January 15th saw Dubnyk shipped to Nashville for energy center Matt Hendricks as MacTurbo simultaneously acquires goaltender Ben Scrivens for picks to fill the gap.
At this point, we were worried that Ben Scrivens, although playing impressively as a backup for the LA Kings, would not be able to repeat the performance without a Stanley Cup caliber defence in front of him. On January 29th, he removed all doubt in his playing ability. The Oilers, backstopped by Scrivens shut out the San Jose Sharks while facing over 100 shot attempts. His record breaking 59 save shutout became one of the few moments from the seasons that fans could take pride in.
As the trade deadline approached, Mac-Trouble-With-Tribbles took the final opportunity to stock the team for the next season. He added promising journeyman goaltender Viktor Fasth as well as restocked some of the draft selections sent away by dealing Ilya Bryzgalov and controversial franchise mainstay Ales Hemsky to Minnesota and Ottawa respectively. While seeing Hemsky go was a tough break for many Oilers fans, most agree that it as a necessity for the team to let go of the past and move into the future.
With two days left in the regular season, the Oilers were locked into 28th place and destined for another top 5 selection in the draft. It was already a difficult time for Oilers fans but our emotional composure took one last hit as local hero Ryan Smyth announced his retirement.
As the final buzzer sounded and the Edmonton Oilers routed the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 in the final game of the season, team Captain Henrik Sedin led his team back on to the ice to bid their long-time adversary adieu (and inform Smytty that they had met in childhood at Sorrentinos). It was the most important moment in a season mired by misfortune, from injuries to cold-streaks to poor performances. the moment when we forgot that we were consistently among the worst teams in the league, that we haven’t tasted real success in nearly a decade and that as of yet we have no reason to believe we will in the coming decade. It was a moment that forced many of us (myself included) to shed tears. It was a beautiful moment, one I will choose to associate with this season when I reflect on the years we spent in the basement. It was our final dose of Oilers hockey for five months and instead of complaining or speculating or projecting, we spent it admiring one of the finest careers in hockey.
Keep on keeping on Smytty.
Highlights of the 2013-2014 Season:
Taylor Hall breaks Gretzky’s record by scoring two goals back to back. Pretty self explanatory.
Not a high light but a moment that will stick with the organization for the foreseeable future. Perfectly representative of this fanbase’s frustration with the team.
3. Nail Yakupov’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick against Winnipeg.
After being beat up by the press, benched a couple games and then shuffled down to the 4th line, Yak came up with a huge do-it-all game. Seeing Gazdic throw his arm around his shoulder in the penalty box and seeing the huge smile on Yak’s face signalled the amount of character and fight that often wasn’t credited to him this year. While he had a rough sophomore season and was frustrated at his slow start, he also responded to the criticism and worked to do everything that was asked of him. MacT said at the end of the season that we drafted Yak with the belief that the organization can develop him into becoming the impact player he’s expected to be. This game, perhaps more than the high of last year’s season ending hat trick, will hopefully act as a critical flashpoint in Yak’s career.
Ryan Smyth was the Gretzky of the 90s and 2000s. He was the Edmonton Oilers in my eyes. He may not be skilled enough to get a banner at Rexall but he might just deserve it on legacy alone.
In the midst of an ugly season, Ben Scrivens offers the Edmonton Oilers and team fans something to be proud of. Inarguably the brightest spot of the season.
Why the Edmonton Oilers Will Win the Cup this Year:
Since the recent hiring of Tyler Dellow this offseason, it’s become pretty obvious that the Oilers were just looking for a Jonah Hill to bring the money puck team together. Not only is general manager Craig Mactavish shooting for a Stanley Cup, he’s also gunning for a biopic.
Why the Edmonton Oilers Won’t Win the Cup this Year:
Because it’s the Mcdavid year. One more lottery pick to go with the rest!