The Edmonton Oliers: Dysfunction Personified
Source: CODIE MCLACHLAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS
For a better part of this century, the word "dysfunctional" has perfectly summed up the state of this franchise. Oiler fans can talk about how their team made a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 and were one game away from winning it all, but that’s what happens when you have a hot goaltender, it can do a team wonders. Ask the Hurricanes who beat the Oilers that year, they’ll tell you great goaltending makes a difference. Heck even the 2012 LA Kings will say the same thing. However, the Oilers have been the leagues punching bag ever since. Last place finishes, countless top end draft picks, desperation trades, but nothing has worked, Edmonton still sucks. How can that happen when you have Connor McDavid? It's simple when you don’t have much around him. Other than Leon Draisaitl, Darnell l Nurse and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers team depth is skin to bone. The Penguins built around Sidney Crosby, the Washington Capitals did the same with Ovechkin, both teams have won cups and the rest is history, why can't the Oilers do the same?
For some reason, Oilers management thought this team was good enough to make the playoffs. They are now going through another coaching change, familiar news Oilers fans have gotten used too. It’s their seventh different coach in this decade alone, which is more than any other team in the league during that span. Hiring former Stanley Cup Champion Ken Hitchcock to take McLellan’s place will raise some eyebrows. McLellan is a good coach but the team put in front of him has underperformed.
Ken Hitchcock is a good coach, no question, and is third all-time in coaching wins. In Dallas, he coached them to a Stanley Cup victory and back-to-back Stanley Cup appearances. Though that was a long time ago, almost 20 years ago, yes he had solid coaching tenures in St. Louis and Philadelphia, but his teams couldn’t get over the hump. St. Louis were Stanley Cup contenders, at one point they were one of the top teams in the league, with back-to-back 50 wins between 12'-14', his teams were flat during the playoffs getting knocked out in the first one round in both years. He did see a Conference Final at least but it’s still disappointing considering the Blues were such a strong team with a nice touch of physicality, and one of the best snipers in the game in Vladimir Taresenko. All the right ingredients to win a Stanley Cup.
Hitchcock's teams in Philly were good, and if goaltending wasn’t their Achilles heel they could have had a Stanley Cup. It just wasn’t meant to be. The Flyers in the early 2000s underachieved with the lineup they had. The last team he coached was in Dallas coming back for a second go-around last season. Hitchcock announced before the start of last season that it was his last as a head coach. The Stars were in good shape until March, then April came around and Dallas missed the playoffs for a second straight season. Not seeing this talented Stars team make the playoffs is still a head-scratcher till this day. After his one and done season in Dallas Hitchcock retired, but that was then, and two months into the season he's back.
The hiring of Hitchcock is more of a band-aid than a long-term solution. Do you see him coaching in 4-5 years with the Oilers? No way. The Oilers need someone who can be committed for the future like Mike Babcock is with the Leafs. Who knows Hitchcock might be gone after this season, especially if the Oilers continue to slide down the standings.
The 65-year-old is a no-nonsense guy and will call out his players if necessary. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, but his old-school tactics might not work with this young Oilers team. Joel Quenneville should have been the Oilers first choice if available. If there was somebody that could give the Oilers the jolt they needed, Mr. Q would have been their guy. There’s no doubt that Quenneville would have been the better candidate right now for the Oilers. Chicago is a tough hockey market and Quenneville thrived under at that pressure, plus he went through the same scenario in Chi-town. Needless to say Quenneville went above and beyond as he built a modern-day dynasty. Winning 3 Stanley Cups in his run in the windy city, Chicago became the franchise everyone wanted to be like, and everyone wanted to coach like Quenneville. Edmonton whiffed at the opportunity not hiring Quenneville as the team’s next head coach.
With Todd McLellan gone you can expect Peter Chiarelli to be next in line. Expectations were high when he got hired in 2015, as he built a very good Bruins team signing cornerstones like Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and acquiring Tuukka Rask, and finding gems like Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand through the draft. Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins captured a Stanley Cup in 2011 as Boston ended a long 39-year drought, but has had a hard time replicating that in Edmonton.
The big stain on his resume is trading away Taylor Hall, the league’s Hart winner last year, for an average defenseman, then signing Milan Lucic to that crazy 7 year deal with a cap hit at 6 million. Didn’t Chiarelli know the Lucic wasn’t the same player that he was in Boston? Cam Talbot as the number one goalie hasn’t panned out either. Talbot had one good season winning 42 games and had a GAA of 2.39 in 16'-17' in 73 starts. However after signing him to a 3-year deal at over 4 million, the 31-year-old is at risk of losing his starting job to Finnish goalie Mikko Koskinen. Who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2011 as a member of the New York Islanders. The former 2009 draftee has a record of 5-2 with a decent 2.65 GAA compared to Talbot’s 5-8-1 record with his goals-against average well over 3. Also, the defense needs a lot of tweaking which the Oilers have been struggling to improve even before McDavid was drafted by the team.
Mistake after mistake and Chiarelli has gotten a pass. It might be time for the Oilers to get a new general manager if things don’t shape up in Oil country. Dysfunctional is the Edmonton Oilers.