Team Profile: The Edmonton Oilers

Ok, so in recent years the Oilers have pretty much been the joke of the League. Through intentional tanking and a bit of luck, they have managed to score 4 first overall picks in 6 seasons. Despite this, they have failed to rally a contending team. Most recently they drafted Connor “literally Jesus” McDavid with the hope that he single handedly fixes the franchise. I am of course being facetious. I do feel that while they are putting a lot of pressure on McDavid (who, by the way, has only played half of a season in the NHL so far due to getting injured), this offseason the Oilers have made legitimate, albeit unpopular, moves to provide support for their superstar. Who was just named youngest captain in NHL history, by the way.

A brief overview:

  • Located in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1972
  • Located in Edmonton, Alberta
  • Arena: Rogers Place
  • Owner: Oilers Entertainment Group
  • GM: Peter Chiarelli
  • Head Coach: Todd McClellan
  • Captain: Connor McDavid
  • Minor League Affiliate: Bakersfield Condors
  • Stanley Cups: 5

A super brief overview (like, this is so, so general I feel a little bad because it won’t do the Oilers history justice, but I’m down to the wire here…so sorry!)

The Oilers were founded as part of the WHA, and remained in that league until they joined the NHL in 1979. Before that they acquired the then underage Wayne Gretzky from the folded Indianapolis Racers for cash. Gretzky only played one season in the WHA before the team moved to the NHL.

The Oilers lost most of the players from 1978–79 when the NHL held a reclamation draft of players who had bolted to the upstart league as they were allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skill players. Originally, Gretzky was not eligible to be protected; under the rules of the time, he normally would have been placed in the Entry Draft pool. However, the owner Pocklington had signed him to a 21-year personal services contract in 1979 and Pocklington used the contract to force the NHL to admit the Oilers and allow the Oilers to keep Gretzky.

As we all know, Gretzky would prove to become the all-time leading scorer. The “Great One”, as he is called, helped lead the Oilers to 5 Stanley Cup Championships.

The Oilers were the first team to win the Presidents Trophy.

The Oilers trading away Wayne Gretzky to the LA Kings is still regarded as one of the most shocking and controversial trades in sports history.

During the 2010–11 season, the Oilers introduced the Oilers Octane, the first cheerleading squad for a Canadian NHL team. This was considered an unpopular move by some. Then in August 2016 the Oilers announced they were discontinuing the Octane cheer team as they moved to their first season in the new Rogers Place arena, as well as announcing auditions for a new Oilers Orange and Blue Ice Crew “brand ambassador’ group.

On November 22, 2003, the Oilers hosted the 2003 Heritage Classic, the first regular season outdoor hockey game in the NHL’s history and part of the celebrations of the Oilers’ 25th season in the NHL.

The Oilers did not make the playoffs this past season.

Notable Players:

  • Wayne Gretzky (mic drop, we’re done here)

Most of the hockey world is very much aware of the Oilers recent struggles. As I ranted in the introduction, the Oilers have had a wealth of talent join their team via draft, which is not something that seems to happen very often. They traded one of these talents, Taylor Hall, in exchange for some defensive help in the form of Adam Larsson, and signed free agent Milan Lucic to provide some support to newly minted captain, Connor McDavid. We’ll see what happens, but I do get the feeling they will be poised to show some drastic improvement this season.

Connor McDavid was named captain of the Oilers, making him the youngest in NHL history (source: Robert Tychkowski)

Team Profile: The Calgary Flames

I personally find the Flames to be a fun team to watch. They are brimming with young talent. Sure they missed playoffs this season, but I think this year they will be a contender.

  • Located in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1972 (as the Atlanta Flames)
  • Located in Calgary, Alberta
  • Arena: Scotiabank Saddledome
  • Owner: Calgary Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Brad Treliving
  • Head Coach: Glen Gulutzan
  • Captain: Mark Giordano
  • Minor League Affiliate: Stockton Heat
  • Stanley Cups: 1

Here’s some facts/history:

After hastily granting a franchise to the Islanders, the NHL needed another team to balance the schedule out. The new franchise was granted to the Atlanta based group that owned the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. The name Flames comes from the fire resulting from the March to the Sea in the American Civil War by General William Tecumseh Sherman, in which Atlanta was nearly destroyed.

Despite some relative success on the ice, due to financial issues the franchise was sold to former Oilers owner Nelson Skalbania, who relocated the team to Calgary. He kept the name Flames since it fit with the oil town of Calgary.

The new team was embraced by fans and found some success, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Championship in their first season in Calgary. They ended up losing to the Minnesota Wild in Round 3.

In an effort to compete with their neighbors, the Oilers, the Flames scouted talent in new areas not commonly used by other teams. They were among the earliest teams to draft more American talent, as well as European players.

Due to the rivalry with Edmonton, their matchups are known as the Battle of Alberta.

The Flames would always meet the Oilers in the first round of playoffs, meaning that one or the other would usually end up representing the division.

In 1983 the Flames introduced Harvey the Hound. They became the first NHL team to have a mascot.

In the 1986 playoffs, the Flames upset the Oilers in seven games, the only time that the Flames defeated the Oilers in a playoff series during the decade. The series-winning goal came when an errant clearing attempt by Steve Smith ricocheted off goaltender Grant Fuhr’s leg and into his own net. The goal remains one of the most legendary blunders in hockey history.

They won the Stanley Cup in 1989, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games. This would be the first time an opposing team defeated the Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup on Montreal Forum ice. It also allowed Flames co-owner, Sonia Scurfield to be the first and only Canadian woman to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

The Flames were among the first teams to sign Soviet players. As a result, Sergei Makarov joined the Flames that season and, though already in his thirties, became the fifth Flame to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year. The selection would prove controversial, prompting the league to amend the rules to exclude any player over the age of 26 from future consideration.

The Dallas Stars traded Jerome Iginla to the Flames in exchange for Nieuwendyk. He of course was an integral part of the Star’s Stanley Cup run, meanwhile Iginla still currently holds most franchise scoring records.

Most recently they missed the playoffs despite having made a good run the season prior.

Notable Players:

  • Joe Nieuwendyk
  • Theo Fleury
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Mark Giordano
  • Sean Monahan
  • Johnny Gaudreau
  • Sam Bennett
  • Dougie Hamilton

Recently they have seen the emergence of stars like Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau, and with the addition of Brian Elliott, there is no doubt the Flames will be challenging for playoff spots in the West.

Johnny Gaudreau and Jakub Voracek during the 2015 All-Star Skills Competition 

Team Profile: The Ottawa Senators

The Senators for me are another one of those teams that I just kind of don’t have an opinion of one way or another. While they found very little success this season, I think they have a talented enough roster to come back fighting this season.

Here is the abridged overview:

  • Located in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1992
  • Located in Ottawa, Ontario
  • Arena: Canadian Tire Centre
  • Owner: Eugene Melnyk
  • GM: Pierre Dorian
  • Head Coach: Guy Boucher
  • Captain: Erik Karlsson
  • Minor League Affiliate: Binghamton Senators
  • Stanley Cups: none

And now for some facts about the team:

They are based on the original Ottawa Senators (part of the Original Six). When the NHL expanded into the U.S., the Senators financial losses forced them to move to St. Louis in 1934. They were unsuccessful in St. Louis, so the NHL suspended the franchise and transferred the players to existing NHL teams.

54 years later, Bruce Firestone successfully lobbied the league to award Ottawa a new franchise, which became todays Ottawa Senators.

 The first season was successful for what the owners wanted. They had a goal of not setting a record for fewest points in a season, and wanted to finish low enough in the standings in order to get higher draft picks. So good job?

They operated like that the next few seasons. Intentionally finishing low in the league standings (last, 3 years in a row, actually), to get high draft picks, with the goal to eventually develop into a strong contender. But understandably, fans got restless and attendance began to dwindle.

They made the playoffs for the first time in 1997 under new management and coaching staff. They lost to the Sabres in the first round, but it was progress.

The Senators had to file for bankruptcy in 2002, and continued to operate with emergency financing. Despite financial issues, they won the Presidents Trophy that season, and were one win away from making it to the finals.

In 2007 they did make the Stanley Cup Finals, and became the first Ottawa team to do so since 1927 (with the original Sens). They lost to the Anaheim Ducks.

They entered into a bit of a rebuild state with shake ups among the front office staff.

In 2010, they traded Mike Fisher to the Predators. Conveniently he had just purchased a home in Nashville with his new wife, Carrie Underwood. Since he was a fan favorite, this led to some backlash against Carrie Underwood (totally makes sense…) and some local radio stations banned her songs from being played on air.

At some point the Senators acquired Ales Hemsky from the Oilers via trade, so for part of the season he played on the same line as then captain, Jason Spezza. At the end of that season Spezza requested a trade, which eventually led to him becoming a Dallas Star.

This past season they failed to make the playoffs (as did all Canadian teams, so…), and fired their head coach, Dave Cameron. They brought on Guy Boucher for the new season.

Notable Players:

  • Daniel Alfredsson
  • Frank Finnigan
  • Dominik Hasek
  • Jason Spezza
  • Bobby Ryan
  • Erik Karlsson
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • Alexei Yashin
  • Wade Redden
  • Marian Hossa

Like I said above, I don’t have a particularly strong opinion about this team. I think they are a bubble team that might surprise some teams down the stretch.

Ottawa Senators Logo 

Team Profile: The Toronto Maple Leafs

And here we have another Original Six team. With that of course comes a long and distinguished history. Recently they have struggled quite a bit, and are currently in a rebuild stage, but with the addition of first overall draft pick Auston Matthews, as well as a group of young dynamic players, their time as a bottom dwelling team might be coming to an end.

Here is the abridged overview:

  • Located in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1917
  • Located in Toronto, Ontario
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre
  • Owner: Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Head Coach: Mike Babcock
  • Captain: vacant
  • Minor League Affiliate: Toronto Marlies
  • Stanley Cups: 13

Because of time constraints (this is what happened when you procrastinate), here is a list of interesting facts about the Leafs:

The NHL was formed in 1917 because owners of the teams in the NHA couldn’t legally vote out one if its members, Eddie Livingston, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. So instead, the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, and Ottawa Senators created their own league. Livingston and the Blueshirts were left in the NHA by themselves.

The new league wanted a team in Toronto, so they allowed Arena Company to borrow players from the Blueshirts to create a team. The team didn’t have an official name at the time but went by Torontos or Blueshirts. The Arena Company, rather than return the borrowed players, kept them and formed their own team, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club.

At one point the teams colors were green (they were the Toronto St. Patrick’s at the time).

Conn Smythe (yes of the playoff MVP trophy), purchased the team in 1927. He was the one that named them the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Apparently there is some debate about the origin of the name, the Leafs. The most commonly accepted and most likely source of the name is the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I. But another source says Smythe got the name from a team he had once scouted, the East Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the name is a proper noun, it is the Leafs, not Leaves.

The Leafs held the first NHL All-Star Game. It was held to benefit their star forward, Ace Bailey who was nearly killed when he was checked into the boards at full speed (always scary, but this was pre helmet era, so…)

During the 1942 season, they became the first major pro-sports team to come back from 3-0 to win a best of 7 championship series. This was against the Red Wings.

They won the Stanley Cup in 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.

The Leafs hosted the 1999-2000 All-Star Game, where Wayne Gretzky’s number was retired League-wide.

The Leafs have an intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, as well as the Ottawa Senators.

Currently the Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL, and rank 37th in the world. They are the only NHL franchise to crack to top 50.

1992-1993 Stanley Cup Championship had a bit of controversy as a missed high sticking call on Wayne Gretzky eventually led to him scoring the game winning goal in Game 6. The Leafs had been leading the series 3-2 at that point, and eventually lost Game 7.

During the 2013 playoffs, which came after the shortened season due to the lockout, the Leafs lost in 7 games against the Boston Bruins. “It was 4-1” incites a bit of anger in most Toronto fans, I think. The Leafs had jumped to a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period, but the Bruins completed a comeback to send the game into overtime, where Patrice Bergeron scored to win the Bruins the series.

At the conclusion of the terrible 2015 season (where the Leafs set a franchise record for 11 consecutive games without a win), they cleaned house. Most of the coaching and front office staff were fired or relieved of their duties. Mike Babcock was named head coach, and Lou Lamoriello was named General Manager.

The cleaning of house continued as they shipped Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospects and draft picks. They also eventually traded Dion Phaneuf to the Senators as well. This huge overhaul in both staff and players certainly indicated the beginning of a rebuild. This past season they finished last in the League, but this earned them the first overall draft pick, Auston Matthews.

Notable Players (there are so many, so please excuse this super short list):

  • Tim Horton
  • Ace Bailey
  • Mats Sundin
  • Curtis Joseph
  • Doug Gilmour
  • King Clancy
  • Darryl Sitter
  • Felix Potvin
  • Tie Domi
  • Phil Kessel
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • James Reimer

The Leafs right now are a young team in the middle of a rebuild. I honestly see them being very successful in the long run as I think they have a wily and smart GM as well as an effective coach. It’s kind of easy to poke fun at them now, but they have a game plan, and seem to be sticking to it. Maybe they won’t make the playoffs this season. But I can’t imagine it will be long.

How does it feel to have the hopes and dreams of an entire franchise resting on your shoulders, Auston Matthews? (source: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Team Profile: Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators, despite being a fairly young team, are not afraid to make big waves. From playoff upsets to shocking trades, there’s no doubt that the Predators are a fascinating team to watch. While their last playoff appearance ended rather spectacularly, they aren’t a team to be underestimated.

Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1997
Arena: Bridgestone Arena
AHL Affiliate: Milwaukee Admirals
Owner: Predators Holdings
Coach: Peter Laviolette
Notable Former Players: Shea Weber (LOL
Current Captain: Mike Fisher
Goalies: Pekka Rinne, Marek Mazanec
Notable Current Players: P.K. Subban (LOL), Roman Josi, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg

Some facts:
In June of 1997, Gary Bettman granted conditional franchises to Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, and Saint Paul. Because Nashville already had an arena built after an attempt to get the New Jersey Devils to relocate to Nashville, the Predators were the first of the four to begin play.

When construction began for a bank in downtown Nashville in 1971, a partial skeleton of a sabretooth tiger was found. This became the inspiration for the logo that was created for the Predators, and then a name was picked to match the logo.

Predators’ fans sometimes throw catfish onto the ice, a tradition modified off the Red Wings octopus.

In 1981, the Minnesota North Stars had a minor league affiliate in Nashville, the Nashville South Stars.

Bob Suter, who played for the USA in the 1980’s miracle on ice, played his only professional hockey season with the Nashville North Stars. Ryan Suter, his son, played for the Predators for seven seasons.

The Predators made their first Stanley Cup playoffs debut in 2004, but lost the Red Wings in the first round. They have never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Predators helped Montreal break the internet on June 29, 2016, when they made the extremely bizarre 1-for-1 trade Shea Weber for P.K. Subban.


Team Profile: The Winnipeg Jets

I’ll be honest, half the time I forget the Jets are in our Division. Since relocating from Atlanta, the Jets have been fairly quiet. Because this team was established in 2011, this history will be super short and sweet.

  • Located in the Central Division of the Western Conference
  • Founded in 1999 as the Atlanta Thrashers (relocated for the 2011 season)
  • Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Arena: MTS Centre
  • Owner: True North Sports and Entertainment
  • GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff
  • Head Coach: Paul Maurice
  • Captain: Blake Wheeler
  • Minor League Affiliate: Manitoba Moose
  • Stanley Cups: none

 And here is a slightly more in depth history. Again, this will be super short. I went over the origins of the original Winnipeg Jets in the Arizona Coyotes Profile. So here I will focus on the Atlanta Thrashers since they are the team that became the present day Jets.

The Atlanta Thrashers were founded in 1997 as an expansion team. In their 12 years as a franchise they only made it to the playoffs once. They didn’t win a single playoff game during that run.
As early as 2009, True North Sports and Entertainment had interest in buying the team to relocate them to Winnipeg. They had put in a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes. Despite the fact that they were unsuccessful, their approach was praised by Gary Bettman and the rest of the owners, which would help them when it came time to make a bid for the Thrashers. Finally in 2011 it was confirmed that the Thrashers were purchased with plans to relocate them to Winnipeg.

Season ticket sales for the yet unnamed team exceeded expectations, selling out within minutes. The name was revealed as the Winnipeg Jets on June 24th when the team was introduced to make their first selection in the 2011 Entry Draft.
Since then, they have made the Stanley Cup playoffs once, in 2015. They were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
This past season they finished 25th overall. They were able to win the 2nd overall draft pick this year in the lottery, selecting Patrik Laine.

 Notable Players:

  • Blake Wheeler
  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • Andrew Ladd

 Again, this team flies under the radar quite a bit, especially in the competitive Central Division. They are a young team, so they likely need some time to establish themselves. I’m not complaining. The Central Division is scary enough as it is.

Team Profile: Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild may be a young team, but they certainly face a lot of pressure from the fans. Playing for a home crowd in the ‘State of Hockey’ is probably as terrifying as it is exhilarating. After several long seasons without a team, Minnesota puts a lot of pressure on the Wild to play their best. Thankfully with several star players, the Wild are up for the challenge.

Brief Overview:
Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1997
Arena: Xcel Energy Center
AHL Affiliate: Iowa Wild
Owner: Craig Leipold
Coach: Bruce Boudreau
Current Captain: Mikko Koivu
Goalies: Devan Dubnyk, Darcy Kuemper
Notable Current Players: Zach Parise, Ryan Sutter, Matt Dumba, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle

Some facts:
The Wild began play in the 2000-01 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the two youngest teams in the league.

After the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, St. Paul tried desperately to get another NHL team. Despite a Minnesota group buying the original Winnipeg Jets, the arena negotiations fell through, so the Jets moved to Phoenix and Minnesota was without a team for seven seasons.

In the Wild’s first game against the Dallas Stars, they won 6-0 in front of a sold out building. There is still some remaining tension between the Minnesota Wild fans and the Dallas Stars for the move from Minnesota that left them without a team for so long.

2008 the Wild won their first, and only, Division Championship.

The eye of the animal on the Wild’s logo is said to represent the North Star, as tribute to the Minnesota North Stars.

The Iowa Wild, their AHL affiliate, was once the Houston Aeros and played in Houston, Texas.

The Xcel Energy Center is ranked one of the best sports venues by ESPN. It is also considered extremely green, certified by LEED, Green Globes, and APEX/ASTM.

Minnesota vs Dallas in game 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs