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.

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

It’s Just Business

I realize everyone has already done their analysis of the complete malarkey that happened on June 29th. I decided to take some time to cool off. Think it over.

And after some consideration, I’m still furious.

Some are lauding those roughly 30 minutes as the craziest in league history and it’s hard to argue that they weren’t. Those two trades were some of the most bizarre 1-for-1 trades the league has seen. And in terms of PK Subban and Shea Weber, downright insulting.

Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson was bad. And even after signing Milan Lucic yesterday, the hole left in the roster is far from filled. While that trade is extremely lopsided, they did at least trade a forward for the defense they needed. As Peter Chiarelli said, defense is costly right now. But Taylor Hall? First overall draft pick from 2010? The Taylor Hall that has been at least second in points on the Oilers since he was drafted? That Taylor Hall? For Adam Larsson. Eh, it happens. Chiarelli is no stranger to making bad trades with the 2010 draft picks. (Thanks for Seguin, Chiarelli.)

Which brings us to the abysmal PK Subban-Shea Weber trade. My first criticism is that, if sources and rumors are to be believed, Bergevin was approached by Edmonton for Subban. And clearly, they were willing to pay big for a top level defenseman. (Just imagine a Taylor Hall playing in front of Carey Price. Picture it. I guess thank the Lord that it didn’t pan out that way, but come on now.)

If the trade had been announced that morning PK Subban for Taylor Hall, yeah it would have still been a risky trade, but at least the apparent value in player would seem more reasonable. It also always seems more reasonable (at least in my amateur opinion) that you trade players of different positions, i.e. a defense for a forward. Instead, we have a one-for-one defenseman for defenseman trade of arguably one of the best defenseman still in his prime for the veteran Shea Weber.

Now, Weber is a good player. (We will all ignore his performance in Game 7 against the Sharks.) Weber and Subban play similar games. Strong defense, strong shots, good at getting points. Weber, though, had his place in Nashville. That was his home, his team. He was captain of that team. It’s hard to argue against the idea that Shea Weber and Roman Josi were one of the most dangerous d-pairs in the league. While numbers are just numbers, Josi and Weber had good ones.

Weber’s career should have finished out in Nashville. Period. And while that’s my opinion, I feel very strongly about it.

Now let’s talk about poor PK Subban. Subban should have finished out his career in Montreal. Period. PK Subban who had a no movement clause that would have kicked on July 1st. There is not one other player I can think of who loved his team’s community more than PK Subban loved Montreal. And Montreal loved PK Subban. How do you not love a guy that donates $10 million to a children’s hospital and proceeds to visit the children in that hospital so much he had 1) an atrium named after him and 2) his own parking spot. It shouldn’t need pointing out, but $10 million is a lot of money. It also just so happens to be more than he makes in a year. So let that sink in. Just absorb that. PK Subban donated $1 million more than he makes in a year to a children’s hospital, visited those kids regularly (sources say almost weekly, isn’t that something), and now will no longer be calling that city home.

Forget the team, forget the business of it. Imagine the impact this is going to have on those kids. If you want proof that Bergevin doesn’t care about the ramifications and the impact this will have on Montreal the community, there you go.

And for just a second let’s talk about the reason he was traded: “character issues”. PK Subban, character issues? You’re got to be joking. Not only is PK Subban all over the media in the most positive ways imaginable (again, $10 million to a children’s hospital), they just signed two forwards who have been in the limelight for scandals. Andrew Shaw, Chicago’s bad boy who called a ref several slurs over a penalty he disagreed with, and Alexand Radulov, who was suspended in the NHL once for missing curfew (As a Predator with Shea Weber as his captain) and then, get this, hitting his coach with a hockey stick in the KHL. Yikes.

So, let’s move on to what the league said to smooth things over. PK Subban was traded because his “popularity” and “personality” did not fit in with what Montreal was trying to achieve.

Excuse me?

I’m sorry, let me get this straight: You DON’T want a player to bring your team popularity? PK Subban has the second most popular jersey sales for defense. I liked the Habs for two reasons: Carey Price and PK Subban. PK Subban probably just rakes in money for the Habs organization, but you don’t want his popularity or personality on your team.

I don’t buy any of it.

Michel Therrien had documented problems with PK Subban. To the point that, back in February, he placed sole blame for the Hab’s loss to the Avalanche on PK Subban losing an edge and falling before the game winning goal was scored.

Word for word: “Too bad an individual mistake cost us the game late in the game”.

It’s one thing to think that. It’s one thing to tell Subban that behind close doors. It’s one thing for Subban to take the blame himself. It is completely disrespectful and cruel for the coach to tell a room full of media that PK Subban lost them the game.

When you’re in charge of people, you need to understand how to tactfully handle disagreements. And calling someone who is essentially your employee out in front of media, and coincidentally the thousands of people who will watch or read what you said, is not the way you handle anything tactfully. Therrien has not kept it a secret that him and PK don’t see eye to eye.

This is our Patrick Roy-Mario Tremblay trade. This is what it looks like when the management and front office chose the coaching staff over the player. (Even after Bergevin flat out said he wasn’t shopping PK Subban. Funny how that worked out.)

Shea Weber is not going to be able to fill in for PK Subban. Not on the blue line, not in that city.

PK Subban is going to have a tough time trying to fill Shea Weber’s shoes in Nashville. He was their captain.

For the second time, in nearly the same season, Montreal has had a hand in taking the heart and spirit of a team and removing it entirely. They had a hand in the John Scott debacle, and now this.

And for me, this time, it is unforgivable.