Oilers miss the playoffs, raise your hand if you’re surprised.

Despite living in Edmonton, I’m not an Oilers fan, I prefer Eastern conference teams, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston to be specific. But I know lots of Oilers fans and I know what I’m going to hear a lot of tomorrow.

The masses are going to cry out, “Fire Craig MacTavish” and Darryl Katz is going to say, “No”.

I don’t blame him. The guy is in his first full season as the owner of the franchise and it’s a smart idea to get a good feel for things before doing anything rash. Besides, it’s not entirely MacTavish’s fault that it’s the same goddamn thing every season. Either squeak into the playoffs by a couple of points and secure a low seed or miss the playoffs by a handful of points. It’s been the story of the Oilers since 1995. They start hot, they’re in, they suffer from a midseason slump, they’re out. Come the last few weeks of the season, it can go either way and people get all hot and bothered.

Fewer people pay attention to the NHL midseason than the post-trade deadline playoff races. The midseason being the time of year when the Oilers seem to notoriously slump, which puts them in the position they’re always in – the frantic late season push in the clusterfuck that is the Western conference. Hell, the NHL schedule is specifically tailored to push late season division rivalries and with careful planning, intense playoff races that flush out the 82 game season. Everything before that is lip service. Hooray, I get to see the Canadiens when they come to town for their only game in Edmonton during the hockey lull in February.

But that’s not the point, it’s the same result, season in and season out, that’s frustrating for fans. After the Oilers managed to sneak into the playoffs in 2006 (after four years of being on the outside looking in) capturing that coveted eighth seed from the Vancouver Canucks they made a heroic run, beating the favoured Red Wings in the first round, won four straight against San Jose and secured a trip to the finals with a convincing five game win over Anaheim. But we remember how that ended.

Edmonton fans, it’s not wise – at all – to lament for those days. Yes an injury to Roloson tipped things in favour of the Hurricanes and they won the cup. Let it go. Stop playing like getting that eighth seed is a punched ticket to the finals. The Oilers have since had (as of tonight) three cracks at getting back into the post season and haven’t been successful. Sure they came close, but from the games I’ve seen, Edmonton has a horrible problem of taking too many shifts off. MacTavish can only bench so many players and – try as he might – Roloson can’t win every game by himself.

It might be time to consider going into rebuilding mode. Yes, we are in the ‘new’ NHL and you guys can finally compete on the free agent market, but take an example from the Chicago Blackhawks, suck for a few seasons and build around a very solid core of youth and then make a calculated dip. Take another example from the New York Rangers, don’t try to purchase a new roster every season. The trick is somewhere in the middle, you need consistency. Don’t go blowing out the Canadiens 7 – 2 and lose to Dallas eight days later. One of those teams is better than the other and those two points might have gotten you into the 2009 post season.

This wallowing in mediocrity has to stop.

At least find some consistency. Good or Bad.

If I were Steve Tambellini – How many times has that line been spoken tonight – I would sit down with Katz and MacTavish and hash out plan B. Resign Roloson long term and attempt for a one year extension with Kotalik. Address long term needs during the draft and attempt to bring in key grit players during the off season, Dean McAmmond comes to mind – anyone who shows up every shift would be a welcome addition. Trade Penner. Attempt to move up in the 2009 draft and give it until the 2010 trade deadline. If they’re even remotely on the outside looking in or losing momentum; clean house, get rid of Kotalik, Pisani and Hemsky and rebuild around forwards like O’Sullivan. Give prospects like Schremp, Nash and Eberle a decent shot to develop in the pros.

Or – if the majority of fans get what they want and the Edmonton brass decide to let Craig MacTavish go maybe Katz can lure Keenan in from Calgary, he’ll whip the team into shape.

Edmonton needs to take a lesson from the consistently stronger teams in the NHL, the Red Wings have been a dominant force in the NHL for over a decade. How does Ken Holland do it? Surely there’s no secret formula behind building a franchise.

I’m not saying that Tambellini needs to mimic Holland’s every move, but using the Wings as an example of how to build a good franchise through smart signings, brilliant scouting/drafting and getting his players to buy into the system is a good place to start.

In the meantime, Oilers fans, enjoy the off season, stop being so mellow dramatic and learn to lay off your franchise a little. Accept that when a GM comes up with a plan, it’s not always going to pay off the day it’s implemented. Hopefully the days of silly offersheets are behind us and given enough time, Tambellini is going to execute a master piece.

~J

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3 Responses to Oilers miss the playoffs, raise your hand if you’re surprised.

  1. Tea says:

    You say they need to find some consistency, good or bad. Maybe mediocrity IS their version of consistency. Consistently moderately sub-par.

    And speaking of Edmonton/Detroit 2006, I had three drive-by hecklings on Whyte Ave before that series even ended! And even the bus driver gave me attitude.

    Dave has a story from when there was talk that the Oilers would move to the US. People were chanting “stay Oilers stay” while on the city buses, at the route information, were saying “go Oilers go!” In true Dave form, he shouted “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!”

    • Jack says:

      I believe it. People in Edmonton are ‘passionate’ about their hockey club, but they’re also mindlessly retarded. Makes me wish I were a gambler, cause I would try to fleece the money out of them every game night.

  2. 1hockeychics says:

    The Blackhawks fired one assistant coach (B. Cassidy) and two head coaches (T. Yawney) (D. Savard) in less than three years to find a right fit to their system. They also hired Joel Quenneville to make their team playoff worthy. Interesting enough, my best read article is about what Chicago learned from Edmonton. http://www.californiachronicle.com/articles/view/11138 Maybe I should write one on how the Edmonton Oilers should learn from the Blackhawks. http://www.chicshockey.com

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