A year ago Edmonton Oilers fans were watching another disappointing season dwindle away, a tenth straight season without the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton.
During Todd McLellan’s end of season media conference he spoke right to the heart of long suffering Oilers fans.
“Well, they sure don’t want to hear the words rebuild and patience and I’m not using that.”
That short phrase may have been the turning point for the Oilers organization. The message was clear. The attitude needed to change, the program needed to move forward after being stuck in neutral so long.
Go back even further to December 15, 2014 the day Dallas Eakins was fired as the head coach of the Oilers. Around that time Oilers Entertainment Group CEO and Vice-Chairman Bob Nicholson started to voice his opinion on the state of the Oilers in the media. He promised change would be coming and change happened during the off-season, hiring Peter Chiarelli as general manager and president of hockey operations and Todd McLellan as head coach.
The Oilers still finished a dismal 29th last season, leaving Oilers fans once again empty and discouraged. Chiarelli needed a strong off-season to put his mark on the team.
He is the catalyst for this team and is magic to watch.
He and Leon Draisaitl have become perhaps the most dangerous duo in the NHL.
WATCH: The moment the Edmonton Oilers clinched their spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Clinching moment. pic.twitter.com/2lPUbpuZhV
— 630CHED (@630CHED) March 29, 2017
You need solid goaltending and Cam Talbot didn’t provide much of that in the first two months of his time with the Oilers. Since then he’s been reliable, resilent and rock solid.
The Taylor Hall trade will be forever scrutinized and, for some, criticized. Adam Larsson didn’t, at the time, seem like a good return, but he’s what the Oilers needed. A tough and steady defenseman who can shut down the cycle and get the puck back and has worked well with fellow Swede Oscar Klefbom.
Chiarelli also brought in Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, David Deharnais, Kris Russell and Eric Gryba. Depth players to support the high-end players.
What needed to change badly was the attitude and the belief of the team. You can have all the talent possible, but if a team doesn’t believe they have what it takes to win then the program fails.
This team believes.
Bigger challenges await in two weeks when the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. How will McDavid and Draisaitl handle the tighter checking? Can Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and Lucic provide some secondary scoring? Will Talbot be able to maintain his consistency?
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 29, 2017
Much better questions to ponder instead of asking where the Oilers will finish in the draft lottery, and who they will pick with another high draft choice.
Enjoy the ride.