The sport of hockey has always held a special place in the hearts of Canadians. From frozen ponds to professional arenas, it is deeply ingrained in the nation’s culture. For many young Canadians, playing hockey is not just a hobby, but a way of life. It teaches discipline, teamwork, and dedication from a young age.
But in recent years, the conversation surrounding the sport in Canada has shifted. While Canadians still dominate the roster of the National Hockey League (NHL), there has been a noticeable decline in the number of Canadian teams making it to the playoffs. One team that was particularly struggling was the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers, based in the city of Edmonton, Alberta, have a long and storied history in the NHL. Their glory days in the 1980s, led by the legendary Wayne Gretzky, are often reminisced about by hockey fans. However, in the last decade, the Oilers found themselves in a downward spiral, consistently finishing towards the bottom of the league.
But in recent years, things have taken a turn for the better for the Oilers. They have clawed their way back to the top, proving that with the right strategy and leadership, even the lowest of lows can be turned around. In this article, we will delve into the journey of the Edmonton Oilers and how they have risen from the ashes to reclaim their place among the top teams in the NHL.
The Dark Days
For nearly a decade, the Edmonton Oilers had been languishing at the bottom of the league standings. Despite having highly talented players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the team consistently failed to make it to the playoffs. In fact, they had the worst record in the NHL from 2010 to 2016, losing an astonishing 288 games.
The root of their struggles can be traced back to a series of poor management decisions. After their last playoff appearance in 2006, the Oilers went through eight different head coaches in a span of 10 years, leading to a lack of stability and direction within the team. In addition, they also made some questionable trades and signings that weakened their roster.
But perhaps the biggest blow to the Oilers was the loss of their star player, Connor McDavid, to a broken collarbone in 2015. McDavid, who had just been drafted as the first overall pick, was expected to be the savior of the team. However, his injury kept him out of the game for three months, effectively ending the Oilers’ hopes for that season.
In 2015, the Oilers hired Peter Chiarelli as their new general manager, bringing in fresh leadership with a proven track record. Chiarelli immediately made some bold moves, trading for players like Cam Talbot and Patrick Maroon. He also signed Connor McDavid to a record-breaking eight-year, $100 million contract.
But the biggest and most significant move came in 2016, when the Oilers drafted Connor McDavid’s childhood friend, Leon Draisaitl, as the third overall pick. The duo formed a formidable partnership on the ice, with Draisaitl providing the perfect support for McDavid’s explosive speed and skill.
With the right pieces in place and a renewed focus on developing young talent, the Oilers started to see results. In the 2016–2017 season, they made it to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, with McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way. Although they were defeated in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks, it was a promising sign.
The following seasons saw the Oilers continue to make strides, with McDavid cementing himself as one of the best players in the league. In the 2018–2019 season, McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy for the second time, awarded to the player with the most points in the regular season. He also became the sixth player in NHL history to record 100 points in three consecutive seasons.
The Edmonton Oilers are now one of the top teams in the NHL, with their talented core of young players leading the way. They have also found stability in their coaching staff, with Dave Tippett at the helm since 2019. Tippett’s emphasis on a strong defensive game has helped the Oilers improve their standings.
In the current 2021 season, the Oilers are once again making a strong playoff push, sitting at the top of the North Division. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the league in points, the Oilers are a force to be reckoned with.
The recent success of the Edmonton Oilers is a testament to the team’s resilience and hard work. They have shown that even the toughest of challenges can be overcome with the right mindset and determination. As the Oilers continue to rise in the ranks of the NHL, they serve as an inspiration to all hockey players, showing that with passion and perseverance, anything is possible.