Not long ago, the Edmonton Oilers won the NHL Draft Lottery and basically the golden ticket for Connor McDavid. Eight days later,things are beginning to change for,what hopes to be for the better, with a franchise that for a decade now has not operated like a real franchise. Poor free agent acquisitions, constant turnover in the coaching position,and apology letter after apology letter from owner Daryl Katz have made this once-proud franchise into a laughingstock.
Friday gave Oilers fans like myself a lot more hope than there was even when they were announced as the draft lottery winners because former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was introduced as both Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish,who held those jobs, will remain with the Oilers Entertainment Group,but in different capacities, to the delight of Oilers fans everywhere who for years have wished for their ouster. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 under Chiarelli’s watch and although he did make a bad trade or two in his time in Boston (Tyler Seguin,really?), he brings so much more credibility to the front office than Lowe and MacTavish ever did.
“His record speaks for itself,” beamed newly-minted Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Nicholson
While Chiarelli’s hire is being lauded and cheered, he has a lot of work to do to change what is and has been a losing culture in Edmonton. The Oilers’ last playoff appearance was in 2006 and fans want nothing less than a playoff berth now. They’ve been in the position where the team was “on the brink” of getting back to being a playoff team,and that fell apart. They’re done with that, they want to see real changes being made in this organization. Real change that energizes the guys who are there now and real change that makes guys who have the Oilers on their lists of teams they don’t want to be traded to cross them off.
So,is the curse ending in Edmonton? I think it is. In part because of Nicholson eschewing the Old Boys Club away from any decision making with the club. Just because you were winners on the team in the 1980s doesn’t mean you’re smart hockey minds. Chiarelli is that, and I think the best is yet to come. I think the team will in fact attract a big name hockey coach to be the coach there. Todd McLellan has been mentioned as a possible candidate and is open to be courted by the team. Mike Babcock of the Red Wings is also a possibility. All I know is that for the first time in a long time,the Oilers are a club that looks to be making progress. With Chiarelli here and McDavid coming on board, I’m excited for once to see what happens next.