As I sit here awaiting the Stanley Cup Playoffs and as an Edmonton Oilers fan who has waited 11 years for the team to return to postseason play, I’m thinking about how much it’s meant to not only stick with a team that was winning more in the draft lottery than they were in the NHL standings and had a bad front office and had bad coaches and even bad rosters and how much it’s paid off now to suffer through all of that and how special it is now that they’re back in the postseason.
Yes,it took a lot to get things to in Edmonton to change, but it finally happened. It happened when Daryl Katz placed Bob Nicholson in charge as Chief Operations Officer, when Peter Chiarelli was hired as the general manager and vice president of hockey operations and when Todd McLellan was hired as head coach. Oh,and when that Connor McDavid kid was drafted.
When the aforementioned changes happened, I had this sense that things were going to change and for the better. In year one, you started to see it a little bit,but things were derailed when McDavid was crushed into the boards by the Flyers, his clavicle broken, his Rookie of the Year hopes dashed and even the team’s hopes to be better than they ended up being. The Oilers finished with 70 points and picked fourth in the NHL Entry Draft.
What you don’t know is that the team in that season was preparing for this season. They traded for Patrick Maroon from the Anaheim Ducks and Zack Kassian from Montreal. These two aren’t afraid to mix it up with anyone and Maroon is having an incredible season this year. They also brought up Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl, two young kids who I think will be great cornerstones in this league in years to come.
This season they signed Milan Lucic, they brought Adam Larsson in as well as Kris Russell and signed college free agent Drake Caggiula. With the pieces they had already and the new guys coming in, this team came together for one another and for the fans. The result? A season where they have 95 points in the standings, a playoff berth, and a chance for the division title, which would be the team’s first in 30 years.
Why do I bring all of this up? Well, I guess I bring all of this up because I know that there are fans out there of teams who have long been out of the playoff picture and wonder when or if the playoff drought will ever end.
The answer? Yes,it will.
No matter how bad things get for a franchise and how much fans have been suffering and longing for things to change and are even wondering if staying with the team is worth it, things will get better. All that needs to happen is for the team’s luck to change and for the culture of losing to change. How your particular team chooses to change their ways is up to them.
With the Oilers, I think fans played a big role in the team changing. It wasn’t that long ago when fans were hurling jerseys onto the ice at the team’s former home,Rexall Place. Where chants of “Lowe Must Go” were commonplace and where fans booed the team as they left the ice after yet another disappointing loss. That’s all changed now.
Last night as I watched the team’s 3-2 win over San Jose at Rogers Place, I heard an excited crowd chant “Let’s Go Oilers” over and over throughout the game. I saw how excited those blue-and-orange clad fans got when McDavid scored a short-handed goal in the first period. This franchise has an energy they haven’t had in a long time,and by the way,those fans have sold out their arena year after year to watch bad team after bad team. Their loyalty has paid off.
Guess what? That fan base can be you,too. If you’re a longtime Sacramento Kings fan wondering if they’ll ever make the playoffs again or a Jacksonville Jaguars fan fed up with the losing and the team not living up to expectations, hang in there. Eventually the futility,frustration,and hopelessness turns into excitement, pride,and hope.