Edmonton Oilers on pace for greatness next season? Hardly

2009 NHL Entry Draft, First Round

I’m not buying the malarkey Daryl Katz is shoveling.

In a recent letter posted on the Edmonton Oilers’ website, the team owner acknowledged an eighth consecutive season outside the playoffs is likely and asked fans for more patience.

But in the process, Katz added this comment that didn’t sit right with me: “The good news, if you can call it that, is that other teams that committed to fundamental rebuilds went through the same kind of droughts over the same kind of time frames, or longer.”

I immediately called cow patty on that.

The other teams he’s talking about that had “fundamental rebuilds” – in other words, relied upon a series of high draft picks to build a winner – have to be some or all of these ones: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Quebec and Ottawa.

In each case, it took the sixth or seventh years for these franchises to become contenders again (denoted in bold below). Two of them won Stanley Cups in the eighth year of the rebuild. Edmonton’s already in Year 8. Here’s the breakdown.

 

PITTSBURGH

Year 1 (2001-02), fifth-last place, 5th overall draft pick (Ryan Whitney)

Year 2 (2002-03), second-last place, 1st overall draft pick (Marc-Andre Fleury)

Year 3 (2003-04), last place, 2nd overall pick (Evgeni Malkin)

Year 4 (2004-05), lockout season, 1st overall pick (Sidney Crosby)

Year 5 (2005-06), second-last place, 2nd overall pick (Jordan Staal)

Year 6 (2006-07), 105 points, 10th place overall in NHL

Year 8 (2008-09), won Stanley Cup

 

CHICAGO

Year 1 (2002-03), 14th-last place, 14th overall draft pick (Brent Seabrook)

Year 2 (2003-04), second-last place, 3rd overall pick (Cam Barker)

Year 3 (2004-05), lockout season, 7th overall pick (Jack Skille)

Year 4 (2005-06), third-last place, 3rd overall pick (Jonathan Toews)

Year 5 (2006-07), fifth-last place, 1st overall pick (Patrick Kane)

Year 6 (2007-08), 11th-last place, 11th overall pick (Kyle Beach)

Year 7 (2008-09), 104 points, 6th place overall in NHL

Year 8 (2009-10), won Stanley Cup

 

QUEBEC (Colorado)

Year 1 (1987-88), sixth-last place, 3rd overall draft pick (Curtis Leschyshyn)

Year 2 (1988-89), last place, 1st overall pick (Mats Sundin)

Year 3 (1989-90), last place, 1st overall pick (Owen Nolan)

Year 4 (1990-91), last place, 1st overall pick (Eric Lindros)

Year 5 (1991-92), second-last place, 4th overall pick (Todd Warriner)

Year 6 (1992-93), 104 points, 4th place overall in NHL

Year 9 (1995-96), won Stanley Cup (as Colorado Avalanche)

 

OTTAWA

Year 1 (1992-93), last place, 1st overall draft pick (Alexandre Daigle)

Year 2 (1993-94), last place, 3rd overall pick (Radek Bonk)

Year 3 (1994-95), last place, 1st overall pick (Bryan Berard)

Year 4 (1995-96), last place, 1st overall pick (Chris Phillips)

Year 5 (1996-97), 11th-last place, 12th overall pick (Marian Hossa)

Year 7 (1998-99), 103 points, 3rd place overall in NHL

 

EDMONTON

Year 1 (2006-07), sixth-last place, 6th overall draft pick (San Gagner)

Year 2 (2007-08), 11th-last place, 22nd overall pick (Jordan Eberle)

Year 3 (2008-09), 10th-last place, 10th overall pick (Magnus Paajarvi)

Year 4 (2009-10), last place, 1st overall pick (Taylor Hall)

Year 5 (2010-11), last place, 1st overall pick (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins)

Year 6 (2011-12), second-last place, 1st overall pick (Nail Yakupov)

Year 7 (2012-13), seventh-last place, 7th overall pick (Darnell Nurse)

Year 8 (2013-14), on pace for second-last place this season

 

In other words, the Oilers are way behind pace in this rebuild.

Even if you’re a Katz apologist and claim 2007-08 and 2008-09 don’t count because the Oilers were still competitive – they were going for a playoff spot and the Cup like they almost won in 2005-06 as the 14th-place team – the data is troubling. Then Year 4 in the above chart becomes Year 1. That makes this season Year 5 of a fundamental rebuild. In Year 6, Pittsburgh and Quebec were contenders and Chicago and Ottawa were knocking on the door. Is that what Katz is aiming to deliver next season in Year 9 of this monkey maze?

“That doesn’t make it fun for anyone,” Katz posted on the team’s website. “It just means we have to stay the course.”

 

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN