Sports

Benders to Contenders: Oil Change

Story by Charlie Crowley

Man, summer is the best. There are vacations, hitting the golf course, the underlying fact that upper management may sweep the shop and you’ll get traded – oh. Obviously this is summer for an Edmonton Oiler.

The Oilers, who, despite their downfall of the millennium, are a storied franchise in the National Hockey League. They have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals seven times and have been champions five times. However, since making the Cup Finals in the 2005-2006 season, they have not finished higher than fourth in their division, missing the playoffs nine seasons straight – the longest drought in team history.

Despite their poor performance, the Oilers have skilled players. They have players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. All of them have had exceptional careers so far, and still have yet to reach their prime; Eberle is only 25, while Hall and Nugent-Hopkins are 23 and 22. They were all first round draft picks of the Oilers and while they have made names for themselves, they have yet to make a name for their team. They consistently struggle not only with their opponent but with injury: Hall, for example, has yet to play a full season, with a career high of 75 games in 2013-14.

So where does this team start with the turnaround? Oilers management hopes that it comes with the recent hiring of Todd McLellan who they signed to the helm on May 19.  The Mike Babcock disciple spent the last seven years behind the bench of the San Jose Sharks, missing the playoffs once and reaching the Conference Finals twice. McLellan will be tasked with having his core group of players mesh and bringing his team back to the playoff hunt.

The biggest thing that the Oilers can do in the next month is focus on the NHL Draft, where they have the first overall pick. This year’s draft is unique in that it has two players who are being considered as ‘generational’ in Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters, and Jack Eichel of Boston University. Both have been highly touted and watched over the last few years and are players that could bring an impact to whatever team they end up on the first day of training camp. The Oilers have their eye on both, though they will more than likely draft McDavid. A quick player who can make highlight reels by himself, McDavid could be the answer to the Oilers’ problems. Time will be a factor, along with his development to the faster pace of the NHL, and that he will be a target by other teams. The Oilers have a drought to get out of, and the steps they take in the next month could be the answer to their problems.

About the Writer…charlie

Charlie Crowley is a soon to be junior studying communication and journalism. He spends most of his time playing hockey, sleeping, eating, and on Reddit. He’s also a Hoosier, and proud of it, but can’t hit the open three to save his life.

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