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PRINCIPE: Happy New Year

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Marko Ditkun | Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

There was quite an explosion at Rexall Place Thursday night. At first I thought they were blowing up the building. Is that what they're doing now that the Edmonton Oilers will have a new home called Rogers Place next season? No, I don't think they're ready to quite do that now or maybe ever. Instead it was just a colourful and loud celebration with fireworks of New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, the offensive explosion didn't materialize in the Oilers final game of 2015. However it was quite a year for the organization. Here's a look back at the big stories revolving around Edmonton in the last 365 days.


Getting Connor McDavid

Well there was nothing bigger or better to happen to the Edmonton Oilers than getting Connor McDavid. I realized that the night of the draft lottery. As I sat in my hotel room in Winnipeg getting set for the Jets/Ducks playoff series the tweet was already set to go "I think I 'Noah' who the Oilers will be drafting." I figured Edmonton would get the third pick and eventually draft Noah Hanifin. However when Bill Daly flipped the gold card Oilers fans simply flipped out. A fourth first overall pick and a generational talent to boot. The tweet never went out. My phone wasn't on vibrate but may as well have been considering it was being inundated with tweets, texts, e-mails and phone calls about what just happened.

Losing Connor McDavid

After all the hype and attention heaped on McDavid through development camp and training camp, I knew this was different. At Sportsnet we were going live with his first everything. From practice, to intrasquad scrimmage, to the U of A game, onto pre-season and to his first morning skate prior to game one in the NHL. We (and I think many others) couldn't get enough of Connor. At the same time, we were learning more about a teenager with God-given talent and the work ethic to match. It seemed almost cruel and unfair for unlucky game number 13 to happen. A broken clavicle. As bad as that night looked and felt, it's nice to see Connor recovering so swiftly and it shouldn't be too long into 2016 before he's back playing.

Hiring Peter Chiarelli

In this day and age, it's hard to keep a secret but the Edmonton Oilers were very good at not letting this come out much sooner than April 23. A new GM and even more surprising was a new President. A lot to digest in a short time to see Peter Chiarelli get hired as the man to take over hockey operations. Bob Nicholson knew what he wanted and went out and got it. From fired by Boston to hired by Edmonton 10 days later. What a whirlwind it was to bring a Cup champion general manager into the fold. It meant the movement of roles for Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish. It was clear who was in charge. He showed that as he sat at the draft table in Florida. Wheeling and dealing and putting his fingerprints on his blueprint for success.

Coaching Carousel Stops

Less than a month later (May 19) Chiarelli made it clear that while he was the big boss he needed a bench boss. Enter Todd McLellan. It had been a revolving door of coaches and finally it stopped. Edmonton landed a proven commodity to take over. McLellan was a Cup winner as an assistant with Detroit and had molded San Jose into a model franchise that was in the Stanley Cup hunt every year but one. Once McLellan and San Jose had the 'it's not you it's me' breakup he rocketed to the top of the list of coaching candidates. His 10-0 run and gold medal at the Worlds alongside Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle didn't hurt either. He became the perfect candidate to be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

What a year it was for the Edmonton Oilers. A sense that the good times are very close to replacing the bad ones. Here's to health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family and to the Edmonton Oilers. Happy New Year.
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