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PRINCIPE: Summer of Salvation

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.

Devan Dubnyk was lugging his sticks and hockey bag out to his vehicle on Tuesday. He was packed up and ready to continue his hockey season. Dubnyk is one of six Oilers, along with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, that are off to the World Championship.

I saw Devan about 15 minutes after newly minted general manager of the Edmonton Oilers Craig MacTavish finished his 30-minute post-season dissection of the team he inherited just over two weeks ago. It's now his turn to take a stab at ending the Oilers exodus to the Worlds by making it to the playoffs.

If you do the math on Edmonton's season of 45 points in 48 games and prorate that over a normal 82-game season, Edmonton would have finished with 77 points. That would have been a three-point jump from the previous season of 74. With 55 points as the playoff cutoff in the West, prorating it over 82 games the normal post-season cut line would have been about 94 points. 94-77 leaves Edmonton about 17 points off what would have been the amount needed to gain a shot at the Stanley Cup.

There's work to be done and the man fitted with that challenge is Craig MacTavish.

Like he was as a coach, MacTavish was just as brutally honest as a GM in his end of season assessment. He didn't mince words, he didn't cover off with cliches but instead spoke the truth about what the team needs and at the same time what they already have. It's hard to see the good when the bad is freshest in your mind. The team needs an overhaul is what MacTavish alluded too. How else to decribe the possibility of six to eight new Oilers when there are only 20 players on the team? That's between a 30-40% Oil change on a team that is trying to overcome more than just one missed playoff season. The model to do it is out there.

I'm just going to go back to my calculator and look at the four most impressive current one season playoff turnarounds in the NHL. Let's start with Anaheim. At their pace this season (66 points in 48 games), spread out over 82 games, the Ducks would have put up 112 points. Last season they missed the playoffs with 80. Toronto also had 80 points last season. This year, take their 57 points in 48 games and multiply it over 82 games and you get 97 points. The NY Islanders had 79 points last season. This year they had 55 points. Prorate it over 82 games and that's 94 points and a 15 point jump.

Finally, there's Montreal who had 78 points last year (only four more than Edmonton). This season they had 63. Spread that out over 82 games and the total would be 108 points. They went from last in their division to winning their division in 48 games.

It is those models of meteoric rise that Craig MacTavish is basing his enthusiasm on for next year. It's not easy work but it certainly can be satisfying. The Oilers have a seven-year playoff itch and the new GM intends on being the one to scratch it.

Gene Prinicipe is the host of Oilers games on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Oilers.

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