Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
From goodbye to Rexall Place to goodbye to the 2015-16 season.
You know, talk about time flies because it did this season. I know the saying is “time flies when you're having fun” and I won't call the season a fun one. I’m not sure Peter Chiarelli, Todd McLellan and the players would feel that way but, for me, it really is fun to write blogs and work on Sportsnet.
It was another year without playoffs, but you can see the transformation happening from the past to the present. I'm not just talking from Rexall Place to Rogers Place but about the team.
From those that spoke on Sunday at locker room clean-out day to the coach who spoke Monday, it's clear the club is very disappointed in how this season went. For the first time, at least publicly, we heard the GM outline his 82-point prediction. I think it says something about the boss when his sense of the club is exactly what the fans were thinking. Somewhere around a point-per-game average would have left many feeling good about where Edmonton is headed. Sometimes, it’s not what you see but what you feel and what you know about the commitment to get better. The Oilers are committed.
Now, that character trait has to be met with shrewd decisions on personnel. The City of Edmonton might lead the league in GMs and coaches but there really is only one of each. Peter Chiarelli makes the decisions and then Todd McLellan works with them. The 'Big Three' or the 'Six Million Dollar Men' have received an intense amount of attention on their futures. It's unfortunate, but reality, when you want to take young, talented and productive players and feel like you might be better without them than with them. Yet, the coach was clear in stating that Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins care more than anyone.
The Oilers need other players and they have to give up some of their own to make that happen. 10 years is a long time but one year for the new group isn't. The onslaught of alumni who arrived for the building closure served as a reminder of what it's like to be a winner in this city. Revered and followed for the ability to shoot, skate, score or stop a puck. It's a great town to be in when you're a hockey player. The current and future Oilers shouldn't let it feel like a burden but a glimpse into their futures. This team will win. Maybe because it's just a matter of time but I feel like their time is coming very soon.
It's the faith that Oilers fans have held onto for a decade and this off-season isn't the moment to stray. I am continually amazed at the passion I witness at home and on the road. The legion of fans who spend their hard-earned money to support and yes, sometimes heckle their hockey players. I understand both of the above, but if you didn't care you wouldn't be there with your money or your mouth. Next year there will be a new captain, new players, new building and new attitude. 87 points earned a playoff spot. Eight wins and an OT point more is what's needed based on the season that just ended. I believe those in suits and those that suit up for the Oilers in 2016-17 will be able to get that done. However, for now it is time to say goodbye to another season of writing for the Oilers. It's been a pleasure enjoy the off-season and can't wait for next year.