Nov. 19, 2016
What's next for both of Alberta's teams?
The Edmonton Oilers were once the hottest team in the league, winning their first 7 of 8 games, propelling them to the top of the NHL standings. However, taking a quick look at the overall standings, the Oilers are holding on to 15th in the whole league. What happened to the fast, confident, and exciting Edmonton Oiler squad that had the rest of the league confident that the Oilers were no longer a pushover?
Down the highway, the Calgary Flames are also struggling to find consistency. A team that many experts had declared the "winners of the offseason" have struggled to do anything significant in the first fifth of the season. Rumours of the players ignoring their new coaching staff, and of General Manager Brad Treliving listening to offers on 23 year old, top 4 defensemen Dougie Hamilton has the city of Calgary, in Flames, wondering what the next step is.
Firstly, looking at the Edmonton Oiler situation, it's extremely important to temper expectations. Their incredible start was simply unsustainable, and now their issues have surfaced once again. The team is relying way to heavily on franchise player Connor McDavid, and simply aren't putting in the effort to win games in an extremely tough Western Conference. Bad habits of the past Oiler teams have resurfaced, as the team once again looks frustrated, and simply outmatched.
Now, looking at the roster of the Edmonton Oilers, there is a clear improvement from past year's teams, however we're talking about an NHL club who has a playoff drought of 10 years, and has consistently been the owners of the basement of the standings. Building a winning team takes time. Having the next Sidney Crosby certainly helps, however when he's the sole engine of your offence, there are major issues. Jordan Eberle has to find some sort of consistency, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs to find the gear he played with during the World Cup, and Leon Draisaitl needs to use his size and dominate down low, like he's shown internationally, and in the past.
This is a team that had lots of changes in the offseason. Having expectations to jump directly into the playoffs is extremely difficult to maintain, and very uncommon. This team has already made a huge step, no longer are considered pushovers, and are actually competing with the NHL's elite teams, despite sometimes leaving frustrated without the two points. The NHL is an extremely tough league. Edmonton's moving in the right direction, and the light at the end of the tunnel is as close as it's ever been, however it's still a journey away.
The Oilers will be OK. No need to panic.
Down the highway, the Flames are not OK, and it is time to panic.
Ok maybe not exactly, however this a team that clearly had high expectations heading into the season.
The Calgary Flames made some of the biggest changes in the offseason. Half of the coaching staff was dismissed after last year's tire fire, all 4 2015-16 Flames goaltenders were released, and the deck at the forward position was reshuffled. These are all significant changes that can't be overlooked.
Losing back to back games to start the year against their biggest rival (Edmonton Oilers), did not sit well with Flames fans. And rightfully so, the Flames goaltending was awful, and the players didn't have the usual heart they display when playing their neighbours to the North.
Now from a Flames fan's perspective, they're calling for someone's head to roll. Fingers are being pointed to head coach Glen Gulutzan, and desperation has set in for fans. This is a team that was expected to push for a playoff spot, but in reality looks like a team that will contend for the right to draft 2017 top prospect Nolan Patrick.
Fan's were spoiled during the 2014-15 season, where the "comeback kids" miraculously made the second round of the playoffs, despite owning awful possession stats, and unsustainable shooting percentages. Thus resulting in the expected worse 2015-16 season, where the Flames finished with the 6th overall draft pick (Matthew Tkachuk).
Therefor, fans expected a major turnaround after management brought in two very respected goaltenders, among other things. With the majority of their core still in the beginnings or just starting to hit their prime, there is no reason to blow things up from an organizational point of view. Rebuilding is a process that approximately takes 5 years, and the only reason why expectations are so high for the Flames, is because of the surprise 2014-15 season. This is a team that is travelling in the right direction, with a strong core both on offence and defence, and despite the inconsistencies in their play, has a great foundation that will cary them into the playoffs for years to come.
Calm down Oiler and Flames fans. We won't be the laughing stock of the league for much longer.