One of the things that bugs me about hockey media is their tendency to careen based on the game’s most recent events. A year ago, everyone was going to copy the Buffalo Sabres template of “small, skilled and explosive” and this season based on reports everyone is going to play the Ducks tough, Canadian style.
The same basic premise is being rolled out in regard to free agency. I’ve heard and read from several different sources that “the big clubs are dominating things again” and “see, Philly, NYR and Colorado are back on top because the big market teams have found a loophole.”
I don’t believe that’s the case at all. Last season’s final had two also-rans (Oilers, ‘Canes) and this season saw the Ducks and Senators make their first finals appearance ever. Despite what the most recent UFA track record may indicate, it seems to me that we should wait to crown the Rangers (or Colorado, or Philly) the Cup champions.
There’s several teams who look like they’re loaded for a run (including Calgary who’ve done a nice job this summer. Wish the Oilers had a GM who signed his most important future ufa first) and most of them dwell in what can be called “outside the big market axis”. Even Toronto fans seem to have lost their ability to inflate free agency (despite all those Ontario boys heading back to T.O. the first chance they got at UFA).
I think the Oilers can compete on the UFA market, and indeed they signed several last summer. The problem may be partly location, but there’s also the matter of the good free agents wanting to play on a team that has a chance to win.
And increasingly, that’s a team who signs their best future free agents the summer before they have to make a decision, and a team who spend to the cap. Edmonton is a great hockey city. Time for the ownership and management to reflect that by building a winner for the long term.