If you wanted a template for building a franchise from expansion to Stanley, the Flames and Cliff Fletcher’s story with that franchise are textbook. Just like the Kansas City Royals in baseball, the Flames approached the expansion draft by pursuing young players who could both play competitively in the NHL and improve from what they were at that point in time. Exhibit “A” for the Flames was Daniel Bouchard, left exposed by bat-crazy Milt Schmidt the same summer his #1 goalie (Gerry Cheevers) flew the coop for the WHA. It cost poor Milt his job eventually (it wasn’t the worst goalie crime in an expansion draft for the Bruins, they’d lost Bernie Parent to the Flyers 5 years previous) and was one example of why Cliff Fletcher has been employed steadily in important NHL jobs for the last 40+ seasons.
I think we need to change focus for this edition of the Oilers. We’re at the 20 game mark, the coach doesn’t know what we have, the GM is prattling on about waiting to see his team healthy (can fans mutiny? is that an option?) and we don’t really know who is healthy (or playing for that matter).
So today I’m looking for the Frank Mahovlich in Dustin Penner, the Doug Gilmour in Sam Gagner, the thrill of Dean Arsene in his first NHL game (should he play). I’m not saying this club is hopeless, but do believe they are outmanned pretty much every night these days and that the men who could do something about it have decided to pass on the opportunity.
Expecting victory would be frustrating, let’s agree that “small steps” like Gagner maturing are going to have to be good enough until that sweet day when there are no injuries, when everyone grows up, when Kevin Lowe’s vision comes into view.