What (Exactly) Did You Expect?

I’m finding it a little baffling that people are disenchanted with the current Edmonton Oilers. Did we not go over this? Didn’t we agree this was going to be a season outside the playoffs? That the team (as constructed) was doomed to finish in the second division?

When I wrote the reasonable expectations series and then the North by Northwest post I recall a few people saying things like “that seems a little low” or “you’re an idiot, the Flames are horrible” but the early responses in the GDT are incredible.

This is a rebuild. The Oilers approached free agents from Boogaard to Malhotra and we know those players went in another (more promising) direction. For a person in his 30′s to devote a season or more to a rebuild requires either a lot of money, the promise of a job after their on-ice career has ended, or a certain amount of luck (hometown kid wanting to come back).

The Oilers did not address all of the holes in the lineup (I wanted a RH center, a veteran D and a veteran 2-way winger) but they did make moves during the summer to shore up certain areas. During the reasonable expectations series I wrote the following about each area:

  • The Oilers forward depth chart is unusual in that it is long on skill prospects and short on seasoned working men. Much of it looks more like a World Junior invite list than a collection of names gathered to play a long season against men. For this reason, and the usual ones that dominate discussion of young pro hockey players–slumps, injuries, learning curve–my projections appear to be harsh. I believe these projections represent the most conservative estimates based on comments throughout this month’s post.
  • A year ago, I thought the Oilers blue was a strength of the team. Sure there was no Pronger, but Lubo, Sheldon and Gibby Gilbert were a solid trio and Denis Grebeshkov could do a job as long as he remembered his tinfoil hat. 12 months later and we’re looking at something else again.
  • Thinking about the Edmonton Oilers goaltending gives me a headache.

For those who are upset with this start, who believe things should be different, what exactly am I missing? It seems to me the Oilers had a shopping list, pursued various solutions and then proceeded to fill as many holes as they could over the summer. That’s why Colin Fraser, Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer, Kurtis Foster and Martin Gerber are Oilers/Barons.

Did anyone really think this team was going to be 4-2 after six games? Win over San Jose last night? The Edmonton Oilers told us what they were going to do: play the kids, draft well and build a winner from the ground up. We can question the wisdom of being so young, we can question the quality of the draft picks, we can even question the roster makeup and wonder about solutions.

What we can’t do is claim that this team has been a horrible surprise or an extreme disappointment. They are who we thought they were.

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