The drought is over.
After 10 excruciating years in the cellars of the standings and the butt of water cooler hockey jokes, the Edmonton Oilers have made the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs that much more interesting.
Since losing in the 05-06 Stanley Cup Finals in 7 games (Chris Pronger era), the Oilers haven’t done much as far as postseason progress. Of course, they’ve rebuilt, come back strong, and delivered their fair share of exciting moments, but fans want action. Fans want 1st round, 2nd round, and so on and so forth. Now that the ten-year drought is over, the fans want results in this year’s playoffs. Edmonton thinks they deserve it. And I think they’re right for a few reasons.
With the second youngest average age playoff roster in the NHL (25.8) behind Toronto, the Oilers have that classic “act like you’ve been here before” mentality. A group of a few experienced veterans; Ex. Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, but mostly a team with young prospects and stars like McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl (ages 20, 23, and 21 respectively). Charged with the task of resurrecting a team from the ground up, these youthful stars have risen to the challenge and done nothing but excelled in this season.
Of course, this argument appears: “don’t other older teams deserve to make it over the younger guys who have 5-10 years left to make it?” Illegitimate pity argument. Would I want a talent like Ovi to win a cup before he retires? I most definitely do. But there’s something to be said about the excitement that comes with a young team winning it all for a franchise that needs it more than most. The old guys don’t “deserve” squat. You earn everything you’ve got in sports and this Oilers team has the heart to earn as much as they want. In fact, the 1983-84 Edmonton team was the second youngest team to win the Stanley Cup with an average age of 25.17 years old. Who was that team led by? None other than a certain 23-year old named Wayne Gretzky. History could repeat itself for this franchise in the near future.
Speaking of Gretzky… there’s this new guy in Edmonton. They’re pretty crazy about him, his name is Connor McDavid and he’s got pretty high marks for being a 20-year-old.
USA Today says, “McDavid has put a charge into the city like no athlete has since Wayne Gretzky.”
Not only has the kid led the Oilers to their first playoff berth in 10 years, this season he also became the 3rd youngest player in NHL history to win the Art Ross (leading scorer) only behind Gretzky and Sidney Crosby. At 19 years old, McDavid was elected as the youngest captain in NHL history, chosen to lead the Oilers.
But really, what’s my point?
I’m not a Gretzky hater by any stretch of the imagination. All I’m saying is that it’s time we see someone challenge the great one for top dog status. We’ve seen a thousand “next ones” and we’ve seen guys like Lemieux and Crosby show what they are capable of (a lot), but this kid is the real deal. With a Stanley Cup under his belt at such a young age (or even a few rounds advancing), it could bolster the comparisons between the two Oiler players for years to come.
Here’s a little pathos argument for you Oilers haters out there: 2005-06 sucked after the loss. Sure the Oilers were underdogs from the start, and yeah they had a playoff high from round one until the very end, but the game 7 loss in 2006 was heart-wrenching. For Pete’s sake, former center Jaret Stoll in an interview with Global News says he still thinks about the disappointing loss they suffered at the hands of the Hurricanes.
Now that the drought is over, fans expect more. No longer do they shoot for making it in, with the pieces surrounding McDavid and the youth and heart to take the team to new heights the fans want the cup. No way around it. So, if your team is out, consider the Edmonton Oilers. This team is special, and whether they lose to the Sharks or make it to the very end, they’ve got my support this postseason.
Drew Bishop is the “Hockey America” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can contact him on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.