I don’t know if there is a more nostalgic person than me. I’m just a complete sucker for pretty much anything in the past. And since my mom joined Facebook it has been easy for me to figure out where I get this from. It’s a trait that can be annoying to some I’m sure. I’m constantly looking back on what’s been done and how I miss seemingly everything that’s happened. It’s made worse by how good my memory is. But for pieces like this, it’s pretty useful, and with the Oilers on the brink of officially qualifying for the 2017 postseason I believe it’s the perfect time to reflect on some things.
June 19th, 2006. We all know what that date represents for the Oilers. That ended up being one SHITTY night. Since that night, the Oilers fan base has been laying on their backs, spread eagle, and having fans from the other 29 teams in the NHL take turns punting them in the balls with steel toed boots on.
How many false starts did we see in the last 11 seasons? In April of 2008 if you told an Oilers fan that Tom Gilbert would be basically shit the rest of his career we would have laughed you out of the room. Not even hesitated. I met up with a friend at a Jays game in early April 2008 and at the time this friend was VERY close to the team. And I recall us talking about what Gilbert’s contract would be (as he was an RFA that summer) and he said “I don’t know, but they better get that kid locked up…he’s DAMN GOOD”. He was the guy they were going to build around on the blueline. 6’3, terrific skater, RH shot, already proving he could log big minutes, 13 goals and 33 points while playing in a shutdown role for the second half of that season, and only 25 years old. How could he miss?
Another D-man I always freak over is Ryan Whitney. And for all the disgusting decisions Oilers management made over the years, you don’t get to be quite as bad as they were without some horrendous luck too. Whitney (and I apologize if you read my stuff, I bring this one up a ton) had 27 points in the first 35 games of the 2011 season. The guy was a rock on D as well. He had three years left at a four million a year cap hit. He was just hitting his prime at 27 years old. He was becoming the top pairing defenceman he was always projected to be. And then in game 36 against Buffalo he injures his foot and never again gets close to being that player again.
Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson. This is it! These are the kids who are going to lead us on deep playoff runs. We just missed the playoffs in 2008, but those days are done because this trio is going to lead the Oilers to the top. Wrong.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (was soon to be just Paajarvi). In the spring of 2010, sure the organization had sunk to the bottom. But that’s what needed to happen. Now, with these three kids leading the way, the Oilers are going straight to the top. Hell, they even have another slick kid coming over from Sweden named Linus Omark! Only straight up from here, right?! Nope.
2013, and those three (unfortunately for Mr. Omark not four) have now been joined by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Justin Schultz. Imagine that, all things were equal in bidding for Schultz and he picked EDMONTON! Finally, the Oilers were back! If this wasn’t confirmation, I don’t know what will be….Wrong again.
It really did take some VERY SPECIAL awfulness to completely fuck up things to the degree the Oilers did over all these years. I knew it was bad in the moment, but as time goes by it just looks worse and worse and worse.
What can you say about the 2014 and 2015 seasons? This fan base had already gone through what were supposed to be the worst times, and then the team got so much worse. It was pretty literally depressing. It had become clear that a losing culture, something the organization fearful of from the start of the “rebuild” in 2010, had become embedded in the team.
I don’t know how so many of you stood by the team the way you did. I never stopped being an Oilers fan at any point. It’s what I was born into, and I don’t quit on things, and even though I’m not much of a jersey wearer these days and do my best to look at everything objectively….I’m still an Oilers diehard, it’ll never leave me. But having said that, I definitely got to a point where I was pretty apathetic to them. I remember when I wrote my most read piece in November of 2014 which absolutely tore this organization to shreds for their incompetence, fans were still in their corner and coming to their defence. The building was still packed, sure tickets were easy to come by and we were seeing empty seats on a regular basis, but for an organization which had not only been awful, but always found a way to make things even more embarrassing than they had to be like when Katz wrote an apology letter in the newspaper or Lowe told Mark Spector how he had six rings (as a player) so he knows a thing or two about winning, a lot of you STILL kept at it.
The nightmare really ended April 18th, 2015. Sure, another tough season was still to come, but the reality was that it was a fresh start. I might get more pissed now than I did that night and/or the days after when I go back and read or listen to what was being said from outside the market. “They don’t deserve him”. Remember that? Edmonton and Northern Alberta in general were just supposed to be a laughing stock for fans and media, they weren’t supposed to have anything good go their way.
I know none of you have forgot any of this, but I feel like it’s good to reiterate it. The Oilers got INSANELY lucky to get Connor McDavid, and any success this team now has that’ll always be the go to for any detractors. Who cares. Fact is that this fan base deserved something good to break their way for a change. As big of a break as landing McDavid? Maybe. Maybe not. But they deserved a big break and he was it. If you’re a fan of another team reading this right now, and you disagree with that, let me ask…did your teams superstar force a trade and piss all over your city in the process? Did your team trade the face of their franchise the same day they were honouring and retiring the number of one of the greatest players to ever play? Did your team have an owner who was more worried about having his buddies work for him than winning hockey games? Did your team have a 1st overall pick in one of the worst years to have it? Did your team have a near flawless attendance record for 10 seasons while not making the playoffs once? Hell, they only even came close in two of those 10 seasons!
Oilers fans have gone through so much shit to get to this point. The point being that they clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight. And while I know it’s anti-climatic seeing that we all know they’re in and the real focus is on the seeding. But take a moment to remember all of what’s gone on. The first time they’ve had a game to clinch a playoff spot since April 13th, 2006. Most of us didn’t know what Facebook was and thought Myspace was the next big thing. Let all that sink in. Enjoy it and embrace it because if you’re an Oilers fan there are very few sports fans on this planet who deserve a little success more than you.
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