It’s been 11 years since the Edmonton Oilers last tasted playoff hockey. That was back in 2006, where Edmonton’s playoff drought originally started. Flash forward to 2017, and Edmonton now finds themselves in the thick of hosting a home playoff series. A spectacle such as this was implausible 4-5 years ago, when the Oilers kick started their rebuild.
Why has the turn-around happened so fast? You only have to look as far as Connor McDavid, Edmonton’s No.1 overall pick in the 2015 draft who has sparked promise into franchise. The 20 year-old and second year pro is already proving to be both the best teenager in the game, and one of the NHL’s best players. McDavid is living up to his high expectations this season, collecting 94 points, 29 goals and 65 assists, including an on ice +/- of +28.
But as predictable as McDavid’s growth has been, it’s his skill-set that’s driven home why the Oilers’ future is so bright. This season, they’re everyone’s Stanley Cup dark horse, and in the coming years they very may well be the overwhelming favorites to win it all. For what it’s worth, it’s not a far-off statement to believe that McDavid right now is better than anything the NHL has seen since Wayne Gretzky or a young Sidney Crosby, and that Edmonton’s brass of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Patrick Maroon can guide the Oilers to a long period of championship success.
Edmonton is already outpacing the mid-2000 Penguins and Blackhawks for wins when both of them each started their rebuilds. Now, Pittsburgh’s core of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have hoisted two cups, and Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Johnathan Toews three cups, respectively. In other words, what Pittsburgh and Chicago have done in the past is a benchmark for what to do right when rebuilding an NHL team. Edmonton has followed that pattern precisely – by drafting young, heralded players to fit their system (like McDavid and Draisaitl), then fill-in the pieces with seasoned veterans such as Maroon and Milan Lucic.
With that said, the standard for McDavid and the rest of Edmonton is high. The expectations of competing for Stanley Cups in the near decade should be the norm soon. McDavid’s immediate stardom has sent Oilers fans to the edge of their seats seemingly overnight. It has some opposing hockey fans jealous. However, having McDavid in Edmonton might be exactly what hockey needs in Canada and for the franchise to stay on the winning path.