The Edmonton Oilers have been widely considered one of the most historic franchises in the NHL. Having players such as the Iconic Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Craig MacTavish, Ryan Smyth, and Kevin Lowe – just to name a few.
But this team over the last few years has underachieved in so many ways. They now have probably the best player in the world on their team and still can’t put it together. Who’s to blame, Management? Coaching? Owners? All of it?
It’s time to take a close look at the Implosion of the Edmonton Oilers and why this team can’t put it together. Really only a couple of names to talk here: Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe, and Peter Chiarelli
This is where the implosion begins.
MacTavish let starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, now Khabibulin was at the tale end of a solid career but he was Edmonton’s starter and they let him go.
Devan Dubnyk was also traded away to Nashville for Matt Hendricks. Dubnyk eventually went on to leave Nashville and for the Arizona Coyotes where he found his game and was acquired by the Minnesota Wild where he’s been nothing short of brilliant.
Viktor Fasth was brought in for a 3rd and 5th round pick – based on one good season in Anaheim. Ben Scrivens was also brought in at the cost of a 3rd round pick. This experiment went bad fast, as both goalies combined for the worst save percentage in the league – 885 save %.
Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz, Corey Potter, Mark Fistric, Ryan Whitney, and Theo Peckham. MacTavish didn’t get blessed with a good defence line but as you’ll see he didn’t make it any better.
Andrew Ference signed a 4 year 13 million dollar deal to become the captain of the Edmonton Oilers – was eventually demoted to the minors.
Mark Fayne signed a contract after playing the majority of his short career in New Jersey. MacTavish said he loved the way he played – Fayne was eventually demoted to the minors as well.
Nikita Nikitin rights were acquired from Columbus but was signed to a ludicrous 2-year deal worth $9 million but never lived up the expectations.
Keith Aulie didn’t see much ice time after being acquired never found a groove. Spent a lot of time in the minors.
Justin Schultz was said to have Norris Candidate written all over him, but he struggled after signing in Edmonton and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh where he’d win 2 Cups.
Jeff Petry never really lived up to the expectation Edmonton had for him, was supposed to be a solid 2 way defencemen but couldn’t find a rhythm in Edmonton. Was traded to Montreal at the trade deadline and has been something special for the Canadiens.
Martin Marincin was given a chance but never really developed into what was expected. He now spends time in the Toronto Marlies with the odd call up here and there.
Oscar Klefbom took some time to develop but has been a pretty solid defenceman.
Out: Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, Magnus Paajarvi, Mike Brown, Eric Belanger, Jerred Smithson, Anton Lander, Ryan Smyth. Majority of the core was moved or just moved on from the team. This was the majority of MacTavish’s work and would become his legacy, not a great one.
David Perron was acquired in the off-season for Magnus Paajarvi, Can’t argue with that deal.
Benoit Pouliot never amounted to anything after coming in.
Boyd Gordon became a decent 4th line option
Teddy Purcell came with high hopes, and they diminished fairly quick.
The real shocker was the Oilers deciding to keep Leon Draisaitl up and burning one year of his contract. He played center and never found a groove there. You’ll hear more of him later in the article.
Others who joined the team Steven Pinzzotto and Luke Gazdic. Nothing to talk about there.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov
That ends the MacTavish Era, as you can see a lot of mistakes made here and not much brought in to fix it. On to the Kevin Lowe Era.
Trades, Signings, Draft Picks show just how bad was the Kevin Lowe era.
- Jesse Niinimaki – probably never heard the name unless you’re an Oilers fan. 1st round pick 15th overall in 2002. Never played an NHL game. Alexander Steen was picked at 24 by Toronto.
- Alexei Mikhnov – 1st round pick 17th overall in 2000. Played a whopping 2 NHL games and soon was in the AHL for good. Brooks Orpik, Steve Ott, Justin Williams, or Niklas Kronwall – to name a few – could all be Oilers till this day.
- Marc-Antoine Pouliot – Selected 22nd overall in the 1st round of the draft in 2003. Immediately before Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, oh an All-Star Corey Perry. Pouliot did play 200 NHL games but never really stuck.
- Shawn Horcoff Extension – Horcoff came off a season where he had 50 points in 53 games but had his season cut short by injury. Lowe didn’t have to resign Horcoff that season as he still had one year remaining on his old contract. Lowe decided to get it done and signed Horcoff to a 6 year $33 deal – 5.5 a season – Horcoff would never scored more than 36 points since.
- Sheldon Souray – this was a real gong show on the Lowe era was the Souray situation. Souray was probably the best defencemen on the Oilers at this time, but things were not great with him and management. Souray eventually had enough and went to the media to express how the team had demanded he play when his hand was not fully healed yet. Souray was wrong in how he handled it but Kevin Lowe reacted even worse. Lowe stated that he didn’t want at next seasons training camp. The Oilers would never apologize or let their best defencemen play again, instead they would banish him to the minors.
- Mike Comrie – Lowe had a deal lined up that would have sent Mike Comrie to Anaheim for Corey Perry (just drafted) and 1st round draft pick. Comrie wanted out of Edmonton and the Oilers and Lowe were looking for the best possible deal. Lowe instead turned this down and tried to get Comrie to pay back his bonus. Lowe basically handed the Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup
- Inept Drafting – 6th overall they draft Sam Gagner, he never lived up to expectations and soon was traded for Teddy Purcell. The next few 1st rounders Lowe had his hands on were Alex Plante (bust) and Riley Nash (Decent NHLer). But the salt in the wound is the fact that Max Pacioretty was the very next pick after Nash.
- Even after he stepped down as GM, Lowe was still causing trouble he hired the most ridiculous GM’s starting with Steve Tambellini and all the way down to Craig MacTavish and Peter Chiarelli.
- Ryan Smyth – Lowe and Smyth had been negotiating all season on a contract. Smyth asked for fair value on this contract, as he had taken a discount on every other contract. Fans began to get worried and eventually the day came that everyone thought would never come happened. The Oilers traded Ryan Smyth to the Islanders for spare parts.
- Milan Lucic’s Contract – Chiarelli handed Lucic a 7 year 42 million dollar deal in 2016. Significant red flags about term and money already arose when the realization that Lucic can’t keep up with the NHL already and his production had slipped off significantly already – will only get worse from here. Now he has handcuffed the Oilers in a bad contract for many years. Unless the Oilers are willing to send a 1st or 2nd pick with his contract – which is unlikely – Lucic may either be bought out or serve out his term
- Leon Draisitl’s Contract – Signed to be the number 2 centerman in Edmonton 8.5 million sits way above what is considered normal for players who have played equal or better then Draisaitl. Pastrnak makes 2 million less. To make it worst Draisaitl struggled driving his own line and was moved back to McDavid’s wing once again leaving the big hole down the middle and financially strapping the Oilers.
- Benoit Pouliot Buyout – Coming off a terrible season Chiarelli decided to buyout Pouliot. Not the greatest decision – his numbers were good shot wise and possession-wise – and could have probably had a bounce-back season. If he didn’t they could have then bought him out for a year less.
- Kris Russell extension – All stats, any numbers coaches, GM’s or the NHL uses say Russell was a bottom pairing defencemen and after the loss to Anaheim in the 2nd round Chiarelli said the main point to upgrade this off-season was the defence. But then Chiarelli signed Russell to a 4 year $16 million contract doubling down on Russell and putting him into the Oilers top 4. No scout, GM in the NHL thinks Russell is a top 4 defencemen except Chiarelli himself.
- Taylor Hall Trade – what a catastrophic failure this was. Peter Chiarelli’s attempt to fix the defence was, in fact, to trade away his best offensive player at the time for Adam Larsson who all the stats guys loved. The problem was those stats were skewed by the system that was played in New Jersey. Larsson came in and never lived anywhere near expectation that the Oilers had when the traded Hall. Funny thing is now they struggle offensively other than McDavid, you can put Draisaitl in there but the majority of his points come from being with McDavid and getting passes from probably the greatest player in the game right now.
- Jordan Eberle – This deal is exceptionally stupid Eberle was coming off his worst season offensively with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points and struggled in the playoffs. So Chiarelli went and traded him for Ryan Strome. Ryan Strome never ever worked out and was traded for Ryan Spooner, who ended in the minors and then just last week was traded to the Canucks for Sam Gagner. Eberle is loving it on the Island right now as they are one of the top teams in the league and Eberle is a huge part of it.
- Griffin Reinhart – The Islanders love the Oilers. Just after taking over for MacTavish, Peter Chiarelli decided to send the 16th OA and 33rd OA draft picks 2015 to the Islanders for big hulking defenceman Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart now sits in the minors never been able to crack the NHL roster, while the 16th OA draft in 2015 turned into none other then phenom Matthew Barzal. For a team struggling to find offence that’s kind of hilarious.
Between these 3 GM’s and their moves have impacted the Oilers financially – Strapping them up against the cap – Players wise, – by giving up better assets then what they are receiving – and finally by their draft choices. Edmonton is in the bind they are because they don’t have competent leadership. Leadership that expanded down to coach, player, draft and financial choice, all of which lead them here.