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Oilers could make “dubious” tanking history

Jan 20, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Oilers Coaching Shake Up Hockey AP

The biggest story from the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers was the staggering run being produced by the Blues’ netminders, particularly Jaroslav Halak. Still, for every aggressor there’s a victim and the Oilers fit that bill with a weak 15-shot effort last night.

Low moments like those have become disturbingly common for Edmonton lately, as the Oilers have gone 4-15-1 since December began. Such rough times make Damien Cox wonder if the Oilers could make some rather “dubious” history by following the 1989-91 Quebec Nordiques in drawing the No.1 overall pick in three consecutive drafts.*

If that happens, Cox wonders if the Oilers’ front office will be around long enough to enjoy the benefits of gaining such high-end draft picks.

Surely Edmonton hockey fans have suffered enough. At some point, the pain has to translate into meaningful gain, and that was supposed to be this year.

source: Getty ImagesYou have to wonder if Tom Renney is going to be able to be around when the promise turns into reality. Some would argue the same applies to GM Steve Tambellini … “

(Cox goes on to say that Tambellini would be wise to trade down for one of the better defensive prospects, but that’s more of a matter for future discussions.)

The Nordiques example is interesting for the sheer rarity of the situation, but deep down, the Oilers aren’t comparing themselves to many franchises beyond the recent ones who rebuilt their teams through home run drafts. If you look at those teams based on the collection of high picks rather than top ones alone, the situation doesn’t look great for Edmonton’s top brass.

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins changed general managers and head coaches as they went from horrible to a gold standard franchise.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks did the same, although few would deny that GM Dale Tallon saw the team through most of their maturation process.
  • The Washington Capitals fired a couple head coaches, but GM George McPhee (second picture) is still in power. It’s pretty hard to really count “GMGM” as an example since he’s the Lindy Ruff of NHL general managers; he’s been running the team since 1997.

If the goal really is to follow the blueprint of those franchises, then someone else is likely to be wearing the suits when things come together for the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and so on.

* – In case you were wondering, the Nordiques’ top picks were: Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (’90) and Eric Lindros (’91).

  1. psujay - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Comparing the Oilers to the Pens is unfair. The Oilers fanbase shows up every night.

    • hockeyfan1701 - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      According to the Oilers Facebook page they are at 212 straight sellouts. Well guess what, the Penguins are at 220. Open mouth, insert foot…….

      • vanchuk - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        commenter is most likely referring to when the pens were in the middle of tanki-errrr, rebuilding. I’m not gonna bother researching it, as i am an internet commenter, but i can be fairly certain that the pens did not sellout 212 straight games while wallowing in the nhl basement. altho i am very glad that the penguins are relevant again, its good for the sport

      • terminalcityhockey - Jan 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        Follow up to vanchuk:

        “In the 2003–04 season, [the Penguins] had the lowest average attendance of any team, with just 11,278 fans per game.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_Penguins#2002.E2.80.932006:_Bankruptcy_and_losing_seasons

      • bigtganks - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        /facepalm

      • psujay - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:20 PM

        Yes, congratulations. The Penguins went bankrupt in 1975 (2 years after Briere passed away) were so clearly going bankrupt in 1983 that the owner *supposedly* demanded the team tank (losing 17 of their last 18) so that they could draft Lemieux (knowing the Pitt fanbase will NOT show up to root on a team, only to root for a winner), went bankrupt in 98 (2 years after Lemieux’s retirement after the 1996-97 season), went bankrupt AGAIN in 2006, and had 5 consecutive top 5 picks before their fans MAGICALLY started showing up again AFTER Crosby’s rookie season (as a Leafs’ fan I’d know…we used to make the road trips to Pittsburgh because who could turn down $5 tickets? At home they’re 50 times that! For a terrible team!)….now suddenly you think the rest of the hockey world respects “220 straight sellouts!” because you suddenly have stars again?

        Now Edmonton…212 straight sellouts while getting two #1 overall picks in a row? Kudos to that fanbase. They support their team.

  2. florida76 - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    For vanchuk, terminalcityhockey, psujay,

    Funny comments about the Pens, even the New York Yankees had subpar attendance when they weren’t contenders. It’s kinda of that way all around. Pens have only experienced five losing seasons since 1987-88, not bad when compared with the rest of the NHL. And four of those losing seasons occurred earlier this decade, while the new ownership group was rebuilding the mess left by the old regime. If that’s “wallowing”, I guess we’ll take it. Sure beats being a fan of the vast majority of other NHL teams, how many Cups have the Blues, Sabres, Kings, Caps, Canucks, etc. won? Pens have also won only one fewer Cup than Detroit since 1967-68, a very impressive feat.

    Pens simply have the best ownership group in their franchise history, and the results speak for themselves, both on and off the ice. Pittsburgh actually has a rich tradition in hockey, as one of the birthplaces of professional hockey in the USA. So the current ownership has simply tapped into the potential of the market with a successful organization, which is primed for long term success, and not dependent on a single player.

    When the Pens were serious Cup contenders in the 90s, the marketing was poorly handled, so the attendance wasn’t as strong overall as expected. By contrast, this ownership group has made a concerted effort in marketing, with a concentration in the younger demographics.

    Wrapping up, it’s so blatantly obvious whenever people bring up attendance they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s laughable to fans like myself who actually bothered to do the research.

    • nardwar - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      Bothered to do the research? What research?

      If you think Pitt should be commended for filling the house when they have the best team in the league, then fill your boots. The fact remains the Penguins are only a few years removed from almost being moved to Hamilton and playing in virtually empty buildings.
      If you think the Penguins should be commended for putting up one of the worst strings of seasons in NHL history to load up on draft picks, again, fill your boots. Going 5th worst, worst, 2nd worst, worst, 2nd worst is brutal, and its no wonder the fickle Pittsburgh fans stayed away.
      While I don’t condone the Oilers intentionally tanking, as I think its a bad strategy long-term (see: Pittsburgh fighting for the playoffs this year, Chicago squeaking in last year) and I also think its bad for the game, Oilers fans are passionate about their club and are filling the barn, something Pittsburgh fans only do when the team is good.

    • psujay - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:26 PM

      When you do the research next time, run a regression to determine “winning percentage vs attendance”….you’ll see a pretty terrifying trend with your fanbase. I’m from Toronto. The Pens are a joke. You go to “Cups” because you can’t go to overall attendance, overall winning percentage, revenue, or anything else from 1967-2011 because you’d have to accept that from 1971-1985 as terrible and 1997-2005. That’s 22 out of 44 years your team has completely lacked support from its fans. Nice stats you pulled. Now try using facts.

  3. florida76 - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    nardwar, research is defined as studying the facts before making statements. Everything you’ve said is wrong, many teams have had rumors of location over the years, including Edmonton. Winnipeg and Quebec failed to step up and keep their teams in the past, so I don’t think anyone in Canada is in a position to talk about support.

    All teams have bad losing strings, just ask the 1994-95 plus New York Islanders, it happens to numerous clubs across all sports. The Red Wings suffered through a nearly two decade fog, and the Maple Leafs, are incredibly still looking for their first Cup since before the 70s began. Now that’s embarrassing.

    Now let’s expose this empty buildings myth during those four losing seasons the Pens had starting with the beginning of this decade. Turns out the numbers paint a different picture. In 2001-02 Pens finished ahead of eight teams, including Boston and Chicago. In 2002-03 Pens finished ahead of five clubs, including Buffalo. In 2003-04 the club finished last, but 12,000 fans are hardly a empty building.
    In 2005-06 Pens bounced back to finish ahead of 10 teams, including Chicago and St. Louis.

    Finally, Pens fans, like many others are more passionate about their club when it’s winning. While Pittsburgh has the tradition of pro hockey dating back to the early 1900s, the City itself is more of a football town. Football is America’s top sport in popularity, and hockey is Canada’s national sport. I would add Pittsburgh is definitely more of a major league sports city than Edmonton, so the entertainment dollar is more divided. After the Oilers, all Edmonton basically has is minor league football with the CFL. After the Pens, Pittsburgh has major league football with the all time super bowl winning Steelers, five time world series champs Pirates in MLB, and a university with a strong basketball program and a nine time NCAA football national champion. Big difference.

    • psujay - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM

      “In 2001-2012 the Pens finished behind 21 teams, in 2002-2003 the Pens finished behind 24 teams, in 2003-2004 the Pens finished behind 29 teams, in 2005-2006, the Pens finished behind 19 teams despite having two of the previous 3 #1 overall picks on their team.”

      -FTFY.

    • psujay - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      Almost forgot, “Mr. Researcher,” Hockey is NOT Canada’s national sport. Our national sport is Lacrosse. If “research is defined as studying the facts before making statements” then what is making statements before studying facts? It’s must be Pittsburghian.

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