The Edmonton Oilers are recognized by most hockey fans as one of the greatest franchises in NHL history. How did a team from Edmonton, Canada, the NHL’s third smallest market, come to dominate hockey? The only possible answer is through winning championships and having one of the greatest – if not the greatest – players in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers created one of the NHL’s most dominant dynasties of all time when they won five stanley cups from 1984 to 1990. The Oilers have won nine division championships in their history along with seven conference championships and seven appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals. That type of dominance in any professional sports league will never be forgotten, and it’s the reason that Edmonton maintains their place in NHL history.
The other reason is, of course, Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time. In his nine seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky achieved nine all-star appearances, eight NHL MVP awards, led the NHL in points seven times and won two Stanley Cup playoff MVP awards. He also set three incredible NHL records that may never be broken: 92 goals in a single season, 163 assists in a single season and 215 points in a single regular season. Gretzky’s greatness was the main reason that the Edmonton Oilers were able to dominate the NHL.
Despite their past success, as you’ve noticed, most of the accomplishments that make the Edmonton Oilers one of the NHL’s great historical franchises happened a long time ago. After the Oilers’ domination in the 1980s, they were able to maintain a solid playoff presence, making the playoffs five straight seasons from 1997-2001. Their most recent deep playoff run occurred in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
After 2006 though, Edmonton experienced quite a downturn. The Oilers became one of the worst teams in the NHL and an annual laughingstock. The Oilers missed the playoffs for ten straight season from 2007 to 2016, never amassing more than 88 points in any of those seasons. Even worse is that the Oilers made no improvements despite having a top-ten draft pick for nine of those seasons in which they missed the playoffs. Most shockingly, Edmonton received the first overall draft selection for an unprecedented three straight seasons and still made no improvements.
That is, until now. The Edmonton Oilers finally ended their ten-year playoff drought this past spring and made an admirable run into game 7 of the second round despite all of their youth and inexperience. The Edmonton Oilers are about to make their return to greatness using the same formula that worked so well in the 1980’s: winning championships and having one of the greatest players in NHL history.
In terms of potentially winning championships, the Oilers have a balanced and highly talented roster that will be among the best teams in the NHL for years to come. An offense led by Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gives Edmonton a unique blend of speed, scoring ability and toughness. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse form a tall, mobile and physically imposing defense. Finally, goalie Cam Talbot is quickly turning into one of the NHL’s best goaltenders. The Oilers’ best players are also very young, meaning this team will only get better.
The second part of the formula that will return the Edmonton Oilers’ to greatness is Connor McDavid. I know that it’s way too early to proclaim Connor McDavid as one of the greatest NHL players of all time, but just look at what he’s already accomplished. In just his second NHL season (after missing 37 games in his rookie season), McDavid tallied an NHL-leading 100 points, earning an all-star appearance, and an MVP selection, as voted by both the players and in official NHL MVP voting. And at only 20 years old, McDavid hasn’t even approached his full potential. His hockey smarts, passing ability and electrifying speed will make McDavid must-watch television and the face of hockey for years to come.
The rest of the NHL should be extremely worried, because the Edmonton Oilers are coming, and they are ready to return to greatness.