I know it’s only the pre-season, but it is really hard not to be excited about the return of NHL hockey.
As a lifelong fan of the Edmonton Oilers, I know my expectations for the season should be tempered somewhat by the results of seasons past, but after watching the Oil open exhibition play with three straight wins, I find it hard to not start planning the Stanley Cup parade route.
Ok, maybe I’m not that bad, but optimism is the order of the day in Edmonton and the future sure does look bright for the hockey team that calls Alberta’s capital home.
In a game that is most likely not an indicator of things to come, I watched the Oilers dismantle one of the teams I dislike the most, the Vancouver Canucks.
Former Regina Pats standout Jordan Eberle tallied two goals and one assist, with Shaun Horcoff and Dustin Penner also scoring a pair each and 2010 first overall draft pick Taylor Hall hitting the scoresheet with a pair of helpers.
In the game before that, we saw Magnus Paajarvi, the Oilers first round draft pick in 2009, put up three goals to go along with one assist, and we were also treated to Hall’s first goal as a professional as Edmonton dumped Tampa Bay 5-2.
I know many of you are thinking that the pre-season means nothing, and I whole heartedly agree.
In fact, we don’t even have to look that far into the past to see the proof.
After tearing through the pre-season, the 2008-2009 edition of the Oilers missed the playoffs for a third straight season after finishing in 4th in the northwest division, and 11th in the Western Conference.
Sure, injuries and the like had something to do with that, but at the end of the day, the roster you see in the pre-season is not the same roster you will see in January.
If you take a close look at Edmonton’s 8-2 win over Vancouver on Sunday, you’ll see that the Canucks roster was not the same one they’ll open the regular season with.
Absent from the line up were the likes of the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, as well as Olympic gold medal winning netminder Roberto Luongo.
Yes, the Oilers were missing a few guys too, but we shouldn’t expect the same result when the two teams meet up for their first regular season matchup.
And the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe the Edmonton Oilers should hold off on their return to the post-season.
If you look at the route to respectability taken by Pittsburgh and Chicago, you’ll see that those two franchises suffered near the bottom of the standings for a few years before returning to the upper echelon of the NHL.
Successive last place finishes gave those teams the chance to grab a couple of top three draft picks, something that I think is needed to build a winner.
The Penguins were able to draft Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in back to back drafts, and where are they now?
Oh yeah, they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
In 2006, Chicago used the third overall pick to take fresh faced centre Jonathan Toews and they followed that up in 2007 by taking hot shot winger Patrick Kane with the first overall pick.
That worked out pretty well for them as well, as they won the Stanley Cup last season, ending a championship drought that had lasted 61 years.
So, what does this mean for the Oilers?
It means the Oilers should probably follow the blueprint that has already proven successful, which would mean another tough year for fans, but one has the promise of another lottery pick.
And with a guy like Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pegged as a possibility to go number one in next summer’s draft, I know I’d be willing to endure another underwhelming year.
That’s why I’m enjoying the pre-season wins so much.