With the trade deadline weeks away, many eyes around the NHL have turned toward the Edmonton Oilers.
Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek tackled the subject of the struggling organization in the latest edition of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, since it’s clearly something that’s on the minds of fans across the league.
“A lot of our #Ask31s - and I can’t get to all of them - but a lot of them revolve around the Edmonton Oilers,” began Marek. “And what to do with the team, what’s happening with the general manager, how are you feeling if you’re Connor McDavid.
“What’s happening with Edmonton right now. As we record this podcast (on Wednesday) they just got stomped 7-2 by the San Jose Sharks last night, after walking into Anaheim and winning 4-0, after getting curb-stomped the night before against the Los Angeles Kings. California has been an interesting trip, again, for Edmonton.”
“And they beat Arizona too, which is a game they have to have,” noted Friedman. “This is their year, Jeff. Six of their next seven are at home, and the only road game, I believe, is Vancouver. And of the seven teams they’re playing, the only ones that currently stand in a playoff position are Buffalo and Calgary. They have to make their move here. You’d think they were 50 points out the way people are talking about them. They’re two points out.
“But what’s going on in Edmonton says to me that this is an organization saying for lots of different reasons, ‘Missing the playoffs are not an option.’ Sometimes you see a team lurching the way they are, an organization will say, ‘This is not our year, and we’re not going to waste assets or worry about assets just to try to get in.’ That’s not what’s going on in Edmonton.
“And I think there’s two reasons: No. 1, they’ve got luxury suites and stuff that are up. Some of them were on a three-year term. This is Year Three. So I think there’s that.
“That organization understood what a playoff run could do for them financially. When they were there two years ago and went seven games with Anaheim in the second round, I think you get a bit seduced by that. But between that and the suites, I think there’s that.
“And No. 2, jobs are on the line. And anytime jobs are on the line, people do things that they wouldn’t normally do.
“So between those two forces, there is an added level of importance to make the playoffs that some of the teams around them just don’t have.”
Marek continued the conversation on this group.
“A few things conspiring against the Edmonton Oilers,” he indicated. “One of them is the Pacific all of the sudden is getting real good.
“At the top,” inserted Friedman.
“Right,” agreed Marek. “So we’re looking at, best-case scenario of course, Wild Card spot for the Oilers. But all of the sudden Calgary has been hot, Vegas might be the hottest team in the NHL - maybe the best team playing right now - and San Jose Sharks have been dismantling teams on the regular. We’ll talk about Erik Karlsson a little bit later on on the podcast. So that’s all conspiring against Edmonton.
“… Compounding all of this, I would imagine, weighing heavy on the psyche of the Oilers and Oilers fans, is Calgary is really good. Calgary is a really, really good team and it’s tough to watch your provincial rival thrive like this when you have the best player in the NHL and you can’t get it in the right gear.”
“I would say that is a factor,” conceded Friedman. “But to me, the frustration buildup has been coming a long time for that. That’s just probably for their fans an added kick in the teeth. But I don’t know if that’s as big a factor maybe internally, or even on social media, than some of the other things. Like I said earlier, you’d think they were 50 points out of the playoffs, and they’re right there.
“Social media, I think - I always am careful about how much weight to put into it. What percentage of the public has a Twitter account - it’s like 20. 20 percent of the people have a Twitter account. And I think Twitter has certain leanings, both politically and in terms of who uses it.
“But if you thought that everybody had a Twitter account, you would think that there would be riots in the streets of Edmonton right now. And there is, there’s no question that there’s a lack of consumer confidence in what the Oilers are doing.
“And Ken Hitchcock got in there and he breathed a little bit of life into the team. He got them going. He still has them in the race, even though it sure looks like a mirage. I just see a fan base that has no belief in what the organization is going to do.”
“What’s the saying,” pondered Marek. “If you start listening to your fans…”
“You’re going to end up right next to them,” finished Friedman.
“Yeah,” said Marek. “So I do understand that. You know who I felt bad for last night, even though he finally scored?”
“Lucic?” asked Friedman.
“I just hope that he’s not on social media,” continued Marek. “And if he is, I hope he wasn’t reading it last night.”
“It’s impossible not to know what’s going on out there,” mused Friedman.
“Finally scores in North America,” said Marek. “Scored the goal in the preseason overseas. Finally scores a goal, and it is just - that’s the excuse to get the stick out for the pinata. And it was, ‘Have a go at Milan Lucic.’
“And if you can read lips, you know exactly what he said after he scored the goal, and getting back to the bench and all that you saw afterwards was him getting starched on Twitter.
“This team that’s been false-started - outside of the stretch when Hitchcock took over - so many different times this year. When you have a team that gets false-started like that, maybe you shouldn’t be surprised at that reaction.”
Friedman added this to conclude the discussion on Lucic and the Oilers:
“By the way, you mention ‘I hope Lucic isn’t on social media.’ I hope his family isn’t telling him what is said on social media. Because that’s the worst. I always tell relatives and friends, ‘Don’t tell people what’s said about them on TV or social media,’ because you always make it worse.”
The 20-20-3 Oilers head into Thursday evening’s NHL slate in sixth place in the Pacific Division, and are three points out of the final Wild Card spot in the West with one game in hand on the Anaheim Ducks.
The Oilers will host the Florida Panthers Thursday to kick off the stretch of home games to which Friedman alluded in the podcast.