A few years back I ran a table with the Oilers’ results between 2006-10, pointing out that they were the worst team in the NHL over that period. I happened across that today and started wondering – with the NHL CBA expiring, where do the Oilers sit in the NHL during the life of this CBA? As many of you will recall, this CBA was presented as absolutely essential to the continued existence of the Oilers, who were prevented from even being close to competitive by the awful old CBA, which let the rich teams buy all of the good players. Remember this from Cal Nichols?
“It (the new CBA) allows for the competitive balance we’ve been seeking,” Nichols said. “If everything that we’re hearing is what it actually is, I think this could be the solution that we’ve been seeking.”
The whining from the Edmonton media (and the Oilers) about how the CBA was holding the Oilers back was, in a word, overwhelming. It went on and on and on. There wasn’t a media guy in Edmonton who wasn’t spouting some variant of the line that the Oilers were getting killed by the CBA. They just needed a new CBA and then, then they would compete.
I actually think that the new CBA made the NHL much more a game of managerial skill than it used to be. For all the talk about money being such a big deal, lots of guys are shadows of what they once were at 31, which is when they became unrestricted free agents. By imposing a salary cap and reducing the advantage of drafting well, it became about how good your management was at finding players and negotiating. Just sucking was no longer enough – a high end talent who came into the league at 18 was no longer yours until he turned 31 but just until he turned 25. It’s become much more a test at how good your management is at developing a plan and adapting as you go along. How have the Oilers fared?
Disastrously. In the competition for the title of “Worst Team of the CBA”, they’ve managed to mathematically eliminate 27 teams from the competition, with 24 games left in the life of this CBA. The Oilers magic number to eliminate the Islanders and Blue Jackets and clinch the title is 42 points – any number of Oilers points dropped and Isles and Jackets points gained adding up to 42 and the Oilers clinch.
Glorious to look at, isn’t it? All that talk about how the Oilers just needed a CBA to be competitive, they got their CBA and this was the result. Currently, they’re averaging 76.4 pts/82 games under this CBA; before this CBA, the last time they’d had a single season that bad was in 1995-96. Keep in mind, they’ve only deliberately punted a single season under this CBA; the rest of the time they were trying to win.
I’m going to follow this and will draw some attention if and when the Oilers clinch this title. Prediction: despite the obviously interesting connection with what the Oilers were telling us about how a new CBA would fix everything during the last lockout, nobody in the mainstream media will mention this. It’s Edmonton; as Dennis used to say, excuses in lieu of success. If one excuse no longer works, move on to the other. It’s about the only thing the franchise is good at.