Sports

The Oilers Missed a Prime Opportunity to Win the Cup

Edmonton's season was a success and the future is bright, but there's no guarantee it will get any easier to win.
May 11, 2017, 2:55pm
Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

You will undoubtedly read a lot of Edmonton Oilers stories today that feature a similar theme, that while losing in Game 7 to the Anaheim Ducks is a kick to the stomach, the future is bright for a team playing its home games in a building that makes it harder for women to use the toilet.

All of that is true, because when you have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and an arena policy that calls for the transformation of women's rooms into men's rooms when you sell tickets to stand on the concourse, the bright future/urine sexism narrative is undeniable.

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But when you look at the remaining four teams in the postseason—the injury-riddled Penguins, the so-so Senators, the wild-card Predators, and the Ducks team that beat the Oilers by one goal—doesn't this feel like a missed opportunity for the Oilers?

When the Kings and Blackhawks were trading off the Stanley Cup every other year, it was easy to accept defeat. "We weren't beating those teams anyway, so this year is a good learning experience." But really, which remaining team would the Oilers have been hopeless against? They potentially could have had home-ice advantage against the Predators in the conference finals and Senators in the Stanley Cup Final, so finding comfort in this being the start of something great should at least come with a hint of, "What if this is the best chance the Oilers get in the coming years?"

It's not a loss that should haunt the Oilers in the moment, but what if the Predators suddenly become the new Blackhawks? What if the Maple Leafs become the new Penguins? What if over the next five years, the Oilers find themselves constantly running into slightly better teams in the postseason?



The Oilers are positioned to be one of the best teams in the league in the coming years, but that position comes with some caveats. Will they fill out the bottom of their forward group? Will they improve defensively so Cam Talbot doesn't have to be a superhero on most nights? But most importantly—will the Oilers ever land the No. 1 defenseman every championship team needs?

When the 2008-09 Blackhawks lost in the conference finals, they did so to a Red Wings team with a championship pedigree that lost to a Penguins team with a similar blossoming pedigree. The Blackhawks went on to win three Cups in six years following a postseason that represented the "bright future" you will rightfully hear much about with the Oilers.

But doesn't it somewhat suck that the Oilers lost to a Ducks team that has spent recent years unable to get out of its own way? In a year where the Penguins aren't at full strength and the Senators are barely scraping by? When Pekka Rinne and his .951 save percentage through two rounds that's begging for a course correction was awaiting in the conference finals?

It's hard to view the Oilers going seven games in round two in 2017 when they haven't been to the playoffs since 2006 as anything other than a massive success. But if the Oilers could have gotten something from Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot or a little more from Milan Lucic, they could have been eight very attainable wins from a Stanley Cup.