It was heartening to hear Oilers GM Steve Tambellini tell his team that winning is much more important than tanking for a high pick the other day. True, it should be self-evident that a pro athlete would give his all night in and night out, no matter how far off (or mathematically impossible) the playoffs may be, but the specter of tanking is always going to surround a wounded and overmatched team.
But for Edmonton fans, there will still be another high first round pick at the draft this summer and a wistful gaze to the future.
How long must the Copper and Blue faithful wait for that future, you ask? Perhaps a little longer than the average fan is comfortable with.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi told me in an interview last season his rebuild in Los Angeles was many years in the making, from the initial teardown to the eventual payoff of a post-season berth last year (where the Kings lost a tough series to Vancouver). And for those of you up on the current standings, the Kings aren’t exactly burning things up in the West, so success isn’t always a straight-up line.
Looking at two recent rebuilds, Pittsburgh was still awful a year after winning the Sidney Crosby lottery, which earned them the right to pick Jordan Staal second overall the following season. With Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury already in the fold as top-two picks in their respective draft classes, the Pens had their nucleus. But the young team missed the playoffs that inaugural Sid season and fell to the Sens the following campaign in the first round. After that it was back-to-back Stanley Cup battles against Detroit, with Pittsburgh winning out in the rematch.
The Chicago Blackhawks drafted defenders Duncan Keith (2002) and Brent Seabrook (2003) years before breaking through once Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were added to the fold (both were on the roster by 2007-08) up front. They too missed the post-season in that first season with all hands on deck, but then went to the conference final and a Stanley Cup victory after that.
Does this mean playoffs next year for the Oilers? Unfortunately, Edmonton still needs pieces, particularly on defense and in net. But the team is on the right path.
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