EDMONTON — It is known in these parts as the decade of darkness.
The decade beginning in 2010 brought Edmonton Oilers fans one playoff appearance, four first overall draft picks, the best player in the world and perhaps the worst trade of the current century. It also brought an NHL-worst record of 309-384-92 — their 710 points dead last among teams that were active throughout the decade (everyone except Vegas).
From such an abyss, however, the few heartening moments shine even brighter.
Here’s a look at some of the memorable moments for the Edmonton Oilers since 2010:
The Taylor Hall Draft
At that June draft in Los Angeles back in 2010, the hot topic was “Taylor vs. Tyler.” Hall, the hard-charging left-winger coming off of back-to-back Memorial Cup championships with the Windsor Spitfires. And Seguin, the right-shot centreman who would end up in Boston as the No. 2 overall selection.
Conventional wisdom said you build from the goalie out, and down the middle. The Oilers, however, were embarking on a rebuild that would flow from the wings on in.
“We had a lot of discussion about the centreman,” said Kevin Lowe, then the Oilers President of Hockey Operations. “It’s good logic. But Taylor was pretty animated when he said, ‘I’ve been a centre my whole life.’”
Ironically, both Taylor and Tyler would be traded by the teams that drafted them, the Hall-for-Adam Larsson deal going down in hockey history as perhaps the worst deal of the soon to be completed decade.
“I feel slighted,” Hall admitted after being dealt to the New Jersey Devils. “I’m a proud person, and I do take this as an indictment on me as a hockey player. I don’t think there’s any other way to treat it. I think it’s safe to say I’m a very motivated player now.”
Hall would win the Hart Trophy in his second season as a Devil.
The Connor McDavid Lottery
Craig MacTavish was in his final days as the Oilers general manager when deputy commissioner Bill Daly flipped over the fateful card that landed McDavid in Edmonton. The collective groan from a hockey world that had already seen Edmonton draft first overall three times, to little avail, was audible — but not for anyone who was staying in the same Swiss hotel as MacTavish and a few of the other Oilers brass.
“We’re all sitting here in Switzerland (at the Under 18 World Championships),” said MacTavish that night. “(Director of Player Personnel) Bob Green, (V.P. of Hockey Op’s) Scott Howson and I are all in the same little corridor here in Switzerland. It’s 2:15 in the morning, and I am lying in bed with my iPad, watching the lottery.
“I’ll tell you, you’ve never seen three men in (their pajamas) dance like that.”
Edmonton swooped in from the three hole that April 18th, converting on an 11.5 per cent chance to dance past Arizona and Buffalo into top spot. It was a foregone conclusion that they would select McDavid, and MacTavish knew it at the time.
“The thing I’ll say about Connor is, he’s not only the most productive player out there, he is the most dynamic,” MacTavish said. “We haven’t seen a player with that electrifying a skill set in quite some time. So we’ll have the pleasure of piecing it all together.”
Within four days Peter Chiarelli was announced as the new GM.
A Playoff Run
The spring of 2017 provided, by light years, the most enjoyable month of hockey for Oilers fans in this decade. It was playoff hockey, it was competitive, and if not for a shady video review and that damned Ryan Kesler, the Oilers may well have found themselves in a Western Conference Final.
The Oilers toasted a beat up San Jose Sharks team in Round 1. Logan Couture was festooned with a full shield, playing with two separate breaks in his jaw, while Joe Thornton’s knee left him simply too slow to be the effective passer he has always been.
“Some heroic courage in playing in this series,” then Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said when it was over after Game 6. “There are some men in there who I am amazed found a way to get out on the ice. Especially Joe Thornton. It was exceptional to see what he did, and how he played for us.”
On to Anaheim, the Oilers’ letdown in Game 5 was the killer in this series. They became the first team in NHL history to cough up a three-goal lead with less than four minutes to play in a playoff game, losing 4-3 in double-overtime. The tying goal, scored at 19:45 of the third, came with Ryan Kesler lying in Edmonton’s goal crease, literally prying open Cam Talbot’s legs while the puck slid five-hole.
“Interference?” asked then-Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. “You’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t know what interference is any more.”
Edmonton went home, smoked the Ducks 7-1, but lost Game 7 at The Pond by a 2-1 score. It was a valiant series, and so much more seemed imminent.
“I’m proud as hell to be a part of this group right now,” said Talbot in defeat, “and I’m looking forward to the future with this team.”
Talbot was traded 20 months later to the Philadelphia Flyers. He currently plays for the Calgary Flames.