Remember 2007-08, when the Oilers brought in the kids of the first rebuild, started 27-30-5, and then finished 14-5-1 in their last twenty games? Ah, the hopes we had then. We Oilers fans have been fooled by late-season improvements more times than I care to remember, and it's happening again.
I have nothing against Todd Nelson as a coach, and I'm not about to say that he shouldn't be the guy next year, but we need to temper our optimism about him just a smidge. Nelson was 17-22-7 solo to end the season, which is pretty good considering the sorry state of the roster. After taking the reigns at the end of December, Nelson won just a hair under 37% of his games.
That's fine and dandy except that the much-hated Dallas Eakins finished up last season with a record of 16-20-4 after December. That's a winning percentage of 40%. The beginning of both seasons were so poor that the second half couldn't help but improve.
I know Nelson made some strides with the powerplay and whatnot, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves in hailing him as the savior and burning Eakins at the stake. I didn't like Eakins much, but if Todd McLellan couldn't get that Sharks roster of his into the playoffs, then even he would have had no chance with the Oilers.
Mac T Presser
MacTavish's end of season press conference was mostly stock soundbites that we've all become accustomed to. However, I raised an eyebrow when he said that he hadn't gone through the exercise of comparing the roster he took over to the one he has now. He hasn't done that? What exactly has he been doing?
It seems to me that if I took over a team I would write out the organizational depth chart (or just go look at it on CapGeek when that was an option), figure out the weaknesses and then make upgrades. If MacTavish had gone through this exercise, he might have noticed how much he has been spinning his wheels since taking over. Jonathan Willis did a nice breakdown, exactly as MacTavish described, and was underwhelmed. So was I when I did it back in December.
I can't help but think that if MacTavish is not keeping track of the upgrades to his roster, that might be why the huge amount of turnover hasn't moved the dial at all. And I mean at all. Check out this article by Bruce McCurdy if you haven't already. The Oilers are worse than last year in almost every way, and going forward without Petry and Perron is only going to make the task more difficult.
I left a comment about Dubnyk in that Willis article linked above. The gist was that nobody could have foreseen Dubnyk turning it around this much, but MacTavish doesn't get a pass for trading him. His comments about "if you have to ask the question" came before Dubnyk's implosion, after a season where he had a 0.921 Sv%.
The problem with this organization is that it cannot assess talent properly. Just look to Nikitin, Ference, Grebeshkov, Schultz, or even David Clarkson. On the flip side, think of Anton Lander, Petry, Dubnyk, and so on. The Oilers keep undervaluing the good and overvaluing the bad. Devan Dubnyk and Justin Schultz are the two best examples of that I can think of.
Ironically, in this article in which I defended Dubnyk at the C&B, I said he would probably never be in the conversation for the Vezina. Whoops.